Board and Staff

Board of directors

Khotso Mokhele
(START Board Chair)
University of the Free State
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)
Visiting Scientist
Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center
University of Maryland
Dong-Pil Min
Scientific Advisory Board Member
UN Secretary General
Fatima Denton
African Climate Policy Center
Thomas Lovejoy
Senior Fellow
United Nations Foundation


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
Heide Hackmann
Board Member
International Council for Science (ICSU)

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.

Sarah Schweizer, Director of Programs
As Director of Programs for the International START Secretariat, Sarah 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. 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.

Margaret Chapman, Director of Finance and Administration
Margaret Ann Chapman, MBA, MA is the Director of Finance and Administration. She oversees the daily operations and financial health and planning of START. Prior to this position, Margaret was the Institute Administrator and Fiscal Manager for the George Washington University Cancer Institute and various positions at the Pew Charitable Trusts. She has her Masters in Business Administration and Masters in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University. In addition to her work at START, Margaret serves as the Treasurer for Triage Cancer and the immediate past president of the board of directors for Street Sense, a Washington, DC, non-profit helping create economic opportunities for the district’s homeless population.

Senay Habtezion, Senior Program Specialist
Senay Habtezion serves as START’s focal point for the Global Environmental Change (GEC) – Governance portfolio. He also helps manage START’s Global Observation of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD) and Advanced Institutes for Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) programs. Previously, Senay worked for UNITAR, Geneva, and UNDP, New York, on GEC related programming and research. He was also research fellow at Harvard University and a faculty at the University of Asmara. He is Lead Author for the policy chapter of the Global Environment Outlook Report (GEO-5). Senay holds a bachelors degree from the University of Asmara, a master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law and has attended the Donald Bren School of Environmental Management, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Mary Thompson-Hall, Program Specialist
Mary Thompson-Hall joined START in 2015 as a program specialist working primarily on the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, part of the broader Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in geography from the University of South Carolina where her research focused on intersections of conservation and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, Mary worked with World Bank and African Development Bank experts on participatory adaptation fieldwork for the Zambian Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), and also co-authored a USAID commissioned report on gender and climate change adaptation. Most recently, she worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3) in Bilbao, Spain on topics relating to agricultural biodiversity and climate change adaptation.

Niki West, Program Specialist
Niki joined START as a program specialist, managing the Pan-Asia Risk Reduction (PARR) Fellowship Program and contributing to a range of START programs. Niki holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and a Master of Environmental Management in Environmental Economics and Policy from Duke University. Niki previously engaged in research-for-development program coordination and water-energy-food nexus research at the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Challenge Program on Water and Food-Mekong (CPWF-Mekong) in Lao PDR. Most recently, Niki led the design and partnership development for the first primary academic research study of fugitive methane emissions in a Canadian shale play at the David Suzuki Foundation. She has also conducted ecosystem services and natural capital research and strategic planning at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, DC and Ausenco in Peru.

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 and program 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.