Chris Auld


Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a Principal Software Engineering manager for Microsoft living in Singapore. My team of engineers is located across Asia and Europe and we work with Microsoft’s largest global customers to build advanced analytics and machine learning solutions. I studied Information Science and Law at the University of Otago back when R was S and Margaret Wilson was the Attorney General. Rotorua is my home town and I’m on the board of our tourism organization so ask me to point you in the direction of all the awesome activities. Finally, I’m not much into the 3rd person to be honest…

Peter Baker

School of Public Health, The University of Queensland

Peter has worked as a statistical consultant and researcher in areas such as agricultural research, Bayesian methods for genetics, health, medical and epidemiological studies for thirty years. He is a Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics at the School of Public Health, UQ where he also acts as a senior statistical collaborator and adviser to several research projects in the Faculty of Medicine.

Gabriela Borgognone

Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Gabriela Borgognone has worked as statistical consultant at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australia, for the last 13 years. Throughout this time, she worked as part of state and national plant breeding programs. For the last two and a half years, she has mainly been working with the food science group of the Department. Before coming to Australia, she worked in Argentina for 10 years, both lecturing at university and as statistical consultant at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology.

Ruth Butler

Plant and Food Research

Ruth Butler has worked as a consulting biometrician since 1987, first in the UK at Long Ashton Research Station for seven years, and subsequently in New Zealand for Plant & Food Research and its preceding organizations. She is based near Christchurch. She primarily works with bio-protection scientists, but has worked with a range of mainly plant-based science disciplines across her career.

Salvador Gezan

University of Florida

Salvador Gezan is statistician/quantitative geneticists with more than 20 years of experience in breeding, statistical analysis and genetic improvement consulting. He currently is an Associate Professor at the University of Florida, USA. He started his career at Rothamsted Research UK as a biometrician where he worked with GenStat and ASReml. Over the last 15 years he has taught for companies and university researchers many ASReml workshops around world

Dr. Gezan has worked on agronomy, aquaculture, forestry, entomology, medical, biological modelling, and with many commercial breeding programs applying traditional and molecular statistical tools. His research has led to more than 90 peer review publications, and he is one of the coauthors of the textbook “Statistical Methods in Biology: Design and Analysis of Experiments and Regression”.

Linley Jesson

Plant and Food Research

Linley Jesson has come from a biological research background in evolution and ecology, and taught statistics to undergraduate Biology students for over 15 years. She joined Plant and Food Research in 2016 as a Biometrician and is currently group leader of the Data Science group.

Alison Smith

University of Wollongong

Alison has worked as a biometrician for more than 25 years and is currently an Associate Professor within the Centre for Bioinformatics and Biometrics at the University of Wollongong. Her main interest is the use of linear mixed models for the analysis of data from plant breeding and crop improvement programs. Her early work focussed on the analysis of genotype by environment interaction and the methods she developed are now used in all major plant breeding programs in Australia. Alison has also extensively researched improved methods of experimental design and analysis for plant quality traits that require multi-phase testing. Most recently she has been involved in the development of the Design Tableau approach for specifying linear mixed models for comparative experiments.  Alison has published over 50 refereed journal articles and has presented her research at a number of national and international statistical and scientific conferences. She has active links with industry, including most private and public plant breeding programs in Australia.

Robin Thompson

Rothamsted Research

Robin Thompson is a pioneering leader in the fields of statistics, quantitative genetics and animal and plant breeding. He started his career in Edinburgh in the late 1960’s in the then Agricultural Research Council Unit of Statistics, later moving to the Animal Breeding Research Organisation, which ultimately became part of the Roslin Institute. He remained there until the mid 1990’s when he moved to the Institute of Arable Crops Research at Rothamsted as the head of the prestigious department of statistics, established by R.A. Fisher, that laid the foundation for much of modern statistics.

In the 1970’s, while based at the University of Edinburgh, Robin and Desmond Patterson proposed and developed a new statistical method which came to be called REML. It now dominates in several fields including statistics, genetics, breeding, and field trial analysis. Data collected in many real-life settings are inherently unbalanced and REML provides optimized statistical methodology for such data. The foundation paper from 1971, “Recovery of inter-block information when block sizes are unequal” is a citation classic with more than 3,700 citations to date. These days, REML is implemented in most widely used statistical analysis packages.

In addition to inventing REML, Robin has made significant contributions to the development of computationally efficient algorithms to facilitate the application of REML to large datasets. Of these, the most important is the Average Information algorithm, developed in the 1990s. Robin, together with colleagues Arthur Gilmour, Brian Cullis and Sue Welham developed the versatile and efficient software package called ASReml that is the most widely used in animal and plant breeding across the globe today.

Robin has made a broad range of contributions to the development of rigorous science underpinning UK and global animal and plant breeding programmes. His collaborations with the various Edinburgh groups had, and continue to have, particular impact in UK dairy, beef and sheep breeding.

Finally, Robin has made a major input to post-graduate education in Edinburgh. For many years, he taught components of the MSc in Animal Breeding and Quantitative Genetics. He was a formal supervisor of more than twenty research students and an informal mentor of many more. Robin has been incredibly generous with his ideas to both students and established researchers (perhaps because he realised he did not have the skills to see things to fruition). Several of his former students now have high international reputations. He has been awarded honorary Doctor of Science hons causa degrees by the university of Edinburgh and the Technical University of Valencia, and had a street named after him in Valencia.

Helene Thygesen

Department of Conservation

Helene Thygesen studied mathematics in Copenhagen and received her Ph.D. in biostatistics from Amsterdam. She has worked as a consulting statistician for various research organizations in the UK, Netherlands and Denmark. She is currently principal statistical science adviser at the Department of Conservation, New Zealand. Helene’s interests are primarily in modelling of biological processes and in making statistical inference relevant to decision processes.

Roger Payne


Roger Payne is the Company Secretary at VSN, now working part-time after 15 years as its Chief Science and Technology Officer. He has a degree in Mathematics and a PhD in Mathematical Statistics from University of Cambridge, and is a Chartered Statistician of the Royal Statistical Society. He has led the development of Genstat since 1985, at Rothamsted prior to joining VSN. Roger was a statistical consultant and researcher at Rothamsted, becoming their expert on design and analysis of experiments, as well as leader of their statistical computing activities. His other statistical interests include generalized and hierarchical generalized linear models, linear mixed models, the study of efficient identification methods (with applications in particular to the identification of yeasts). Roger’s statistical research has resulted in 9 books with commercial publishers, as well as over 100 scientific papers. He has a visiting professorship at Liverpool John Moores University, and also retains an honorary position at Rothamsted, to help him keep in touch with practical statistics.