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Conservation Research Institute


CCI Conservation Seminar - Prof. Alex Antonelli, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; University of Oxford

Illuminating and protecting the world’s biodiversity darkspots

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Delivering on the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework requires filling the most critical knowledge gaps and finding innovative ways for effective, inclusive and scalable conservation. Here I will set the context for why understanding the diversity and distribution of species is so critical to science and society, and then present a framework for prioritising regions around the world with highest chances of yielding new species to science as well as most new geographic records. I will discuss how new technological developments, from remote sensing to citizen science, environmental DNA and semi-automated inventories can be integrated with expert surveys and analysed under robust methods – in particular artificial intelligence – in order to properly identify the most important areas for biological conservation and restoration needed to halt biodiversity loss and advance scientific knowledge.


Professor Alexandre Antonelli is the Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is also Professor in Biodiversity and Systematics at the University of Gothenburg, a Visiting Professor at the Department of Biology at the University of Oxford and a Distinguished Scientist and Visiting Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is a Trustee of WWF-Sweden, the President and Co-Founder of the Antonelli Foundation for Biodiversity Research and Conservation, and Principal Investigator of the Atlantic Forest Research and Conservation Alliance. He is an elected fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Gothenburg, the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society of Biology. He was previously a Cisneros Visiting Scholar at Harvard University and Founder and first Director of the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, established during his time as Scientific Curator of the Gothenburg Botanical Garden.

Antonelli’s passion is nature, and his mission mirrors that of RBG Kew’s: to understand and protect biodiversity for the well-being of people and the future of all life on Earth. To this end, he studies the distribution, evolution, conservation and sustainable uses of species and develops methods to speed up scientific discovery and innovation. His research focuses on the tropics, where most species occur and the threats are most acute. Most recently he has been particularly interested in the application of artificial intelligence techniques, remote sensing and environmental genomics for biodiversity research, conservation and restoration.

He has published over 230 peer-reviewed scientific articles and book chapters and his work has been cited over 20,000 times. He was named on the Web of Science/Clarivate 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 ‘Highly Cited Researchers’ list, which identifies pioneering researchers in the top 1% of their field, and was the recipient of the prestigious 2022 Senckenberg Prize for Nature Research. In 2022, his first popular science book, The Hidden Universe – Adventures in Biodiversity, was published in several countries and languages.

You can read more about his work at:

Wednesday, 28 February, 2024 - 16:00 to 17:00
Event location: 
Main Seminar Room, David Attenborough Building