Kew appoints Prof. Alexandre Antonelli as new Director of Science

Kew is delighted to announce that Professor Alexandre Antonelli will be joining us from February 2019 as the new Director of Science, bringing with him outstanding expertise and international experience.

Release date: 25 October 2018

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) is delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Alexandre Antonelli as its new Director of Science. Currently Director of the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, and Scientific Curator of the Gothenburg Botanical Garden, he succeeds Prof. Kathy Willis who last month completed her five-year secondment to Kew from Oxford University.

Brazilian-born Antonelli began his undergraduate studies at the University of Campinas, before moving to Europe where he completed his Masters and PhD at the University of Gothenburg. As a Professor in Biodiversity and Systematics and leader of one of Sweden’s most active research group, he has been recognised for developing a new long-term research programme that takes advantage of fieldwork, biological collections, and the latest laboratory and modelling techniques to address outstanding scientific questions.

Prof. Antonelli will be responsible for continuing to work on Kew’s Science Strategy 2015-2020 and developing a vision for Kew Science post-2020. This role will also involve securing funding for science, the living and herbarium collections and other research infrastructures, as well as boosting research outputs, strengthening communication, and scaling up Kew’s scientific impact.

On receiving the news of his appointment, Professor Antonelli said:

“I’m absolutely delighted and honoured by this appointment to lead Kew Science, as I have long been impressed by Kew’s cutting-edge research and truly global impact. My focus will be on promoting scientific quality and innovation. I want to strengthen Kew’s position as the world’s primary centre for plant and fungal research, and to maximise the impact of biodiversity research on society and the environment. The immense and well-curated collections at Kew and Wakehurst, together with the vast expertise of the staff and students, offer an unparalleled opportunity to pursue this vision.”

Over the course of his career, Prof. Antonelli has led or participated in over 20 botanical expeditions to many countries in Latin America and Africa, creating strong ties with local institutions. He is author of over 115 publications and has trained over 65 postgraduate students and postdocs, many from developing countries.

Announcing the appointment this week, the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richard Deverell said:

“It is a great honour to appoint Professor Antonelli to this prestigious and hugely important role at RBG Kew. Our science and our scientific collections are the very heart of RBG Kew. Alex’s experience and scientific specialisms complement and extend Kew’s own strengths, and we’re excited for him to apply his expertise and ambition to raise further the quality and global impact of our science. I am confident he will inspire not just the scientists and students at Kew but also a new generation through science engagement and outreach.” 

Professor Antonelli will take up the position from February 2019. The interim Director of Science at RBG Kew is Prof. Paul Wilkin.

Notes to editors

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Kew Science: Kew is a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge. Our unique combination of extensive collections, databases, scientific expertise and global partnerships gives us a leading role in facilitating access to fundamental plant and fungal information. The core purpose of our science stems from a simple but often overlooked truth: all our lives depend on plants and fungi. Visit

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections 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 and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, attract over 2.1 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.