Science Management

Prof Pete Hollingsworth, Director of Science​ and Deputy Keeper

I am a biodiversity scientist with a particular interest in understanding and conserving plant diversity. As Director of Science and Deputy Keeper I am responsible for managing a team of ca 100 staff, students and volunteers in the science division at RBGE.



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Dr Olwen Grace, Deputy Director of Science (Collections) and Curator of the Herbarium

I am Deputy Director of Science at RBGE, responsible for the Preserved Collections, which include our Herbarium, Library and Archives


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Dr Alex Davey, Deputy Director of Science (Research)

RBGE is one of the world's leading scientific botanic gardens, conducting research into plant diversity, distribution and dynamics, applied conservation, drawing on our rich living and preserved collections and specialist laboratory and bioinformatics facilities.

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Rachael Brewer, PA to the Director of Science and Deputy Keeper, and PA to the Deputy Director of Science (Collections) and Curator of the Herbarium

Major Floras

Dr Mark Watson, Head of Major Floras

I have over 30 years’ experience in floristics, plant systematics, botanical nomenclature and biodiversity informatics. My work is centred on the Sino-Himalayan region, especially Nepal, where I collaborate with international and in-country partners and local communities to generate high quality data and knowledge products to support plant conservation and the sustainable use of plant resources.

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Dr Bhaskar Adhikari, Flora of Nepal Researcher

I have been working on the Flora of Nepal for more than 10 years. My expertise is in plant taxonomy and systematics. I am interested in using our scientific knowledge of plants to work with local communities to improve livelihoods, conserve biodiversity, and sustainably utilise natural resources.

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Dr Alan Forrest, CMEP Researcher

My work is driven by a desire to contribute to plant species and ecosystem conservation using a variety of tools and methods. I manage a diverse portfolio of programs focusing on research into the conservation and sustainable use of plants in Soqotra, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. A certified IUCN Red List assessor and trainer, focusing on Red Listing plants in Arabia and SW Asia and integrating conservation assessments into protected areas and management planning


Dr Roger Hyam, Biodiversity Data Systems Developer

I have a background in botany - gaining an MSc and PhD in taxonomy in the late 1990s. After spending a period working as a commercial software engineer at the turn of the century I combined my taxonomy and information technology skills to started working in the field of biodiversity informatics. My work ranges from developing mobile phone apps to collaborating on information exchange standards to data driven research based on remote sensing data.

When I set out as biologist in the 1980s my motivation was to help conserve the biodiversity of the world by increasing our understanding of it. Over the last thirty years there has been little sign of any slow down in biodiversity loss. It is clear that this loss is caused by human behaviour and so my research interests have moved more towards quantifying our relationship with the natural world. I am using data driven research to study how our need for a connection with nature (biophilia) relates to our health and ultimately our pro-enviromental behaviours.

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Dr Sabina Knees, CMEP, Research Associate

Former Editor of the Flora of the Arabian Peninsula and Socotra I am a taxonomist with research interests in horticulture, plant taxonomy and plant conservation. I am a member of the Horticultural Taxonomy Group (Hortax), the IUCN SSC Arabian Plant Specialist Group and the Executive Committee of the Friends of Socotra.

Dr Barbara Mackinder, CMEP, Research Associate

My research interest is the classification and identification of Legumes. I am working on an account of the family for the Flora of the Arabian Peninsula and Socotra.

Tony Miller, CMEP, Research Associate

I was employed as a SW Asian botanist at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 1974 to 2017. My research focussed on floristic, taxonomic and conservation studies in SW Asia. Field work activities included: assessing the status of vegetation and threatened species, surveying biodiversity hotspots; ethnographic studies and biodiversity impact and richness assessments for landscape potential and for restoration. During these surveys I have discovered and scientifically described many species new to science. I have written numerous scientific papers, several books and contributed to many workshops and conferences

Dr Sophie Neale, Head of CMEP

I am a botanist with over 15 years of experience in the Middle East. My work currently focuses on biodiversity assessment and conservation planning as well as on regional capacity development. I am also responsible for our advisory and consultancy work.

Dr Henry Noltie, Research Associate

Henry Noltie is interested in the history of collections and the history of botany in India. His work has concentrated on the RBGE collections, especially the botanical drawings made by Indian artists for Scottish East India Company surgeons.

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Dr Colin Pendry, Editor of Flora of Nepal

My expertise is in plant taxonomy and systematics, with a background in plant ecology. Since 2004 my primary focus has been the Flora of Nepal, for which I write accounts, as well as coordinating and editing the contributions of other authors. Previously I have worked in Latin America, South East Asia and the Caribbean, collecting plants and carrying out floristic and monographic studies.

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Dr Alan Elliott, bioinformatician

My role is split between the World Flora Online and the Global Conservation Consortium for Rhododendron.


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Claire Banks, Botanical Illustrator

Since 2009 I have worked closely with the science

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Dr Gail Stott, CMEP Researcher

My research focuses on analysing biodiversity data

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Tropical Diversity

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

Genetics and Conservation

Dr Antje Ahrends, Head of Genetics and Conservation

My research focuses on biodiversity conservation in the face of global environmental change. I am using field data combined with large-scale environmental datasets, GIS, and modelling approaches to study the distribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to assess the impact of global change.

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Dr Aline Finger, Molecular Ecologist

My research focus is conservation and ecological genetics of threatened and important plant species. I’m using a combination of genetic and ecological methods to help their protection and to inform conservation and management decisions. My aim is to ensure that our conservation efforts lead to species’ persistence as self-sustaining, viable populations in the wild.

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Martin Gardner, Research Associate

From 1991 to 2021 I worked at the at RBG Edinburgh as co-ordinator of the International Conifer Conservation Programme on many aspects of conifer conservation. Part of my work has been to establish one of the world's most comprehensive networks for the ex situ conservation of threatened conifers. 

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Dr Robert Mill, Research Associate

I retired from my position as Gymnosperm Systematist at RBGE in 2018 but am now a RBGE Research Associate. I am currently revising genera of Podocarpaceae, particularly Podocarpus and Prumnopitys.

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Dr Markus Ruhsam, Molecular Ecologist

I am a botanist with over 30 years of experience in plant identification who also uses genetic tools to study and understand plant diversity. The combination of morphological and molecular techniques is a powerful approach to investigate evolutionary processes which, for instance, has led to the discovery of a new species of monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria) in New Caledonia by RBGE and collaborators.  A particular interest of mine are the processes which shape and change plant populations over time (phylogeography).

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Nadia Russle, PhD candidate
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Philip Thomas, ICCP Scientific Officer

My research interests focus on conifers of mainland Southeast Asia and New Caledonia as well as the impacts of climate change. I am also the Coordinator for the IUCN Conifer Redlist Authority.

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David O’Brien, Research Associate

I manage NatureScot's (SNH) Evidence and Reporting, and Terrestrial Vascular Plant teams. This includes conservation of wild plants, and development and production of indicators such as Ecosystem Health Indicators and Convention on Biological Diversity reports. This work relies heavily on citizen science. I work with colleagues on conservation of genetic diversity, urban biodiversity and evidence-based conservation.

My first collaboration with RBGE was as part of the team developing a world first genetic diversity indicator for wild species. We used a scorecard approach for wild species of cultural and socio-economic importance to promote long-term conservation of genetic diversity.

I am interested forest management, and in particular opportunities for multiple benefits from woodlands: economic, social and biodiversity conservation. I have also study the interaction between non-native species and novel pests and pathogens. Our work analyses the implications of introducing additional tree species for commercial or conservation purposes.

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Dr Yunxia Wang

I am a postdoctoral researcher working on remote sensing of rubber plantations and land cover change. This project will produce up-to-date maps of the distribution of rubber plantations and associated land cover change in Southeast Asia. The work is funded by the UKRI GCRF  Trade, Development and the Environment Hub

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Cryptogamic Plants and Fungi

Dr Christopher Ellis, Head of Cryptogamic Plants and Fungi Section

I am an ecologist. I use my research to understand how habitat management can offset negative impacts of global change. I work mostly on lichen bioindicators, with a particular interest in woodland epiphytes.

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Dr Neil Bell, Bryologist

I am a bryologist specialising in phylogenetics, taxonomy and biodiversity. Much of my research is focussed on quantifying, understanding and promoting Scotland's globally important bryophyte flora.

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Dr Emma Bush, Urban Biodiversity Officer

Emma's priority is to develop core and applied research to help us address the ecological and climate emergency.

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Dr David Chamberlain, Research Associate Bryology
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Dr Brian Coppins, Research Associate Lichenology

Brian is RBGE's senior lichenologist with research interests in the taxonomy and biogeography of north-west European lichens, and with particular expertise in the genus Micarea.

