© 2019 IUFRO Tree Biotech

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Conference Secretariat:


Registration Desk: Courtney Branch (cmbranc2@ncsu.edu)

Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC, USA

 Plenary Speakers


Ron Sederoff is Professor Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor of Forestry, Edwin F. Conger Professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State University. His many  achievements and contributions to Tree Biotechnology were acknowledged when he was awarded the prestigious Marcus Wallenberg Foundation Prize in 2017. Ron was one of  the first scientists to study the molecular genetics of forest trees and established the Forest Biotechnology Group at NC State in 1988. In 1995, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Over the last 30 years, he was a supervisor for numerous postgraduate students in the Forest Biotechnology Group and he has played leading roles in international efforts such as the sequencing of the pine and American chestnut genomes.

North Carolina State University

Ronald Sederoff


Dr. Barrangou is the T. R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Professor in Probiotics Research in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at North Carolina State University, focusing on the evolution and functions of CRISPR-Cas systems, and their applications in bacteria used in food manufacturing. Dr. Barrangou earned a BS in Biological Sciences from Rene Descartes University in Paris, France, a MS in Biological Engineering from the University of Technology in Compiegne, France, a MS in Food Science from NC State, a PhD in Genomics from NC State and a MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Barrangou was elected into the US National Academy of Sciences in 2018. He is also the former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Caribou Biosciences, a co-founder and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Intellia Therapeutics, a co-founder of Locus Biosciences, an advisor to Inari Ag, and the Editor in Chief of the CRISPR Journal.

North Carolina State University

Rodolphe Barrangou

Jim Holland is a research geneticist with USDA-ARS working on maize breeding and genetics. He is located at NC State University. He received a BA in Biology from Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Ph.D. in Crop Science at North Carolina State University.

North Carolina State University

James Holland

 Keynote Speakers

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Sally Aitken is a Professor and Associate Dean, Research and Innovation, in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, and Director of the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics. Sally obtained her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research integrates phenotypic, genomic and climatic data to understand the processes driving local adaptation to climate in trees. She has led two multi-institutional large-scale applied research projects funded by Genome Canada, AdapTree and CoAdapTree, focussed on developing genomic approaches and tools to guide reforestation and breeding for new climates. She received the Canadian Forestry Scientific Achievement Award in 2009, the International Union of Forest Research Organization’s Scientific Achievement Award in 2014, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2017.

University of British Columbia

Sally Aitken


Isabel is a Professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and works at Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics in Madrid. In her group they study the molecular basis of trees annual growth-dormancy cycles regulation, using poplar as model specie. Allona laboratory research is focused on understanding how the environmental signals influence the molecular networks regulating specific phases of dormancy, leading to the identification of new targets to biotechnologically modulate vegetative growth and optimize the adaptation of the already improved trees to different geographical regions and/or to the climate change in their own area. The work in her group has led to the deciphering of the circadian clock role in the photoperiodic and cold signaling pathways controlling seasonal growth.

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Isabel Allona

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Janice Cooke is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta.  Her group’s research takes an integrative approach to exploring molecular mechanisms that shape how conifers respond to environmental cues, with a focus on defense against pests and pathogens and phenological processes.  Janice was co-lead of the TRIA Mountain Pine Beetle Research Network (2008-2018), and has been a co-investigator in several other large-scale conifer research projects.  These initiatives have provided unique collaborative opportunities.  Janice currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Tree Physiology, and is Deputy Coordinator of IUFRO Division 2.  She has been recognized with a CD Nelson Award, a McCalla Professorship and a Killam Annual Professorship.

University of Alberta

Janice Cooke


Amanda De La Torre is an Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University. She studied at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and later worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Umea University, Sweden, and the University of California-Davis. Her current research focuses on understanding the genomic and evolutionary basis of adaptation to changing environments in natural populations of forest tree species. Dr. De La Torre is also interested in the process of adaptive evolution across different plant lineages, and in the evolution of genes and gene families that differentiate gymnosperms from flowering plants.

