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Department of Plant Sciences

New curator for the Herbarium

Dr Lauren Gardiner has started as the new Curator of the Cambridge University Herbarium, part of the Department of Plant Sciences, based in the Sainsbury Laboratory.

Studying Part II Plant Sciences whilst at Christ's College, Dr Gardiner matriculated in 1999, going on to complete an MSc in Plant Diversity, Taxonomy, and Evolution at the University of Reading. Her PhD focused on the conservation and phylogenetic relationships of the horticulturally important genus Vanda (Orchidaceae) in South East Asia, and was completed in collaboration with the University of Anglia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Dr Gardiner spent the last ten years employed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in a range of roles initially working in Horticulture, growing tropical orchids and carnivorous plants of conservation importance in vitro whilst completing her thesis write up, before working in science policy and with government policy and initiatives and international conventions such as the CBD and CITES, and five years as curator of palms (Arecaceae) and pandans (Pandanaceae) and botanical researcher with particular interests in conservation, systematics, ethnobotany and citizen science and e-taxonomy. More recently, over the last three years, Dr Gardiner was a research fellow at Kew, initiating and managing science-based species conservation, focusing on orchids and palms in Madagascar and working with local people and communities. A member of the Royal Horticultural Society's Orchid Committee, Red List Coordinator of the IUCN's Palm Specialist Group, and member of the IUCN's Orchid Specialist Group, Dr Gardiner has field experience in Madagascar, Indonesia and New Guinea, India, Laos, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

Dr Gardiner is looking forward to developing the hugely historic and valuable Cambridge University Herbarium, and bringing her experience to the Herbarium, which contains 1.1M specimens, collected over the last three hundred years, and including those collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle, saying

It is an honour to be given the opportunity to lead this incredibly important but understudied collection, which has been without a full-time Curator since Professor John Parker retired. We have an opportunity to open up this treasure trove and to stimulate research on the original material and huge number of type specimens collected for the first time by great naturalists such as Darwin and Lindley, and on the great many species in the collection with economic uses and those which are now thought to be extinct in the wild.