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Dr Matt Elliot, Plant Health and Biosecurity Scientist

The introduction of novel non-native species into new regions is one of the primary causes of global biodiversity loss. My research therefore aims to improve our understanding of a) the drivers that cause the introduction of plant pest and disease species into new regions, b) how to prevent invasions, and c) how to manage the novel species that have already been inadvertently introduced.

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Dr David Genney, Research Associate Cryptogam Conservation

I work within a team of species specialists as a Policy and Advice Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage. I am national advisor on all Scottish bryophytes and fungi/lichens. To deliver this remit, I draw on research skills developed through my PhD and five years of post-doctoral research on mycorrhizal function and ecology.

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Dr Katy Hayden, Plant Health Officer

I am an evolutionary ecologist and the Quarantine and Plant Health Officer for RBGE. I research rapid evolutionary change in plant-pathogen interactions, such as when pathogens are introduced to new lands and new hosts, and how to use this knowledge to protect plants and livelihoods.

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Dr Stephan Helfer, Research Associate Mycology

I do research on parasitic microfungi, their biodiversity, taxonomy and distribution. 

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Mr Neville Kilkenny, Research Associate Mycology
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Dr Vladimir Krivtsov, Research Associate Ecosystem Services

Vladimir has a diverse academic and professional background in natural sciences. His main interest is in understanding indirect interactions in ecological and environmental systems.

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Dr Elizabeth Kungu, Research Associate Bryology
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Dr David Long, Research Associate Bryology

I am a taxonomist with expertise in bryophytes, and in the vascular plant flora of the Sino-Himalayan region.

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Professor David Mann, Diatomist

I study and research diatoms, from fundamental questions on the nature of species, through to practical applications such as water quality monitoring.

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Dr Joanne Taylor, Research Associate Mycology

Jo is an ascomycete taxonomist and foliar fungal endophyte researcher. Her studies are currently focused on forest pathology and the potential role of beneficial fungal endophytic partners. She also contributes to the Scottish Plant Health Centre website.

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Dr Juan Carlos Villarreal, Research Associate Bryology

Juan Carlos is an evolutionary biologist and bryologist, based at the Institut de biologie Intégrative et des systèmes, Université Laval.

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Professor Christopher Walker, Research Associate Mycology

I worked for Forestry Commission in various roles, ending up in the Physiology Branch of the Northern Research Station, Roslin, working with mycorrhiza and tree roots. I took early retirement in 1996 to allow more time to follow my interest in the taxonomy of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

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Professor Roy Watling, Honorary Associate Mycology

Roy is an RBGE mycologist (retired). He received an MBE for contributions to mycology, particularly recognising his teaching and support for amateurs and those from developing countries. He received the Royal Society of Edinburgh Patrick Neill medal for contributions to Science. He was the first recipient of the Outstanding Contribution Award of Nature of Scotland 2012 for mycological contributions, and the first recipient of the Plant Life International Smart Award 2011 for activities in conservation.

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Dr Rebecca Yahr, Lichenologist

I am a botanist and mycologist, with an evolutionary perspective on diversity in lichens. Because I believe that people and the planet will all benefit from a better understanding of one another, I am also passionate about enthusing people at all levels about lichens.

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Caitlyn Johnstone

Caitlyn is an ecologist specializing in lichens and ecosystem interactions with a particular interest in biodiversity.

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Dr Olwen Grace, Deputy Director of Science (Collections) and Curator of the Herbarium

I am Deputy Director of Science at RBGE, responsible

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Dr Elspeth Haston, Deputy Herbarium Curator

My experience is in taxonomic research, curation systems and digitisation. My work has included the development of tools, processes and workflows to aid with curation in herbaria. My current focus is on large-scale digitisation, including looking at integrating digitisation into curatorial and research processes.

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Suzanne Cubey, Deputy Herbarium Curator

As a Deputy Herbarium Curator I have specific responsibilities in the day to day running of the Herbarium. I also have a particular interest in the destructive sampling from Herbarium Specimens and the extensive Cultivated Herbarium which links both the Science and the Living Collection departments of the RBGE.

Rob Cubey, Plant Records Officer

I am the Plant Records Officer of the RBGE, handling the data management for both the Living and Herbarium collections.

