Darwin Tree of Life

Sequencing the genomes of all eukaryotic species in Britain and Ireland.

Lucombe Oak (Quercus x hispanica)

At a time when many species are under threat from climate change and human development, genetic data can help characterise and catalogue, and thereby conserve, global biodiversity for future generations.

The Darwin Tree of Life project aims to sequence all eukaryotic species in Britain and Ireland, including our native animals, plants and fungi, to secure the future of our biodiverse nation.

This work will act as a launchpad for a larger ambition to sequence all species on Earth. Exploring the genomes of these organisms will give an unprecedented insight into how life on Earth evolved.

The data that is generated will be of enormous value to the global scientific community and will also act as a global resource for public engagement experts, naturalists, citizen scientists, university students and schoolchildren.

Kew will contribute plant and fungal expertise to the project. We will draw on our existing research and collections to collect and barcode plants and fungi, and help deliver high-quality genomes of 2000 species in the project’s two-and-a-half year pilot phase.

The project partners will help to identify and collect specimens, set up new pipelines and workflows to process large numbers of species through DNA preparation, sequencing, assembly, gene finding and annotation.

New methods will be developed for high-throughput and high-quality assembly of genomes and their annotation, and data will be shared openly through existing data sharing archives and project specific portals.

Darwin Tree of Life
Principal Investigator

Dr Paul Kersey


Dr William J Baker
Dr Ester Gaya
Dr Ilia J Leitch

Research assistants

Sahr Mian
Kieran Woof

The first phase of the Darwin Tree of Life project is funded by Wellcome. This will see project partners collect and barcode around 8000 key British species, and deliver high-quality genomes of 2000 species.


The Darwin Tree of Life project is part of the Earth Biogenome Project. It is delivered by a consortium of ten research institutes, museums and universities, including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Lead Institution

Wellcome Sanger Institute

Partner Institutions

Earlham Institute
Marine Biological Association
Natural History Museum
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford