Skip Navigation
Hands-on science to sustain Madagascar's resources and people

Advisory Board

Joan Abrahamson
Joan Abrahamson is President of the Jefferson Institute, a public policy institute that brings creative thinking to practical problems. The Institute identifies innovative approaches to current policy problems and works to implement these solutions. A major emphasis of the Jefferson Institute is the future of cities. Other areas of activity are international security and economics, health, and the study of the creative process. Prior to her work with the Jefferson Institute, Dr. Abrahamson was Assistant Chief of Staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. As a White House Fellow, she served as Special Assistant and Associate Counsel to Vice Presidents Walter Mondale and George Bush. Prior to this, she worked for the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva and for UNESCO’s Division of Human Rights and Peace in Paris. She planned and implemented the Vienna International Congress on the Teaching of Human Rights and the International Symposium on the Political Participation of Women. Dr. Abrahamson earned a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. from Stanford University, a Ph.D. in Learning Environments from Harvard University, and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. She also served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of California. In June 1985, Dr. Abrahamson was named a MacArthur Fellow.

John Allman
John Allman is a Hixson Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology and is a well-recognized expert on primates, cognition, and evolutionary neuroscience. Dr. Allman studies brain evolution in mammals, especially primates, from multiple perspectives.  He has created a number of three-dimensional reconstructions of mammalian brains, including great ape brains. He has been on the Duke Lemur Center board for more than 20 years.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Benjamin Andriamihaja
Benjamin Andriamihaja is the founder and director of Centre ValBio’s sister organization, the Madagascar Institut pour la Conservation des Écosystèmes Tropicaux (MICET). He has been a passionate advocate for environmental, conservation, and health issues in Madagascar since he was a student, and is now one of the most powerful voices speaking out on these topics in Madagascar.  His experience includes board membership or overall leadership of numerous national and international organizations, including being the National Coordinator of the Ranomafana National Park Project, a board member of the National Association for the Management of Protected Areas in Madagascar, and a board member for the health NGO, Pivot.  His tireless work on behalf of conservation in Madagascar resulted in his being awarded a knighthood in the National Order of Madagascar in 2003. This wealth of experience has resulted in Benjamin's having excellent skills in administration, project management, and both donor and government relations. Finally, to stay close to his roots, Benjamin has remained actively involved in academia, supervising many Malagasy doctoral students and publishing scientific papers.

Jonathan D. Aronson
Jonathan Aronson is a professor of communication at USC Annenberg and professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at USC Dornsife.  Aronson writes on issues related to international communication policy and governance, disruption and innovation, and international trade and trade negotiations. His newest book (with Peter Cowhey) is Digital DNA: Implications of the Information and Production Disruption for Global Governance (Oxford University Press, 2017). His previous book (also with Peter Cowhey) was Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: The Political Economy of Innovation (MIT Press, 2009). Other books include Managing the World Economy: The Consequences of International Corporate AlliancesWhen Countries Talk: International Trade in Telecommunications Services; and Trade Talks: America Better Listen! 

James E. Brumm
Jim Brumm is the President of Glastonbury Commons, Ltd., a consulting firm focused on social and environmental issues.  He retired from Mitsubishi International Corporation as their Executive Vice President and General Counsel and served on the board of Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan.  Jim has served on a number of non-profit boards, primarily in conservation and indigenous people's rights.  He chaired the boards of the American Bird Conservancy and the International Crane Foundation and currently chairs the boards of NatureServe, Amazon Conservation, and Global Forest Generation.

Tom Gillespie
Tom Gillespie is a professor studying infectious disease ecology at the Global Health Institute at Emory University. Dr. Gillepsie focuses on interactions among anthropogenic environmental change, biodiversity, and the ecology and emergence of pathogens of people, wildlife, and domestic animals. He takes an integrative interdisciplinary approach in active research projects in Africa and Latin America. Dr. Gillepsie also collaborates extensively with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Dr. Gillespie received a B.Sc. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Florida. He has been on the board of the Morris Animal Foundation since 2005. In his new role as external expert to the UN High Level Policy Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Dr. Gillespie’s research findings have been instrumental in highlighting policy changes that can reduce the risk of future pandemics, often while simultaneously mitigating climate change and reducing environmental degradation.

