DIRECTOR (CEO AND CHIEF SCIENTIST) OF THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW TO RETURN TO AUSTRALIA
14 September 2011
14 September 2011: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announced today that Director (CEO and Chief Scientist), Professor Stephen Hopper FLS will step down in autumn 2012 after six years in the job. He will return to Australia to take up a new Chair in Biodiversity at The University of Western Australia in order to devote more time to research, writing and teaching in biodiversity conservation, plant science and evolutionary biology. He will explore options at UWA to further develop a significant international research programme, including ongoing collaborative links with Kew. The search for his successor in one of the world’s most prestigious botanical-horticultural posts will begin immediately.
Mr Marcus Agius, Chairman of Trustees, said “Steve has been an inspiration to all who work for Kew and the Trustees wish to put on record their appreciation for the leadership that he has given since 2006. In his time as Director, Kew’s contribution to plant science, conservation and sustainable living has been of global importance and its reputation as a centre of excellence has been sustained. We send him, Chris and his family our very best wishes for their future in Perth.”
Steve has provided a new momentum to a world renowned organisation.” Marcus Agius said. “His leadership has significantly improved Kew’s corporate structure and its strategies under the Breathing Planet Programme, an innovative plan for the next ten years with global partners to meet and address the 21st Century conservation and sustainability challenges that the world faces.”
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “I’d like to thank Professor Hopper for all his work at Kew and inspirational stewardship of a national treasure over the past five years, and wish him every success in the future.”
Maintaining a significant personal research programme on four continents, Professor Hopper has led new developments in Kew’s science, including a concerted focus on restoration ecology aimed at repairing and restoring wild biodiversity. His publication in 2009 of OCBIL Theory dealing with biodiversity on old, climatically-buffered, infertile landscapes has been a career highlight.
Steve Hopper said “I came to Kew from The University of Western Australia with a simple aim – to ensure the world, biodiversity and the organisation were in a better place by the time I left. Like all such aims, my time is marked by achievement in some quarters and much more left to do in others. Biodiversity has an enormous role to play in helping moderate the worst aspects of global warming and in enabling people to live healthy sustainable lives. The world is slowly realizing this, and Kew has a pivotal role to play in science-based plant and fungal conservation aimed at enhancing the quality of life. After six years at Kew, it will be an appropriate time to hand on the reins to inject fresh momentum and innovative solutions to pressing global problems we all face.”
“I will leave Kew with sadness but also pleasure knowing that it is in safe hands. Kew has exceptionally dedicated and talented staff, students, volunteers and Trustees and I pay tribute to all who have supported Kew over the years, past and present, locally, nationally and internationally including, in particular, colleagues and ministers at Defra.
Professor Alan Robson, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia, said: "We are delighted that such an outstanding academic and researcher is returning to the University and to one of the world's major bio-diversity hotspots in the South-West of Western Australia. Winthrop Professor Hopper's enthusiasm for his work, coupled with the opportunities that the South-West provides, are sure to drive major advances in the preservation of rare flora with the potential to solve future global problems.”
“There is much to do in my remaining year at Kew”, said Professor Hopper. “I look forward in time to working with my successor to ensure a smooth transition, and to seeing Kew attain even greater prominence in its vital work and partnerships worldwide”.
During Professor Hopper’s directorship, Kew celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Its inspirational Millennium Seed Bank Programme successfully completed a first decade on time and budget in 2010, securely storing seeds from 10% of the Earth’s wild plant species, focusing on those that are endangered, endemic or economic, in 54 countries. An even more ambitious target of 25% of species is set for 2020, with the UK government and philanthropic trusts and individuals recently committing vital ongoing funding for the next decade. Sustainable use of seeds, plants and fungi for human health, food and water security has been reinforced as a core focus of Kew under Professor Hopper’s leadership.
The first Landscape Master Plan in 150 years for Kew Gardens and the first such plan for Wakehurst Place are now in train, providing a strategic way forward for both sites, subject to funding. Major capital works at Kew Gardens for science and visitor enjoyment valued at £50m have been completed since 2007, and Kew’s IT and Digital Media project is reaching out to the world with innovative approaches to providing access to essential information on plants and fungi.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly 2 million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10 per cent of the world's wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25 per cent by 2020, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders.
Kew receives funding from the UK Government through Defra for approximately half of its income and is also reliant on support from other sources. Without the voluntary monies raised through membership, donations and grants, Kew would have to significantly scale back activities at a time when, as environmental challenges become ever more acute, its resources and expertise are needed in the world more than ever. Kew needs to raise significant funds both in the UK and overseas.
For further information, please contact Anna Quenby, Head of Public Relations, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: +44 (0)20 8332 5607 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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