sustainability through science & innovation

our people

Paul Umina


Growing up on a farm meant that Paul’s fascination with the natural world began at a young age and was the driving force behind his decision to study biological sciences. Since completing his PhD in entomology, Paul has spent the last 15 years helping Australian farmers achieve a balance between profitability and environmental sustainability. He does this by developing new ways to combat the insect pests which plague their livelihood.

Paul is passionate about seeing valuable scientific endeavours adopted in the real-world. It was this desire that led Paul to team up with Andrew Weeks to form cesar in 2007. To this day, Paul works to ensure research findings are communicated and translated into practical outcomes for Australian agriculture.

Paul oversees the Sustainable Agriculture division at cesar. He is an accomplished leader in pest management in Australia and internationally, regularly presenting at conferences, workshops and industry meetings. He is the inaugural chair of the grains National Insecticide Resistance Management (NIRM) committee, and the creator of PestFacts south-eastern, the highly successful newsletter recieved by over 1,500 people working with broadacre crops and pastures.

His achievements in research and communications are well-recognised, with the University of Melbourne awarding Paul a Staff Excellence Award in Engagement (2011) and the Deans Award for Excellence in Engagement (2015). In 2012, he was named the Victorian Young Tall Poppy of the Year.

Away from work, Paul loves nothing more than spending time with family and getting out and about in the great outdoors. Whether that means heading back to the family farm, going hiking, travelling to new places or riding his bike around the foothills of Melbourne.

Andrew Weeks


Andrew’s passion is genetics. He is fascinated by the many ways different creatures adapt to their environments, and how nature versus nurture contributes to the process. His interest began when studying insects in agricultural environments, but it wasn’t long before Andrew’s focus shifted to the conservation field and he has since spent the last 15 years working on some of Australia’s most endangered animals. This includes his favourite species, the mountain pygmy possum, which also happens to live in his favourite environment, the Australian alps.

Andrew has developed expertise in a broad range of fields including conservation genetics, wildlife ecology, environmental monitoring, sustainability management, and agricultural pest management. In 2007, he teamed up with Dr Paul Umina to form cesar, with the goal of creating an innovative science-based consultancy that could assist government and private sector clients to achieve sustainable outcomes using the latest scientific research. He currently oversees the Biodiversity Conservation division at cesar.

Andrew’s passion for wildlife combined with his experience in population and ecological genetics has resulted in the development of unique conservation strategies that aim to maximise species resilience. Realising genetic issues are often not considered in conservation strategies, he has become actively involved in providing expertise in genetics to numerous threatened species programs throughout Australia. Andrew is currently a member of three state threatened species recovery teams, a specialist advisor to Parks Australia and Mt Rothwell Biodiversity and Interpretation Centre and a founding Director of EnviroDNA.

Jessica Lye

Team Lead - Extension, +61401 555 567

Jessica is a strong believer in the translation of science and practical research outcomes. After completing her PhD investigating zinc ion transport in the tiny vinegar fly, Jessica began her career in extension and communications, and now contributes to building the bridge between scientific research and on-ground application. Since leaving the lab bench, she has acquired extensive experience in science communication, adult education, engagement, and project management, and expertise in Australian biosecurity policy and exotic pest responses.

Prior to joining cesar, Jessica was the National Manager - Science and Extension at AUSVEG. There she sat on the executive team and managed industry levy funded projects encompassing agrochemical needs and priorities, sustainable farming, exotic plant pest management, plant pest surveillance, and farm biosecurity. She has been an industry representative on the Consultative Committee for Emergency Plant Pests and has been a member of multiple advisory committees.

At AUSVEG, Jessica contributed to management of industry challenges relating to biosecurity, agrochemical usage, trade, and food safety.

Jessica has since become a vocal proponent of investing in biosecurity preparedness activities by agricultural industries at national, state, and regional levels. She has played a key role in launching large-scale industry-wide preparedness projects, focusing on pest surveillance, farm biosecurity training, and management planning for key exotics.

In 2016, Jessica received the AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award (Victoria), an award that identifies and supports emerging leaders who have the desire, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities. She is also a member of the Rural Women’s Award Alumni, Australian Science Communicators, and the Australian Society for Horticultural Science.

While Jessica descends from the coal miners and steel workers of South Wales she now lives and breathes all things ‘ag’ and can’t think of any other field that she would rather be in.

Olivia Reynolds

Team Lead - Research

Olivia leads cesar’s sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation research teams. Olivia is an applied ecologist who has successfully combined her passions - wildlife, people, experiencing new cultures, and making a difference - to develop a career in sustainable pest management.

After completing her PhD, Olivia spent two years travelling widely in Europe and gaining work experience, before commencing her lifelong dream to live and work in Africa, completing a post doctorate with the South African Sugarcane Research Institute and lecturing at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Prior to joining cesar, Olivia was a Principal Research Scientist with the NSW DPI, during which she advanced her executive level leadership capabilities, graduating from the Women in Leadership Australia, Advanced Leadership Program.