James Herrnstein
James Herrnstein is the founding Chair of the Centre ValBio Board. Together with his wife Robin, they spend significant time with Professor Wright and her team analyzing challenges and potential growth opportunities facing Centre ValBio. Dr. Herrnstein is a Harvard University graduate (B.S., Ph.D.) and won the Bok Prize at Harvard in recognition of his dissertation work while obtaining his doctorate in astronomy. He was a Jansky Postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico. In 1999, he won the prestigious Miller Fellowship at Berkeley, but instead chose to join Renaissance Technologies in Setauket, NY, as a Senior Researcher.

Robin McGary Herrnstein
Robin Herrnstein has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Furman University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Harvard University.  She is a co-founder and Chair of the Board of PIVOT, a non-governmental organization that works in partnership with the Madagascar Ministry of Public Health to build a sustainable, effective, health system for the people of Ifanadiana District, Madagascar.  Robin is also a founding member of the Center ValBio Advisory Board.  In 2017, she received the Blackwell Alumni Service Award from Furman University for her work in Madagascar.  She currently serves as the President of the Herrnstein Family Foundation.  She lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and five children.

Steig Johnson
Steig Johnson received a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2002, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Patricia Wright from 2002 to 2006 in Madagascar. He is an associate professor of primatology and biological anthropology as well as an Associate Dean of Research at the University of Calgary. Dr. Johnson is interested in behavioral ecology, genetics, and the conservation of lemurs in southeastern Madagascar. Steig is the Chair for the Madagascar IUCN Primate Specialist Group.  He was a key player in the early development of the Centre ValBio and remains an active contributor to its Advisory Board. He is the editor of Lemur News.

Mark Krasnow
Mark A. Krasnow is a Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. He earned his B.S. in biology and chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1978. His Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1983 and his M.D. in 1985 are both from The University of Chicago under the guidance of Nicholas R. Cozzarelli. He did his postdoctoral work on the Ultrabithorax gene with David Hogness at Stanford University. He has been a professor at Stanford since 1988 and is currently the Chair of the program. His research is focused on understanding the molecular, genetic, and cellular mechanisms of tracheal development using Drosophila and mice. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator since 1997, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Mark also became a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2019.

Stuart Pimm
Stuart Pimm, Professor of Conservation at Duke University, is an internationally recognized global leader in the study of biodiversity; especially present-day extinctions and what the world can do to prevent them. His message that we can all make a difference in our planet’s survival, inspires a wide audience. Pimm’s commitment to the science-policy interface has led to his regular testimony to both House and Senate Committees of the U.S. Congress. He frequently visits Washington D.C. to engage policy makers on environmental issues. He is also asked to advise international governments on biodiversity issues and the management of national parks. In addition to his conservation efforts in Africa, Pimm has works in the forests of Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. In the last decade, he has been active in training Chinese conservation professionals and spends a month each year in China. Pimm directs Saving Nature, a non-profit that uses donations for carbon emissions and helps to fund conservation groups in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity to restore their degraded lands. Pimm is the author of 350 scientific papers and five books, including the highly acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth. Stuart was awarded the 2019 International Cosmos Prize, one of the most prestigious honors presented in the environmental field. His international honors also include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), and the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006). Pimm received his B.Sc. degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1974.

Wai Poc
Wai Poc is an Executive Coach, partnering with leaders in three sectors:  high tech, biotech, and finance.  Based in Silicon Valley, his clients include Google, Facebook, Roche, Gilead, and CFOs through Stanford's Graduate School of Business.  Wai's last in-house role for +10 years was consulting before, during, and after reorgs to scale Genentech to become the 11th highest valued company in market cap on the NYSE in 2009.  While enrolled in three clinical trials, Wai graduated from Stanford University with a BA in anthropology and the social sciences.  His curiosity about culture, people, and human nature led him to travel to +60 countries, including Madagascar, and now writing a book on power, politics, and primates.  

Jonah Ratsimbazafy

Jonah Ratsimbazafy is the president of the Groupe d’Etude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar, an organization that advocates for the protection of Madagascar’s lemurs and other wildlife. He leads a team of 20 Malagasy staff who work with the community to preserve the last remaining rainforests linking the northern and southern regions of Madagascar. Jonah is also a professor in the University of Antananarivo’s paleontology and anthropology department and vice co-chair of the Primate Specialist Group - Madagascar section of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission. In 2015, Jonah was named a Disney Conservation Hero for his work to protect Madagascar’s lemurs.

