Who we are:
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBGK) maintains two public botanic gardens (at Kew in London and Wakehurst in Sussex) which receive over two million visitors annually. Our scientists maintain the largest UK-based plant and fungal collections and the world’s most biodiverse seedbank. Our research is focused on biodiversity, and stretches from basic science (e.g., evolution, morphology) through conservation to the natural capital and uses of plants and fungi, and their impact on human livelihoods.
What we’re doing in the Darwin Tree of Life Project:
RBGK is operating the fungal Genome Aquisition Laboratory (GAL), and jointly (with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) operating the plant GAL, overseeing the collection, identification and preparation of material for sequencing. We are contributing to the development of standard procedures throughout the project, contributing our long experience in obtaining and archiving material, and are assaying the genome sizes of plant and fungal material prior to sequencing.
Why we’re invested in the Darwin Tree of Life Project:
Whole genome sequencing gives us a hitherto unrivalled opportunity to catalogue and understand biodiversity at many (e.g., population, species, ecosystem) levels. Reference collections are critical to this process, both so that the material we sequence is clearly identified, but also because the meaning, and value, of reference material is enhanced when associated with reference sequence. Genetic assessments of biodiversity are increasingly powerful, and increasingly needed in the face of acute biodiversity loss. The Darwin Tree of Life project gives us the opportunity to begin to build the information we need to protect biodiversity, in the UK and globally, over coming decades.