Board and Staff

Board Members

Khotso Mokhele
(START Board Chair)
University of the Free State
Heide Hackmann
Executive Director
International Social Science Council
Mohamed Hassan
Inter Academy Panel
Reneé van Kessel-Hagesteijn
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Abdul Hamid Zakri
Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Ghassem Asrar
Joint Global Change Research Institute
Joachim von Braun
Center for Development Research (ZEF)
Bonn University
Mohamed El-Ashry
Senior Fellow
United Nations Foundation
Rémi Quirion
Chief Scientist Officer
Research Funds of Quebec
Hassan Virji
(Ex-Officio Member)
Executive Director
International START Secretariat


Graeme Pearman
Board Member
Chair of Sustainability Science,
Monash University
Eckart Ehlers
Center for Development Research
University of Bonn
Roland Fuchs
Board Member
East-West Center
Anand Patwardhan
Indian Institute of Technology
C.H. Liu
Board Member
Academia Sinica
Gordon McBean
Board Member
Former Chair

University of Western Ontario

International START Secretariat Staff

Dr. Hassan Virji, Executive Director
Hassan Virji holds academic degrees from the Universities of Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Wisconsin. He was on the academic and research faculty at the University of Nairobi and the University of Wisconsin, and was a Senior Fellow at the Wissenschaft Kolleg in Berlin. He has worked as the Program Director for the Climate Dynamics Program of the US National Science Foundation, Deputy Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, and Executive Secretary of the US Inter-agency Subcommittee on Global Change Research where he was involved in setting up the US Global Change Research Program. Dr. Virji is a Lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council of the National Academies of the USA. He is a member of the Governing Boards of the International Centers of excellence located at CSIR/South Africa and the Academia Sinica/Taipei, member of the International Steering Board of UK-based Education, Learning, and research for Humanitarian Assistance, and member of the Board of Civilian Research and Development Foundation of USA. He serves on the editorial boards of “Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability” and “Advances in Climate Change Research”.

Jon Padgham, Deputy Director
Jon Padgham joined in September 2008 as the Director of START’s Risk, Vulnerability, and Adaptation program. Prior to joining START, Jon worked at the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development on climate change adaptation initiatives. At the World Bank, he developed a study detailing where Bank investments are needed to build adaptive capacity in the agriculture sector. At USAID he managed adaption projects and helped to develop a guidance manual on climate change adaptation for that agency’s field operations. Jon received a PhD in soil science from Cornell University.

Clark Seipt, Director of Programs
Clark Seipt is a geographer by training and a facilitator by nature. As Director of Programs for the International START Secretariat, she develops project concept notes and program proposals, designs and leads execution of project activities, manages START budgets and engages in outreach to START partners and donors. She also manages day-to-day activities of START program staff. Clark holds a Master of Science in geography from Penn State University and a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and Spanish from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining START, Clark was a Research Assistant for the Penn State Department of Geography and the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, where her research investigated the utility of seasonal climate forecasts for agricultural decision-making.

Sarah Schweizer, Senior Program Specialist
Sarah is responsible for assisting with the management of the START Grants for Global Change Research in Africa and coordinating Learning Forums and Monitoring and Evaluation plans. Previously, Sarah was a Research Associate for the Colorado State University Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, where she managed the NSF sponsored project: Climate Change Education Partnership. She has investigated climate change resilience, communication, and decision-making within the U.S. National Park Service and helped to develop the agency’s national climate change response strategy. She holds a Master of Science in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Communication from Colorado State University.

Senay Habtezion, Program Specialist
Senay Habtezion joined the International START Secretariat in August 2012 and works primarily on START’s climate change – governance portfolio. Previously, Senay has worked on capacity development projects of the Climate Change Program of UNITAR, in Geneva, and, more recently, the Bureau of Development Policy, UNDP, New York. Senay has also held teaching and research positions at the University of Asmara, Eritrea, and Harvard University. He holds a master’s degree in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and bachelors in Law from the University of Asmara.

Abby Gwaltney, Outreach and Communications Specialist
Abby Gwaltney joined START in June 2011 and serves as the development coordinator and staff liaison to the Board of Directors. Abby holds a Master of Public Administration with a nonprofit management concentration from George Mason University as well as Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Environmental Science from The College of William and Mary. Prior to joining START, Abby worked as a Scientist at Eastern Research Group where she performed IPCC agricultural greenhouse gas estimates as a contractor to US EPA.

Shayne Piltz, Administrative Assistant
Shayne Piltz joined START in June 2014 and is responsible for providing administrative support to the START Secretariat. Shayne holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and International Studies with a focus on Politics and Policy in the Global Economy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently studying to get her LEED Green Associate certification and plans on working towards a Master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Planning.

Prof. Roland Fuchs, Emeritus
Roland Fuchs has held various positions within academia and international organizations. Prior to joining START he served as Professor of Geography and Department Chair at the University of Hawaii and later Vice-Rector of the United Nations University in Japan. He has also served as President of the International Geographical Union (IGU) and Secretary-General of the Pacific Science Association (PSA). During his career he has been associated with a number of institutions, including Moscow State University, Tribhuvan University, Nepal, National Taiwan University, Clark University, Ohio State University, and the East-West Center. His research has focused on urbanization and global change.
Tribute to Roland

Roger Kasperson, Scholar in Residence
Professor Roger E. Kasperson received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1966. He has taught at the University of Connecticut, Michigan State University, and Clark University. He has chaired the International Geographical Union Commission on Critical Situations/Regions in Global Environmental Change and was elected as Director of the Stockholm Research Institute in 1999 – 2002. He also serves on the Human Dimensions of Global Change of the National Research Council, and on the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency. He has written widely on issues connected with risk analysis, risk communication, global environmental change, risk and ethics, and environmental policy.