Onja Razafindratsima

Dr. Onja Razafindratsima is an ecologist currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. Onja completed her Ph.D. at Rice University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and her undergraduate and Master studies in Animal Biology, Ecology and Conservation at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Before joining UC Berkeley, she held several academic positions, including as a Hrdy Fellow in Conservation at Harvard University. Onja’s research interests span a wide range of topics in tropical ecology and conservation, focusing on lemurs and rainforests in Madagascar. Most of her research has focused on ecological communities in Ranomafana National Park.

Noel Rowe
In 2011, Noel Rowe,  with his colleague Marc Myers, completed the website .  The fully-referenced website has photos or a drawing of each species and subspecies of primate with an interactive map as well as video and audio of many. In 2016, All the World's Primates was published. Noel Rowe is the Founder and President of Primate Conservation, Inc., an NGO that offers conservation grants to primatologists all over the world. He received the American Society of Primatologists Distinguished Conservationists award in 2007. Mr. Rowe obtained his M.F.A. in photography at Southhampton College.

Barbara Wold
Barbara Wold is the Bren Professor of Molecular Biology at California Institute of Technology. She is also Director of The Beckman Institute, leading its continuing goal of building a research interface between chemistry and biology. Dr. Wold received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1978 and has been a professor of biology there since 1981. She has been active in national and international science policy discussions concerned with the Human Genome Project, advising the National Institute of Health and the Department of Energy programs in genomics.


Past Advisory Board Members

Jane Alexander
Jane Alexander is an actress, writer, and conservationist. She chaired the National Endowment for the Arts under President Clinton from 199397. Her chronicle of those turbulent years, Command Performance, An Actress in the Theatre of Politics, was a New York Times Notable Book in 2000. Jane, a Tony Award winner, was most recently seen on Broadway in Grand Horizons. She has performed in over a hundred plays and was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1994. Her long film career includes four Academy Award nominations, and two Emmys for her TV work.  A dedicated conservationist and birder, Jane was a Trustee of the Wildlife Conservation Society, a Board Member of the American Bird Conservancy and the American Birding Association, and a Commissioner of New York State Parks. She currently sits on the board of the National Audubon Society and the BirdLife International Advisory Group. She co-chairs the Conservation Council of Panthera.  In 2012 the Indianapolis Prize inaugurated the Jane Alexander Global Wildlife Ambassador Award, and Jane was its first recipient. Her book Wild Things, Wild Places is about her travels with field biologists and her experience in conservation.  

Rhett Butler
Rhett Butler serves as editor-in-chief and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit media organization with more than three dozen staff across four bureaus (Global, Indonesia, Latin America, and India) and a network of around 500 correspondents in 70 countries.  Mongabay pursues news stories, supports investigative journalism, pens editorial commentary, and provides educational material about the world's environments, biodiversity, and governments from the Congo to the Pacific Rim to the Amazon.  In addition, Rhett founded and Tropical Conservation Science, an open-access academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research. 

Thomas E. Lovejoy
An innovative conservation biologist, Thomas Lovejoy coined the term “biological diversity” in 1980. He is the Founder and President of the non-profit Amazon Biodiversity Center and the renowned Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project.  In 2010, he was elected University Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation based in Washington, DC. Spanning the political spectrum, Lovejoy has served on science and environmental councils under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations. At the core of these many influential positions are seminal ideas that have formed and strengthened the field of conservation biology. In the 1980s he brought international attention to the world’s tropical rainforests, in particular the Brazilian Amazon where he has worked since 1965. With three co-edited books (1992, 2005, and 2019), he is credited as a founder of the field of climate change biology. He also founded Nature, the popular long-term series on public television. In 2001, Thomas was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. In 2009, he was the winner of the BVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category. In 2009, he was appointed Conservation Fellow by National Geographic, and Explorer at Large in 2019. In 2012, he was recognized with the Blue Planet Prize. Thomas holds  B.S. and Ph.D. (biology) degrees from Yale University.