Science Advisory Board
Dr. Ross MacPhee
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 the mysterious loss of the horse in North America.
Dr. Henrik Poinar
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.
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.
Dr. Tyler Murchie
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 his 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.
General Advisory Board
Karla R. LaRive
Karla R. LaRive is a long-time advocate for preserving the legacy of wild horses and the vanishing American West. She comes to CANA Foundation with a background in photography, communications and marketing. In 2006, Karla formed her production company, PK Productions, LLC with a focus in media and music production and cultural awareness. As producer, Karla was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Regional Roots Album “Generations” in 2015. She served 10 years as Communications Director for the Institute of Range and American Mustang, working alongside wild horse conservation pioneer, the late Dayton O. Hyde, at his 11,000 acre wild horse sanctuary in western South Dakota. Karla is an advocate in Government and Tribal relations on behalf of wild horses in South Dakota and around the country.
Laura Leigh has joined the board of CANA in an advisory capacity. Laura has a deep understanding of the law and over a decade of on-the-ground experience on public lands. Her work includes the only cases in history against abuse during capture of wild horses. One of her First Amendment court rulings, to open the world of wild horses to public scrutiny, is now used to protect civil rights nationwide. Her work on the range, and in the courtroom, has been featured in several books and countless news features. Laura’s experience blends well with CANAs mission to protect wild places and wild horses through the concepts of rewilding.
Judy advises CANA Foundation on wild horse behaviors and is a gifted teacher, author, and horse trainer with over twenty years of experience in “talking with animals.” She works with pet owners on behavior problems, illness, and unsoundness in dogs, cats, horses, and other animals. She is the author of “Wagging Tails, Swishing Tails, Fluffy Tails, and Other Tales,” a book about animal communication. A lecturer at Whole Life Expos, Victory of Light Expo in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Universal Light Expo in Columbus, Ohio, she has also been a presenter at Equine Affair in Columbus, Ohio. Popular in the media, she’s been a guest on radio shows including Transitions Radio Magazine in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and currently appears with Jill Reynolds on Critter Chatter in Boulder, Colorado.
Originally from rural Western Oregon, Gayle has spent the last 30 years in Central Oregon––a world apart. The desert and pine forest ecosystems of the drier climes east of the Cascades were the logical landscape for a career in the U.S. Forest Service and a commitment to the preservation of America’s wild horses and burros.
As witness to the weak approach of Federal Agencies to the management of wild equines, Gayle founded the Central Oregon Wild Horse Coalition to consolidate the random interests of area citizens into a more formidable, solution-based advocacy front. Particular areas of emphasis, in addition to protection of the Forest Service-managed Big Summit herd, are the Native Species status of the Horse in North America; the potential contributions of equines to the restoration of Western rangelands; the strengthening of legal protections of wild equines and universal adherence to those protections; and the creation of partnerships with Veterans and underserved communities to accomplish on-range work which keeps wild herds intact on their homelands.
Elise Lowe-Vaughn serves as the CANA Workforce Policy Advisor. In her day job she is the Colorado Director of Workforce Programs and oversees a large portfolio of federal and state workforce programs. She is an appointed member to several national workforce associations and serves on several state and county boards. Elise has testified before a Congressional subcommittee and presented internationally on challenges facing the future workforce. She uses her knowledge of western issues facing communities, and her expertise in policy and legislation to promote an integrated wild horse advocacy strategy for our wild horses and their legally designated lands with a goal of ecological balance so all can thrive. Her two horses continue to be her teachers and guides.