Sumatran Rainforest, showing a dense green forest canopy from above

Tropical Diversity

Meet the Tropical Diversity Team

Dr Caroline Lehmann, Head of Tropical Diversity

I am Head of Tropical Diversity and a tropical biologist and ecologist working in savannas and grasslands across the tropics. My research focusses on the 1) the biogeography and ecology of grassy biomes; 2) plant community assembly and species coexistence related to fire, grazing and drought; 3) ecology and biogeography of C3 and C4 grasses; 4) global change and anthropogenic impacts on grassy biomes with a focus on biodiversity; 5) typology and definition of biomes and ecosystems. I am very interested in how biogeographic variation in plant functional traits can aggregate to impact the dynamics of biomes and particularly interested in understanding these patterns in an evolutionary context. History plays both a major and under-appreciated role in determining the contemporary distribution of biomes and therefore their dynamics in a changing world.

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Dr Hannah Atkins, Gesneriaceae Researcher

Hannah Atkins is a researcher in the Tropical Diversity section interested in the taxonomy, evolution and biogeography of the SE Asian herbaceous flora.  She is currently working on Cyrtandra, the largest genus in the Gesneriaceae comprising over 800 species of rainforest herbs and shrubs.

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Dr Mark Hughes, Taxonomy Research Leader (Southeast Asia)

Email: Mark

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Dr Catherine Kidner, Reader in Plant Evolution

I am interested in the genetics underlying species-level variation in plants which I study through a combination of classical genetics and the application of high throughput sequencing data (genomics, transcriptomics, hybrid capture).  I am particularly interested in developing bioinformatic approaches using hybrid capture to recover genetic data from herbarium specimens.  My group works mainly on Begonia but I also work with a range of other tropical groups including Inga.

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Dr Michael Möller, Gesneriaceae Researcher

Dr Möller is an Evolutionary Botanist interested in unravelling evolutionary processes and the classification of plant species. He applies holistic approaches to taxonomy combining morphological and molecular data, whereby molecular phylogenetic frameworks are the cornerstone underpinning taxonomic decisions and modern classification systems. Dr Möller is also interested in linking phylogenies to infer morphological shifts and investigate the genetics underlying these developmental changes. His work focusses primarily, but not exclusively, on Old World Gesneriaceae.

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Prof Toby Pennington, South American Biodiversity Researcher

My research has aimed to address one of the fundamental questions of tropical biology – how and when did the huge species numbers in the tropics arise? It is grounded in fundamental, descriptive taxonomic, inventory and phylogenetic research, which provides the foundation to address evolutionary and biogeographic questions of relevance to conservation in a changing world.

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Dr James Richardson, Tropical Biodiversity Researcher



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Dr Louis Ronse De Craene, Director of the MSc course

Dr Louis Ronse De Craene (Doctorate Leuven, Belgium

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Dr Tiina Sarkinen, South American Biodiversity Researcher

I am a permanent biodiversity researcher in the

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Dr Peter Wilkie, Sapotaceae Researcher

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Dr Mark Newman, Head of Section, Zingiberaceae Researcher

I'm a taxonomist using mainly the study of morphology within a framework of molecular systematics to describe plants in the Zingiberaceae, a family of over 50 genera and over 1,200 species including cardamom, ginger and turmeric. This work contributes to an inventory of the world's species which is far from complete. New species are being discovered in the Zingiberaceae every year and increasing numbers are threatened with extinction owing to habitat disturbance.

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Axel Dalberg Poulsen, Zingiberaceae Researcher

Axel is a Research Associate in the Tropical Diversity Section and his work includes taxonomy, evolution, distribution patterns at all scales, ecology, and ethnobotany, especially of the family Zingiberaceae (gingers) of which he is the leading expert on the genus Etlingera. His research output includes contributions to regional floras based on a molecular phylogenetic framework and facilitates the conservation assessment of all ginger species using standard IUCN procedures.

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Dr Zoë Goodwin, Postgraduate Programme Co-ordinator

I am the Postgraduate Programme Co-ordinator for the MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants and a tropical botanist specialising in the Neotropical flora, in particular I am interested in the savanna and dry forests of Central and South America.

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Dr Peter Moonlight, South American Biodiversity Researcher

I am a Postdoctoral Scientist in the Tropical Biodiversity

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Dr Kanae Nishii, Laboratory Technician, Research Associate

Kanae Nishii has interests in evolutionary development and systematics in the family Gesneriaceae, in particular the genus Streptocarpus. KN is a laboratory technician and holds research associateships in the Tropical Diversity section at RBGE and Kanagawa University in Japan, carrying out research in both institutes.

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Sanna Olander, Conservation Assessment Officer

As a Conservation Assessment Officer at RBGE, I have the pleasure of combining my interests in botany and conservation. From January 2018 to March 2019, I am writing and facilitating IUCN Red List assessments or, in other words, assessing species risk of extinction. My focus is on two plant families as I spend two days a week working on Sapotaceae and three days on Zingiberaceae. IUCN Red List assessments are effective tools in guiding conservation efforts and prioritising areas where funds are most needed. As one of the most aknowledged ways of assessing species' conservation status, these assessments have the potential to persuade desision makers to protect taxa and reduce the loss of species diversity.

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Jess Rickenback, PhD candidate

I am a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. My research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolutionary history of high rainfall savannas.

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Madhavi Sreenath, Sibbald Fellow

Sibbal Fellow researching Begonia taxonomy in the Western Ghats 

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Thibauld Michel, PhD Candidate
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Briggitthe Melchor Castro
Elliot Convery-Fisher, PhD Candidate