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Dr Heleen Plaisier, Assistant Herbarium Curator

I manage the Cryptogamic Section of the Herbarium. This involves the curation of the Cryptogam collections, processing new accessions, supporting loans and destructive sampling, and providing support for users of the Cryptogam collections.

Lesley Scott, Assistant Herbarium Curator

I am one of the Assistant Herbarium Curators with the responsibility for loans and visitors. In addition to helping taxonomy researchers access our Collection, I'm increasingly working with artists who wish to explore the Herbarium.

Marie Briggs, Assistant Herbarium Curator

I curate specimens in the herbarium, maintaining and improving the current collections and incorporating new accessions with the aim of supporting RBGE’s world class scientific research. I have a particular interest in the flora of SE Asia and New Guinea, particularly the family Rubiaceae and the genus Saurauia in Actinidiaceae.

Robyn Drinkwater, Digitisation Officer and Technical Developer

I am part of the team responsible for the digitisation of herbarium specimens and library and archives.




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Sally King, Digitisation Officer and Volunteer Co-ordinator

I am part of the team responsible for the digitisation of herbarium specimens and library and archives. I am the herbarium camera officer thus responsible for maintaining camera operability for the herbarium digitisation programme. As Herbarium Volunteer Coordinator I coordinate the in-house departmental programme, as well as providing training and supervision for volunteer curation and digitisation projects. I also management volunteer engagement and support for our online citizen science projects.

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Kate Eden, Herbarium Technician

I prepare new dried pressed plant specimens for the Herbarium collection, and do remedial conservation (repairs) of older specimens.

Jennifer McCutcheon, Herbarium Technician

I prepare new dried pressed plant specimens for the Herbarium collection and maintain the Spirit collection.

Gillian Murray, Herbarium Technician

I prepare new dried plant specimens for the Herbarium.

Erzsebet Gyongy, Herbarium Assistant

I am a herbarium assistant. I make sure that the new specimens coming into the herbarium have the correct data attached and I oversee the process of laying away by which the specimens are filed in the correct place in the sequence. I am interested in using new technology to speed up these processes.

Scientific and Technical Services

Dr Michelle Hart, Head of Scientific and Technical Services

As Head of Scientific and Technical Services

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Frieda Christie, Microscopy Technician

Frieda Christie retired from RBGE in

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Dr Laura Lowe Forrest, Molecular Laboratory Manager

Laura Forrest (ORCID;

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Ruth Hollands, General Laboratory Manager

Ruth has worked at RBGE for over 30 years, starting

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Dr Flávia Fonseca Pezzini, Bioinformatician
Dr Giada Ferrari, Herbarium Genomics Research Assistant

Giada obtained her PhD in evolutionary biology from

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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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Library, Archives and Publications

Jane Corrie
Lorna Mitchell, Head of Library and Archives

Lorna is responsible for the strategic management and day-to-day running of the Library and Archives at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).

This includes:

  • maintenance and development of the collections, including cataloguing, digitisation and preservation;
  • public engagement activities to increase awareness of the Library and Archive collections;
  • fundraising and income generation to support Library and Archive projects;
  • records management.
Leonie Paterson, Archivist

Leonie started at RBGE in 2000 as a Library Assistant. Over the years, her interest in the George Forrest collection and RBGE’s history led to her becoming involved in the care and curation of the Archives.  She now has a qualification in Archives Management and is responsible for RBGE’s historic archives which involves their arrangement, listing, cataloguing and environment, but in particular helping people access and use the collections (and a fair amount of talking about George Forrest!)

Graham Hardy, Serials Librarian

Graham Hardy has worked in the RBGE Library since 1998.  He works on the day-to-day management of the Periodicals Collection (both current and historic) and is responsible for the Library's Exchange Programme. Graham also deals with reference enquiries, oversees a number of Library volunteers, handles inter-library loans from staff and students and is part of the team that assists internal and external visitors to the Library.

George Sherriffs, Acquisitions Librarian

George is responsible for sourcing and acquiring new materials (books and non-book materials) for the RBGE Library. He also leads on the cataloguing of the Library collections, including the retrospective cataloguing of the historical collections. George is also responsible for financial management, reader enquiries and emergency first aid.

Deborah Vaile, Library Assistant

Debi Vaile manages Library Circulation (i.e. user registration, loans, etc) and works on the Service Desk assisting with general enquiries. Debi is a member of the RBGE Environmental Management Group representing the Waste Group and is also an Environmental Area Champion for the Library.

Helen Bennett