The research team

Dr Thomas Wood – PI
Tom is a project leader in the NIAB pathology group with a background in molecular plant pathology and crop improvement. Tom’s research focuses on exploiting host genetic diversity in legumes, and improving understanding of pathogen population structure and the genetic basis of virulence in order to develop strategies to enhance crop productivity and resilience to biotic/abiotic stress. Tom has a PhD in crop genetics from The John Innes Centre/University of East Anglia.


Dr Sarah Dyer - collaborator
Sarah is a senior research scientist at NIAB working on crop diversity, with an interest in exploring genetic diversity in crops and their wild relatives, and making that information accessible to breeders and researchers. Prior to joining NIAB, Sarah led the crop genomics and diversity group at The Earlham Institute (formerly The Genome Analysis Centre). Sarah previously spent time at CIAT as a post-doctoral fellow in bioinformatics working with the cassava, rice, bean and forage programmes. Sarah has a PhD in bioinformatics from the University of Manchester.



Dr Daniel Debouck – collaborator
Daniel holds an engineering degree, a certificate in tropical agronomy and a PhD in plant sciences from the Agronomical University of Gembloux, Belgium. He has worked for the Ministry of Agriculture of Belgium in crop physiology, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in genetic resources of grain legumes. Other experience includes at the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical together with most Latin American programmes of bean genetic resources, the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources in genetic diversity of neotropical crops and as an adviser to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research for the preparation of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, and of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (1994-2001). Daniel is an invited lecturer in many international courses on plant genetic resources held in the Americas, a referee for seven scientific international journals, an awardee of the 2010 Frank N. Meyer Medal, Officer of the Order of Leopold of Belgium in 2017, and Crop Trust Legacy Award in 2018, for his work in plant genetic resources. Currently author and co-author of 24 book chapters and 95 research papers (including one monograph). He has presented 158 scientific communications at conferences held in Europe, Asia and the Americas and is presently researcher of the Genetic Resources Program, working on aspects of genetic diversity and evolution of New World crops at the International Center of Tropical Agriculture.

Dr Peter Wenzl – collaborator
Peter leads CIAT’s Genetic Resources Program. He joined CIAT coming from the Global Crop Diversity Trust where he coordinated efforts to more effectively harness crop diversity using genomics. He had previously led a project at CIMMYT to identify and mobilize useful genetic variation from the global maize and wheat collections using a combination of genotyping, phenotyping and pre-breeding strategies. With a PhD in plant physiology/genetics from the University of Vienna, he has moved across a variety of research areas, both in the public and private sector, to develop innovative approaches and tools for better conserving and utilizing genetic resources for crop improvement.

Dr Marcela Santaella – collaborator
Marcela is the current genebank operations manager at CIAT, strongly formed as biology researcher in plant molecular biology and biotechnology, in Colombia (undergraduate and masters) and Germany (doctoral, with a scholarship from the Max Planck Institute of Plant Breeding Research). Since 2008, as postdoc and administrative support for the Crocusbank project (Crocus sativus and allies), she developed an especial interest and trained skills in Project Management and Operations. Marcela also trained and enjoyed as lecturer and researcher on Biotechnology and conservation of local genetic resources at ICESI University in Cali, Colombia. She returned to CIAT-Palmira in 2017, where she had started professionally identifying plant molecular markers and genes related to biotic stress resistance, but now is devoted to follow day-to-day operations in the Genebank and to promote the use of the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture that are conserved within.

Diego F. Conejo – collaborator
Diego, an agronomist engineer from the National University of Colombia in Bogotá (2019), is currently research assistant in the Genetic Resources Program (GRP), contributing to the documentation area for the global bean collection at GRP. He has experience in morphological characterisation processes, proximal sensing, image analysis, geographic information systems (GIS), science data and project formulation, this last one while he worked with the local governments of Bogotá and NGOs that promote conservation and diversity analysis mainly in high Andean ecosystems. He is currently developing descriptors, based on image analysis, in order to promote the use of quantitative descriptors for the characterisation of phenotypic diversity.