Olivia values applying sustainable and ecological pest management approaches that are embraced by stakeholders. Her research interests and expertise include silicon in insect plant defences, sterile insect technique, parasitoid ecology and behaviour, biosecurity, area-wide management and landscape ecology/habitat manipulation.

Olivia is an Adjunct Associate Research Professor at Charles Sturt University, a member of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and a Jinshan Scholar at the Institute of Applied Ecology, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, China.

Internationally, Olivia is an Australian representative on the International Steering Committee for Fruit Flies of Economic Importance, a co-founder of the International Atomic Energy Agency/Food and Agricultural Organisation Tephritid workers of Asia, Australia and Oceania (TAAO), an Editor on the peer-reviewed journal, Insects and an Editor on the international bulletin, Fruit Fly News.

Olivia enjoys mentoring staff and students, providing an encouraging and supporting environment to enable them to reach their full potential.

When Olivia is not working, she loves travelling and exploring new destinations with her husband and two boys, hiking, reading, skiing, spending time in the garden and entertaining.

Jenny Lee 

Business manager

Jenny joined cesar following a varied career in business, finance and quality management in the Victorian government, supporting human resource departments, family violence and forensics. In a former life she was a research scientist studying genetic expression in wallaby lactation. She combines an applied science undergraduate degree with post graduate qualifications in professional accounting and is a qualified CPA.

Jenny is a strong believer in continuous improvement and clear and accountable systems, and enjoys working with people to understand their business and finances.

Outside of work, Jenny enjoys traveling to new locations, spending time with friends and family, and getting out into the countryside - especially where there’s wine growing.

Sabrina Scherm 

Executive assistant

Sabrina has a life goal to make a measurable difference in the lives of others and the path she chose for her career speaks to that fact.

Sabrina is a people person who is passionate about growing teams and dreams. With a Master’s Degree in Business and Organisational Psychology, she moved quickly into HR and recruitment, working for companies in manufacturing, pharmaceutical, government and consultancy industries, such as Roche Pharmaceuticals and BMW in Australia, Germany, UK and the US. Recently, she has also organised and moderated businesswomen events supporting Australian female owned business founders in their growth journey.

At cesar, Sabrina does more than wrangle commas, she is everyone’s go to. She is obsessed with staying organised and making everyone’s life easier. Sabrina finds innovative new ways of simplifying business processes, preserves positive relationships among all members and ensures cultural compatibility within the organisation.

When she is not creating a positive workplace culture, you can find her socialising with friends at music festivals, dancing (she has won a national dance championship in Germany) or traveling the world.

Josh Griffiths

Senior Wildlife Ecologist

Josh is passionate about the conservation of Australia’s unique wildlife. This motivation is at the core of his personal and professional actions. In his (limited!) spare time, Josh enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits including camping, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. This constant immersion in nature is an important time for Josh to unwind, while also allowing him to pursue his love of wildlife photography.

Josh completed his Environmental Biology degree in Adelaide, and has worked in diverse landscapes from arid South Australia, the highlands of Victoria, and Tasmania’s river systems. His ecological knowledge and extensive field experience allows him to design and implement projects that ensure clients get the information required to develop better management plans, and to understand the effectiveness of those plans. Most importantly to Josh, he interacts with a variety of people from Government agencies, industry and the broader community to share ideas and develop innovative solutions to Australian conservation issues.

Josh also recognises the importance of communicating scientific research to the public and can often be found in front of a community group talking about his specialty species – the platypus!

James Maino

Senior Research Scientist (Predictive Modelling)

James uses mathematics and computer modelling to develop tools that help us better manage some of our most notorious crop pests. Recently he assisted in creating a tool to predict the lifecycle events of key broadacre pests based on climate data. James’ work also includes monitoring and predicting the evolution of insecticide resistance in the infamous redlegged earth mite.

James is passionate about food security, environmental sustainability, and biodiversity preservation. His role at cesar provides him a unique opportunity to apply his expertise at the interface of these pressing issues.

James’ academic contributions have enhanced our predictive power around insect responses to changing environments. James' accomplishments in this field have been acknowledged by various honours, including the prestigious Elton Prize from the British Ecological Society in 2014, and the Chancellor's Prize from the University of Melbourne in 2016 for Excellence in the PhD thesis.

In his spare time, James enjoys hiking around Australia’s wide and diverse landscapes, while taking note of the smaller natural wonders that lurk underneath his feet. 

Anthony van Rooyen

Research Scientist (Genetics)

Anthony van Rooyen provides critical genetic analysis, research and innovation at cesar. His portfolio includes projects on animal health, biosecurity, monitoring, genetic rescue and insect pest management. He loves that his work involves a wide variety of projects, which has meant that he has been able to get out in the field and apply technology to many different areas.

