Seed and Stress Biology

Examining diversity and adaptations in seeds affecting functional traits, from longevity and stress tolerance to germination.

Seed diversity - image of lots of different seeds on a black background

Team lead: Dr Louise Colville

Examining diversity and adaptations in seeds, from longevity to germination.

Knowledge of seed biology is central not only to understanding plant regeneration and ecosystem resilience, but also to conservation, global agriculture and food security.

The Seed and Stress Biology team focuses on key seed functional traits in wild plant species, especially traits related to germination, longevity and stress. We use the latest lab-based techniques and draw on the extraordinary collections of the Millennium Seed Bank to study seeds within and across plant lineages. We test the impacts of environmental variables such as temperature, water and salinity on germination, with significant implications for species distributions and extinction risk.

We also study extreme environments, even sending seeds into space, seeking the most stress-tolerant seeds to inform our understanding of seed lifespan.

Our research is central to the development of baseline evidence for seed conservation strategies, seed banking techniques and cryopreservation at Kew and beyond.

Team members

Senior research leader
Dr Louise Colville

Research leader 
Dr Charlotte Seal

Kew Research Fellow
Dr Davide Gerna

Post-Doctoral Researchers
Dr Anne Visscher
Dr Roberta Dayrell

Research assistant
Kaitalin White

PhD students
Ted Chapman (University of Sussex)
Rachael Davies (University of Sussex) 
Nina Kinney (University of Warwick)
Xiangyu Yu (Royal Holloway University of London)

Honorary Research Associate
Dr Daniel Ballesteros