Science Advisors

CANA Foundation Science Advisors

Click here to learn more about CANA Foundation’s Leadership and Advisory Team.

Ross McPhee, Ph.D.

Senior Curator, American Museum of Natural History

Ross MacPhee Ph.D., is CANA’s scientific advisor and a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Ross is a biologist specializing in mammals that are now extinct, especially those that lived in recent prehistory (last 2 million years). He has searched for recently-lost species all over the world, seeking to explain not only their biological relationships but why they died out. Using both fossils and modern genomic methods, he and his colleagues are seeking to show that all modern horses, whether domestic or wild, have ancestries that ultimately originated in North America. He was curator of the AMNH exhibition The Horse (2008) and the author of End of the Megafauna (Norton, 2019), an account of species disappearances worldwide after the end of the last Ice Age–– including mysterious loss of the horse in North America.

Wouter Helmer

Co-Founder, Rewilding Europe Program Manager, GRAZELIFE

Wouter Helmer is the co-founder of Rewilding Europe and Programme Manager of GRAZELIFE, a project at the request of the European Commission to come up with recommendations for effective grazing systems regarding climate adaptation, biodiversity and other ecosystem services. He brings to CANA’s Science Advisory Board over 30 years of experience with rewilding projects on this continent.

Hendrick Poinar, Ph.D.

A Professor of Anthropology and Biochemistry, a Canada Research Chair in Paloegenetics and a senior fellow in the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Hendrik Poinar is an interdisciplinary scientist with training in evolutionary genetics, molecular biology and genomics. He has a deep passion for uncovering the minute traces of organic molecules (DNA, RNA, proteins) buried deep within fossils and sedimentary records, which he has been studying for 25 years. He trained broadly at various institutions in California, Germany, the UK, Italy, France and now directs the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton Canada. He’s an advocate for communicating complex science in meaningful and comprehensible terms to all ages (K-senior) having given numerous interviews to various media outlets (PBS, CNN, NBC, NYT, BBC, CBC). His lab’s work has appeared in many international documentaries and he’s a TED speaker on the topic of de-extincting the woolly mammoth. Currently his group is mining the tiny traces of DNA buried in teaspoon amounts of frozen sediment from our North to investigate why so many large animals went extinct 10,000 years ago at a period of climatic instability and fluctuation and yet how, surprisingly, some giant creatures may have unexpectedly survived into much more recent times than previously thought.

Tyler J. Murchie, Ph.D.

Dr. Tyler Murchie is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the McMaster University Ancient DNA Centre in Hamilton, Canada with Professor Hendrik Poinar, with whom Tyler did is Ph.D. research on ancient environmental DNA recovered from the Yukon Territory. Tyler has been developing new techniques for recovering and utilizing sedimentary ancient DNA from permafrost and lake sediments to understand the environmental turnover and mass extinction of ice age megafauna such as woolly mammoth, horse, and steppe bison during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition (11,700 years ago). Through the techniques Tyler has developed, a new scale of environmental DNA resolution has been made possible, wherein the simultaneous transition of plants and animals can be observed solely through the molecular remnants those organisms left behind on ancient landscapes. Moreover, Tyler’s work has hinted at the late survival of ice age horses and mammoths in the Yukon thousands of years after their last dated fossil remains, and highlights the potential to recover genomic-scale information from many diverse organisms simultaneously, solely through environmental DNA preserved for millennia in sediments and soils.

Tyler has also been working on various other archaeological applications of environmental DNA aimed towards understanding human-ecological interactions in deep time. Beyond ice age environmental DNA, Tyler has contributed to published research on the population history of ancient Romans with palaeogenomics and stable isotopes, as well as northern plains archaeology with ancient DNA and projectile point systematics during his masters and B.Sc. (hons) degrees at the University of Calgary.