While Anthony has a broad skillset and knowledge of contemporary genetics, his real skill is in applying these genetic “toolkits” for positive outcomes in sustainability and conservation. He likes to do this by working with clients and researchers from a diverse range of disciplines, and will always spend time with them first get a thorough understanding of their needs.

Anthony grew up on a picturesque farm nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Southern alps which nurtured a strong interest for agriculture and environment. This led him to Lincoln University, Canterbury where he achieved First Class Honours in Biochemistry. Prior to joining cesar he was part of a research team investigating the effects of ocean acidification on seafloor ecosystems in Antarctica, although, by being based in temperature/pH controlled labs in New Zealand he missed out on those Antarctic conditions.

Julia Severi

Extension Scientist

Julia is the first port of call for growers and advisors seeking help with broadacre crops and pasture critters. Whether it’s by mail, twitter or phone, she loves the challenge of identifying invertebrate pests and beneficials found on farm. She is also a writer and editor of PestFacts south-eastern, and is passionate about communicating clear and impactful messages about sustainable pest management.

It was Julia’s fascination with the journey of food from paddock to plate that inspired her to study a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences (Honours) and international development. At university, she was particularly captivated by pest and disease management and soil science. Prior to joining cesar in 2016, she could be found assessing crops and running field trials as a graduate research agronomist with Agriculture Victoria.

Lisa Kirkland

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Lisa manages the product development and testing space at cesar. Whether she’s out in the field collecting insects, in the lab running a bioassay, or in the shadehouse tending to semi-field microcosm trials, Lisa loves getting up close and personal with invertebrates. This work suits her well, as she is always the one her family calls to remove critters from the bathroom.

Lisa has an insatiable interest in the ecology and behaviour of all creatures great and small. This led her to study invertebrate ecology, biosecurity, and biodiversity conservation at the University of Auckland, and to volunteer at the zoo. She also went on to gain First Class Honours studying the biological clock of the honey bee.

Lisa is passionate about protecting beneficial invertebrates by assisting our clients to select the most effective ‘soft’ pesticides in the battle against crop pests. She revels in the challenge of designing experiments to answer clients’ questions about their products, and enjoys the balance of hands-on science and computer-based work throughout her day.

When she’s not at work, Lisa can be found playing with her two puppies, Milhouse and Eevie.

Elia Pirtle

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Elia develops surveillance and management tools to help prepare Australia for incursions of exotic insect pests, such as the vegetable leafminer fly. She also runs microcosm studies to determine the efficacy of pest control options. Elia loves being part of a team that has a strong focus on practical research outcomes. She grew up in the desert surrounded by a menagerie of animals, and has since been passionate about environmental sustainability and conservation.

After graduating from her Bachelor’s degree with First Class honours, she left her hometown of Reno, Nevada for Australia, to pursue a PhD at the University of Melbourne. Here she studied how reptiles stay cool and hydrated under extreme environmental conditions, using a combination of laboratory and field experiments, and computer modelling. Her research took her to remote parts of the North American and Australian desert ecosystems, which suited her well as she loves nothing more than working out in the field.

Elia is passionate about making science accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. She also loves to explore the ways that science can be communicated through art.

Aston Arthur

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Aston works in the product development and testing space at cesar. She is passionate about pest management, and has a long history of developing effective and sustainable control options for a range of agricultural pests.

Growing up in a small farming community and her love for animals led Aston to study biological sciences. After taking a keen interest in invertebrate pests, she completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne, investigating the biology, ecology and genetics of Balaustium and Bryobia mites. Throughout her career, Aston has gained vast experience in molecular genetics, field and shadehouse trials, and lab experiments. Her work has been published in a number of scientific journals.

Aston enjoys the variety her job offers, whether it is in the field collecting invertebrates, running microcosm trials in the shadehouse, or in the lab undertaking bioassays. She also loves that her role fits into her busy family life. When not at work, Aston loves spending time with her young family.

Peter Kriesner

Research Scientist (Genetics) 

Since a childhood spent in a small Victorian country town, Peter has had a lifelong passion for nature and the great Australian outdoors. He is inspired by the ‘endless forms’ and complexity of natural systems—how organisms interact with their environment and with each other, and the dynamic balance between competition and cooperation that underlies symbiotic relationships.

He recently completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne in ecology and evolutionary biology that focussed on common bacterial endosymbionts of insects and prior to that also had a broad and varied background in business management and administration, legal compliance, and workplace relations.

Peter is currently investigating gaps in our knowledge regarding population size and population structure of Victoria’s biodiversity from a genetic perspective, and the potential to enhance the genetic health of populations to bolster resilience against future threats such as climatic change, and to mitigate against the risk of inbreeding depression.

