Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a UK non-departmental public body in the UK sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It is an internationally important botanical research and education institution, employing 1,100 staff, and which manages Kew Gardens, a botanic garden in southwest London and botanic gardens at Wakehurst, a National Trust property in Sussex which is home to the internationally important Millennium Seed Bank, whose scientists work with partner organisations in more than 95 countries, together housing the “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world”. Founded in 1840, its living collections includes some of the 27,000 taxa, while the herbarium, which is one of the largest in the world, has over 8.5 million preserved plant and fungal specimens. The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. It is one of London’s top tourist attractions and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The organisation manages botanic gardens at Kew in Richmond upon Thames in southwest London, In 2018 the organisation had 1,858,513 public visitors at Kew, and 354,957 at Wakehurst. Its 326-acre (132 ha) site at Kew has 40 historically important buildings; it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003. The collections at Kew and Wakehurst include over 27,000 taxa of living plants, 8.3 million plant and fungal herbarium specimens, and over 40,000 species in the seed bank.

There are approximately 350 researchers working at Kew. The Director of Science is Professor Alexandre Antonelli. Professor Monique Simmonds is Deputy Director of Science. Professor Mark Chase is Senior Research Professor. Professor Phil Stevenson is the Senior Research Leader and Head of the Biological Chemistry and In Vitro Research. The group has four Research Leaders, Dr Melanie Howes, Dr Vis Sarasan, Dr Moses Langat and Dr Tom Prescott.

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Antonio, from the Yanomami village of Watoriki, photographed in November 1992. After contact with Brazilian society in the 1970s, more than half the Yanomami population died from infectious diseases. William Milliken

Covid-19, isolated indigenous peoples and the history of the Amazon

There are telling parallels between the current pandemic and those that decimated indigenous populations in the post-Columbian era in the Amazon.

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