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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.


Head of the Department: Dr Abigail Barker

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.
  • 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 Nicky Nicolson (Senior Research Leader)

The application of machine learning and data mining techniques to uncover hidden entities in specimen and publication data which then enable different kinds of trends analyses.

Scientists at work in the Jodrell Laboratory

Data Science and Spatial Analysis

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

Digitising Kew’s Plant Pathogen Collection

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.

Plants of the World Online (PoWO) - led by Rob Turner (Data Architect)

A multi-disciplinary team responsible for providing software and content for PoWO, and the development of Kew's names and taxa systems using their technical skills and domain knowledge.

Image showing Kali Kopi river, lowland Indonesian New Guinea

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.