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Biodiversity Informatics and Spatial Analysis

Applying cutting-edge computational techniques to analyse, edit, curate, organise, mine and disseminate data and to evaluate trends and patterns through time and space.


Acting Head of the Department: Alan Paton

Department objectives

The vast amounts of data held in Kew's collections and associated databases represent a huge, often untapped resource. The BISA team’s role is to enable access to and to disseminate these data, as well as to evaluate trends and patterns through time and space (geographical, meteorological and ecological) to enable a new level of use of the collections.

Key department priorities

  • Plants of the World Online portal – an online global resource for disseminating Kew’s plant and fungal data to a wide range of audiences, maximising its impact. 
  • Developing a plant and fungal names backbone to link databases and improve access to the vault of information held in Kew’s collections and nomenclatural and taxonomic databases, and providing critical evidence to meet policy and operational needs – both for the UK and international agenda.
  • Curating key global plant and fungal nomenclatural and taxonomic resources, including the International Plant Names Index, the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Plant List and Index Fungorum.
  • Developing Kew's capabilities in intelligent data analysis (data mining, machine learing and artifical intelligence), re-purposing Kew's data holdings as training data for machine learning applications.
  • Applying sophisticated spatial and analytical tools, and providing associated services, to greatly enhance our ability to address critical knowledge gaps.
  • Expanding the capacity for powerful spatial analyses, ecological modelling and the analysis of genomic data in order to develop the tools and web-based platforms for the display of plant data alongside satellite imagery and climatic data.

Department teams

Biodiversity Informatics - led by Rob Turner (Senior Technical Lead)

The application of informatics techniques to biodiversity information. This section is made up of two teams – Plants of the World Online and Plant & Fungal Names Curation.

Scientists at work in the Jodrell Laboratory

Plants of the World Online (PoWO) - led by Rob Turner (Senior Technical Lead)

Software development and content digitization for the Plants of the World Online application and its associated digital services.

Image showing Kali Kopi river, lowland Indonesian New Guinea

Plant and Fungal Names - led by Rafaël Govaerts (Team Leader)

Responsible for maintaining some 3 million names in IPNI, WCSP and IF which are key databases but within Kew as well as being accessed by hundreds of thousands of users worldwide through their respective websites.

Geospatial Analysis - led by Justin Moat (Research Leader)

Exlporing botanical big data with computational and statistical models in conjunction with field monitoring techniques and equipment.

Geospatial Conservation Assessment Tool updated

Intelligent Data Analysis - led by Nicky Nicolson (Senior Research Leader)

Applying machine learning and data mining techiques to enable wider scale trends analysis across Kew's data holdings and to gain efficiencies in digitzation and data management.

Digitising Kew’s Plant Pathogen Collection

Bioinformatics - led by Jan Kim (Senior Bioinformatician)

Responsible for the delivery of the Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL) bioinformatics work package including the PAFTOL website and explorer.

Plant and Fungal Tree of Life

Further information

Biodiversity Informatics and Spatial Analysis department projects

Learn more here about the interesting and diverse projects of Kew's Biodiversity Informatics and Spatial Analysis department.

Biodiversity Informatics and Spatial Analysis department staff

Search for staff of Kew's Biodiversity Informatics and Spatial Analysis department as well as other Kew Science staff.

Plants of the World Online - Strategic Outputs 2020

Learn more about Kew's strategic 2020 output Plants of the World Online.