Northern Arizona University

Amanda De La Torre


Deborah Goldberg received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1975 and her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1980 and has been on the faculty at the University of Michigan since 1983, where she is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and the Margaret B. Davis Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Goldberg’s research on plant community ecology has been recognized by election as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Ecological Society of America, and Vice President for Science for the Ecological Society of America.  Professor Goldberg has worked actively as a faculty member, and department chair to increase recruitment and retention and improve the climate for under-represented groups and has received multiple awards for her diversity and inclusion work at the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan

Deborah Goldberg


Andrew Groover is a Research Geneticist with the US Forest Service, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of California Davis. His lab uses molecular, genomic and cell biology tools to understand the evolution and development of wood formation and other complex traits in forest trees.

University of California, Davis

Andrew Groover


Dr. Candace Haigler is a Professor co-appointed in two departments at North Carolina State University: Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences and Dept. of Plant and Microbial Biology. She received a B.A. in Chemistry at Wake Forest University,  a PhD in Botany at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and began work as a professor at Texas Tech University. She is the Associate Director of the Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Office of Science, and led by Penn State. Her research program focuses on the fundamental controls of cellulose synthesis and microfibril formation, as well as the morphogenesis of cellulose-rich cotton fibers. She and her collaborators have published 105 articles, including 96 articles in international journals or edited books and 2 patents.

North Carolina State University

Candace Haigler


Nathalie Isabel has been a Research Scientist at Natural Resources Canada since 1995. She is Adjunct Professor with the Canada Research Chair in Forest Genomics at Laval University and is part of the Spruce-Up project. Her research interests are centred on the development of knowledge and tools to better understand the adaptability of boreal and temperate forest tree species. She studies key functional traits such as drought tolerance by combining genomic and precision phenotyping approaches. Her research also focuses on studying the genetic diversity of indicator forest species for the benefit of forest communities. With her team, she is also working on the development of a value chain traceability system and a Canadian center of expertise for wood identification to combat the illegal timber trade.

Natural Resources Canada

Nathalie Isabel


Dan Jacobson is the Chief Scientist for Computational Systems Biology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His research focuses on the development and subsequent application of mathematical, statistical and computational methods to biological datasets in order to yield new insights into complex biological systems. His approaches include the use of Network Theory and Topology Discovery/Clustering, Wavelet Theory, Machine & Deep Learning (amongst others: iterative Random Forests, Deep Neural Networks, etc.) and Linear Algebra (primarily as applied to large-scale multivariate modeling), together with traditional and more advanced computing architectures, such MPI parallelization and Apache Spark.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Dan Jacobson


Matias Kirst is a quantitative biologist working on discovery and functional characterization of genes that determine developmental traits of evolutionary and commercial relevance. This research has targeted primarily traits related to vascular development and biomass productivity and composition. More recently, research has been directed towards integrating phylogenomic and comparative genomic approaches to uncover the genetic novelties that enable the symbiotic relationship between nodulating plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Recent discoveries using these approaches are enabling the pursuit of genetic engineering this capability into the bioenergy crop poplar.

University of Florida

Matias Kirst


Jim Leebens-Mack employs genomic, phylogenetic and experimental analyses to investigate the genetic and ecology processes driving diversification. In addition to his role in sequencing, annotating and analyzing several plant genomes (e.g. Amborella, dogwood, yucca, garden asparagus), Leebens-Mack is leading the Open Green Genomes (OGG) initiative in collaboration with DOE’s Joint Genome Institute.  OGG is generating reference genomes for under-sampled lineages across the land plant phylogeny. Leebens-Mack’s specific research interests include the molecular genetics of speciation; the molecular basis of adaptation; the evolution of genome structure including sex chromosomes; genomic processes influencing gene family evolution; genome evolution in polyploids; and the coevolution of genes interacting in regulatory and developmental pathways.

