Who we are

Ignacio Chapela

Ignacio Chapela. A scientist by conviction and aspiring biologist by craft.  Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology at the University of California, Berkeley.  He is also a Senior Researcher at GenØk, the National Center for Biosafety, Norway.  Born as first-generation Mexico Cityan from the mix, common to that country, of indigenous, indigenized and immigrant stocks.  Not a science-fiction buff, Ignacio belongs to the group of practicing scientist who find more wonderment in what exists than in what someone can write onto a page.  This can create some trouble, since it tends to make people like him acutely sensitive to the loss of diverse biologies, ideologies, imaginations. They are also prone to stare at things beyond polite limits, and to have an affinity for complexity and non-linear storylines, the stuff of real ecology.

Ignacio has worked as a biologist at various levels of commitment with a large range of institutions including: indigenous communities in Latin America, public education and public research institutions (in Mexico, Wales, the US, Norway, costa Rica and Venezuela), private industry (in Switzerland), public policy national and multinational bodies (UNDP, Panamerican Health Organization, World Bank), and multiple foundations and think-tanks.

In ecology, he is committed to the synecological approach to story-telling, just as he is committed to the local approach to ecological policy-making.  How to perform synecological research on microbes seems to have been his life-long occupation.

Ali Tonak. Ali Tonak – (ABD February 2009) – Ali Tonak, a native of Istanbul, received his BA from Bard College in New York State as a double major in Molecular Biology and Photography in 2003. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area he decided to join in collaboration with Ignacio Chapela mapping airborne microorganisms on geographical scales. Ali entered the PhD program at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley and is currently conducting field work in Mexico.

In the Chapela Lab Ali has established a collaboration with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM) to put into practice the novel techniques developed at our laboratory at UC Berkeley and also at the Norwegian Center for Biosafety (GenØk). We work at the laboratory of our longstanding collaborator Dr. Elena Alvarez-Buylla at the Institute of Ecology at UNAM and at the field sites established by Dr. Antonio Serratos (UACM). We are seeking to construct the first-ever geographical-scale maps of airborne genetic materials originating from milpas in the Valley of Mexico.

Philippe Marchand. Born and raised in Gatineau, Canada, Philippe received a B.Sc (physics-mathematics) and M.Sc (physics)  from the University of Ottawa, where his research focused on modelling the nucleation (spontaneous formation) and growth of nanocrystals in natural aqueous systems.

Now a Ph.D candidate in Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, Philippe joined the Chapela Lab in 2008. His current research goal is to study gene flow between maize landraces and the teosintes (their wild relatives) in Mexico, and use this information together with population genetics models to evaluate the impact of this gene flow on the distribution of maize genes (including human-inserted transgenes) over time.

Svein Anders Noer Lie. Philosophy (PhD, University of Tromsø, Norway–the northernmost university in the world). Now a lecturer in philosophy at the same university. A student of biology and a carpenter for some years. Family, fishing, skiing and gardening all attract exclamation marks for him!

Svein-Anders says:

I am looking for a realistic and hard-core way for science to describe nature that is not in conflict with the heavy evidence of non-reducibility, not in conflict with the way every living thing is defined by its evolutionary intertwinedness and not in conflict with the “interface” of our human existence. There are many attempts of this kind, but I think that the so-called disposition-ontology is a very promising start, something which I have tried to show in my PhD thesis “Naturalness Reconsidered: Ontology, Ethics and Dispositions”. This ontology can make a new foundation for our scientific descriptions of nature in a way that also redefines the relation between science, ethics and politics. The best thing about this alternative ontology is that it is a real alternative to the current ontological regime which comes out as neither a wholistic, non-operational mumbo-jumbo alternative, nor as a social constructivist alternative. This is what occupies my mind – day and night.

Leave a Reply