International authority on invasive species appoints new executive director

The Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) has appointed Dr Sarah Simons as Executive Director. Dr Simons will lead the programme in its new location of Nairobi, Kenya. 


Sarah Simons

Invasive species are the second greatest threat to global biodiversity next to habitat destruction costing an estimated global US$1.5 trillion per year in environmental and economic damage. GISP is the only international programme devoted entirely to the prevention and management of this issue.

GISP is a partnership between four leading organisations in the field of invasive species: CABI; IUCN; The Nature Conservancy; and the South African National Biodiversity Institute. Dr Simons has a long history of working with GISP; formerly she worked as Global Director of Invasive Species at CABI where she was its representative on the GISP Executive Board.

“Dr Simons brings a wealth of experience to this role and we are delighted to welcome her as our new Executive Director,” said Dennis Rangi, Chairman of the GISP Executive Board. “Invasive species are not just an environmental, agricultural or health problem. They present a complex, cross-sectoral issue affecting development at the regional, national and global levels. GISP provides a crucial service by pooling the unique skills and expertise of a variety of leading bodies.

“With a number of international agencies based in Nairobi, the move means that GISP is now better placed to work with the scientific community and we will be able to take advantage of a broad array of technical support.”

During a career spanning more than 20 years Dr Simons has published widely and supervised more than 30 MSc and PhD projects. Having attained a BSc from Massey University in New Zealand she continued her studies at Cambridge University earning a PhD on the epidemiology and biocontrol of the soil-borne pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani, on potatoes.

For the past 14 years Sarah has been based in Kenya. She first joined CABI in 1995 as Regional Plant Pathologist where she worked on pests and diseases of coffee, horticulture, bananas and maize.

The GISP secretariat was formerly located at the South African National Biodiversity Institute in Cape Town, South Africa.

Contact: Sarah Wilson, PR and Corporate Communications Manager, CABI, mob +44 (0)7516 928 845, tel +44 (0)1491 829361, email [email protected]

Editor’s notes

For your diary

GISP will be attending the forthcoming Convention on Biological Diversity meeting, COP 9, which is being held in Germany in May. COP9 represents the biggest opportunity in a decade to take global action against invasive species, decisions made here will be pivotal in preventing the spread of invasive species. For more information go to:

About GISP

GISP was established following the first major international meeting on invasive species convened in 1996 by the United Nation Environment Programme and the Norwegian government.

In order to address the damage that invasive species cause, GISP undertakes a number of activities to not only raise the profile and facilitate information exchange on invasives, but also to influence key decision makers and support governance and policy on a global level.

GISP has responsibility under the Convention of Biological Diversity that calls on parties to prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats, or species. For more information go to

IUCN helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN supports scientific research; manages field projects all over the world; and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice.

CABI is a not-for-profit international organization formerly known as the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux which now operates simply as CABI. The GISP secretariat is hosted by CABI Africa, based in Nairobi. CABI has been working in invasive species for nearly 100 years and is currently working on 60 invasive plants.

South African National Biodiversity Institute was established in 2004 through the signing of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act 10. The Act expanded the mandate of SANBI's forerunner, the National Botanical Institute to include responsibilities relating to the full diversity of South Africa's fauna and flora, and built on the internationally respected programmes in conservation, research, education and visitor services developed over the past century.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

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