University of Georgia

Jim Leebens-Mack

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Mark Needham is a Professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. He is a social scientist with his work grounded in social psychology and driven by questions about how people value, experience, and impact natural resources. Dr. Needham’s forestry research includes examining public attitudes toward biotechnological and non-biotechnological interventions for addressing forest health threats such as chestnut blight. He is also examining public tradeoffs among ecosystem services associated with aerial herbicide spraying on private forests. Dr. Needham has produced more than 60 journal articles, 1 book, 12 book chapters, and more than 150 conference papers. He is Editor of the journal Human Dimensions of Wildlife, and Director of both the Graduate Program and the NATURE Studies Laboratory in his department.

Oregon State University

Mark Needham


Tim Rials is the Associate Dean of AgResearch at the University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture. This appointment follows 15 years as the Director of the UT Center for Renewable Carbon. Dr. Rials is a graduate of Mississippi State University, and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in wood science from Virginia Tech.  He joined the university following 13 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station in Pineville, Louisiana, after two years on the faculty of the University of California–Berkeley.  As director of the Center for Renewable Carbon, he facilitates UTIA’s research and development program on the use of forest and agricultural biomass for alternative liquid fuels, industrial chemicals, and advanced materials.

University of Tennessee

Tim Rials


CJ Tsai is W.N. Haynes Professor in Forest Biotechnology and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar at the University of Georgia, where she holds joint appointments with the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the Department of Genetics, and the Department of Plant Biology. CJ Tsai received her BS and MS degrees from National Taiwan University and her PhD from Michigan Technological University where she also served as a faculty member for 11 years before moving to Georgia. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the International Academy of Wood Science.

University of Georgia

Chung-Jui (CJ) Tsai

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Jill Wegrzyn is an Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Connecticut and the Director of the Computational Biology Core within the Institute for Systems Genomics.  Her work focuses on the computational analysis and software development for non-model plant species. She develops approaches to examine gene finding, gene expression, transcriptome assembly, and conserved element identification. Jill also leads the TreeGenes Database, which represents an integrated genomic and phenomic community resource for forest tree species. Integration with other repositories and analytic frameworks has enabled her team to develop technologies to connect genotype, phenotype, and environmental data for georeferenced plants.

University of Connecticut

Jill Wegrzyn


Jared Westbrook is Director of Science with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). He received a PhD from the University of Florida in Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2014. Since joining TACF in 2015, his research focus has been genomic selection for disease resistance in TACF’s backcross breeding program, genomic analyses of genetic diversity and adaptation in post-blight chestnut populations, and germplasm conservation for outcrossing and diversifying transgenic blight-tolerant populations. Much of work towards American chestnut restoration has been carried out by citizen scientists who have volunteered for decades with TACF. 

The American Chestnut Foundation

Jared Westbrook

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Phillip Wilcox is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Otago in New Zealand. His has a background in molecular and quantitative genetics of forest tree species, as well as complex disease in humans. His research has included development and application of molecular tools in Pinus radiata D.Don, including genomic selection and whole genome sequencing. Since 2001 he has worked in the area of engagement with indigenous New Zealand Māori regarding applications of modern genetic technologies in forestry and human health. He is of Māori and NZ Caucasian decent, and his Māori tribal affiliations are Ngāti Rakaipaaka, Rongomaiwahine and Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa

University of Otago

Phillip Wilcox

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Chuanping Yang is Professor of the State Key Laboratory of Tree Genetics and Breeding and former President of Northeast Forestry University. Dr. Yang’s research focuses on silviculture, genetic improvement, and the establishment of tree breeding programs in China, particularly the intensive breeding of white birch and research on the provenance of Larix . Dr. Yang is Vice President of the Chinese Society of Forestry and Chairman of the Forest Tree Genetics and Breeding Committee of China. He has nearly 40 years of teaching and research experience in tree genetics and breeding in China and has published more than 100 academic papers.

Northeast Forestry University

Chuanping Yang