In his spare time, Peter enjoys hiking, outdoor photography, climbing, bird-watching, and spending time with his family.

Garry McDonald

Senior Consultant (Entomology)

After a career of more than 40 years in sustainable agriculture and entomology, Garry is an integral and experienced cesar team member. His career passions have been in insect ecology, the optimisation of sustainable farming systems, and education towards sustainability and energy efficiency, thus being a natural fit within the cesar crew.

Garry’s passion lies in the development of quality, relevant and insightful approaches to the delivery of pest information and IPM training to agricultural advisors and growers. For example, Garry has driven the use of predictive modelling in pest management, creating DARABUG, a computer program for simulating development rates of insect pests, which continues to inform pest management decisions today. And after decades of studying the ebbs and flows of pest cycles in agriculture, his experience is invaluable in making sense of seasonal pest trends.

He has studied extensively, completing a Bachelor of Science, Masters of Agriculture Science, and a PhD in Invertebrate Ecology, and brings a veritable wealth of working experience and knowledge to cesar. This includes 22 years as a research scientist with the Victorian Department of Agriculture/Primary Industries (DPI), 10 years as Director of the Rutherglen Research Institute and 6 years as Director of Swinburne University’s National Centre for Sustainability. Nowadays, Garry is also an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne, a research volunteer with Bush Heritage Australia and periodically works with the Goulburn Broken CMA on the Nature @ Work sustainable agriculture initiative.

Garry is a keen cyclist, wood worker, gardener and apiarist with his own urban and country bee hives!

Marielle Babineau

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Marielle is passionate about pesticide resistance and pursuing research to address this major agricultural issue. It was her fascination with evolutionary processes behind pesticide resistance that led Marielle to develop skills in herbicide resistance phenotyping and genotyping, anthelmintic resistance genetics, and diagnostics development.

Marielle completed her PhD in herbicide resistance and has worked in conservation, cropping and livestock industries in Canada, Denmark and Australia. Her diverse background has given her a strong vision in developing innovative silo-breaking research across industries and taxa, and in tackling problems with an agricultural systems perspective.

At cesar, Marielle conducts research in insecticide resistance and insect pest ecology. She uses genetics, phenomics, ecology, and statistical models to better understand and manage agricultural pests to enable resilient agrosystems and encourage integrated pest management adoption.

Marielle is an avid sci-fi, history, archaeology and trekking enthusiast.

Francesca Noakes

Extension Scientist

With a degree in history and political science, Francesca began her career in community development. She has worked alongside Indigenous communities in both Western Australia and Queensland. This work inspired an appreciation of sustainable land management and led her to complete post graduate studies in sustainable agriculture and crop production at the University of Melbourne.

Francesca now works to bridge the divide between science research and on-farm practice. At cesar, she designs exciting communication and extension material to support growers in adopting pest management best practices and engages the farming sector to make sure our scientific discoveries don’t just sit on the shelf.

Having grown up in the English countryside and the beaches of WA, Francesca takes any opportunity to get out of the city and explore Victoria.

Kathy Overton

Research Scientist (Entomology)

After completing a Bachelor of Science in marine biology at the University of Melbourne, Kathy dived into her Masters investigating pest management in Atlantic salmon aquaculture. Setting off for the Northern Hemisphere after graduation, Kathy worked for the Institute of Marine Research in Norway and the University of Melbourne conducting industry-scale analyses on the effects of chemical treatments on salmon mortality, biological control use in salmon aquaculture, and investigating alternative parasite treatment methods. 

Driven by her passion for environmental sustainability, Kathy transitioned from surf to turf at cesar where she can pursue her interests researching agricultural pests and exploring alternative pest management strategies to reduce our reliance on pesticides. Part of her role involves looking at beneficial insects and how they are affected by insecticides on farms.

In her downtime, Kathy enjoys cooking, walking along Merri Creek, and rummaging through op shops for hidden treasures.


Evatt Chirgwin

Research Scientist (Entomology)

Evatt is captivated by how animal and plant populations adaptively evolve to overcome the challenges posed by their environment. At cesar, he investigates how pest species evolve resistance to pesticides and other management practices so these species can be controlled by the agricultural industry in the most effective and sustainable way.

Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula, Evatt was always curious about the diversity of life that surrounded him—from the tiny intertidal rock pools to the expansive eucalypt forests. This curiosity eventually led him to undertake a PhD at Monash University where he used quantitative genetics to explore the potential of marine invertebrate populations to adaptively evolve under future levels of ocean warming. He is also actively interested in making scientific research more broadly accessible, which has led him to work with organisations such as Remember the Wild to educate the broader community about biodiversity in their local area.

Outside of work, Evatt loves spending his time hiking and searching for new dive spots along the Victorian coast.