Jon Padgham joined START in 2008, and has been START’S Executive Director since 2020. At START, Jon has led or co-led several science capacity development projects in Africa and Asia that engaged early career researchers. His work helped strengthen analytical skills for applying climate model projections to adaptation decision making and helped advance understanding of climate change adaptation in drylands and of urban food systems. His experience in capacity development includes scientific writing, science communication across disciplines, persuasive communications of science to policy and other stakeholder communities, research and assessment methods, building links to global science assessments, and building mentorship bridges between junior and senior academics. Prior to joining START, Jon worked at the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development on climate change adaptation initiatives. He holds a PhD in Soil Science from Cornell University in the US.
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.
Mariama joined START as a Program Specialist in June 2018, where she is leading the Promoting Gains in Renewable Energy – West Africa (ProGREEN) project. She is coordinating and implementing project activities, and co-designing the capacity development and communication products. She develops and maintains collaborative relationships with potential partners in order to broaden START’s visibility and develop new programmatic opportunities in West Africa. She also works with other START initiatives as needed. Very passionate about environmental change, knowledge sharing, science-policy interface, and capacity development, she previously worked for the Senegalese Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development’s Directorate of Green Financings and Partnerships to improve the development of the green economy and create green jobs that empower youth and women under a Changing Climate. Prior to that, she worked as post-doctoral researcher at the Institut des Sciences de l’Environnement, Université Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar (UCAD), Senegal, where she coordinated the activities of the research unit. She was also an activity leader in the project One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) Senegal for which she supervised the training of local communities in surveillance, diagnosis, and biosafety and biosecurity. She has a PhD in Climate Change and Biodiversity from WASCAL Graduate Research Program of Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and a DEA in Crop Protection from the National School of Agriculture ENSA, Thies, Senegal.
Gulnara Reznik joined the START team in 2019, and is a CPA and holds MS in accounting and Financial Management. She has 20+ years of experience in accounting in not-for-profit and private sectors. She worked in international companies in France and Russia, and is fluent in French and Russian. Gulnara previously served as a Treasurer of the Colorado Russian Center for Arts and Humanities.
Hassan Virji has been involved with START since its inception in 1992, and served as START’s Executive Director from 2008 to 2016.
Prior to joining START, in his role as Executive Secretary of the US Inter-agency Subcommittee on Global Change Research he contributed to set up the US Global Change Research Program during early 1990s. Before then, he was Deputy Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, and Associate Director of the Climate Dynamics Program of the US National Science Foundation.
Hassan is a member of the Governing Boards of the International Centers of excellence located at CSIR/South Africa and the Academia Sinica/Taipei, UK-based Education, Learning, and Research for Humanitarian Assistance, the Civilian Research and Development Foundation of USA and the Manila Observatory located at Ateneo de Manila University. He is a permanent member of the National Research Council of the US National Academies.
He serves on the editorial boards of “Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability”, “Advances in Climate Change Research”, and “Climate, Disasters, and Development”.
Hassan is a graduate of the Universities of Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Wisconsin in Madison.