What we do
We aim to be one of the most creative, productive and exciting research groups in evolutionary biology and biogeography. We want to understand how biological diversity has evolved and how it will be affected by ongoing climate change and habitat destruction. The scope of our studies range from specific organism groups in isolated regions in the Neotropics to global cross-taxonomic patterns.
Who we are
We are a diverse research group with varied scientific backgrounds covering a range of academic and technical specialisms. We come from countries all over the globe and work on many different scientific questions and organism groups.
Despite our breadth of backgrounds and interests, we are united by a genuine interest in understanding how biological diversity has evolved, how it varies over space and time, and which factors and processes determine this variation.
Tobias is a PhD student in the Antonelli Lab, working in the field of macroevolution. His PhD project, “The Rise and Fall of Species”, investigates the dynamics of speciation, extinction and species turnover on broad taxonomic, geographic and temporal scales. Tobias is interested in understanding the impact and role of biotic and abiotic factors that influence, shape and drive the evolution of life on Earth. To answer these questions, he uses genetic data from present biodiversity and fossil occurrences of the past, using and developing new bioinformatic approaches that are capable of handling big data. He recently finished a Masters programme at the Nordic Academy of Biodiversity and Systematic Studies (NABiS), based at Gothenburg University, Sweden. During his Master’s project, Tobias developed a new approach which increases the utility of NGS data for resolving phylogenies of recently diverged taxa.
She is a Malagasy researcher interested in island biodiversity and tropical mountain systems. Her long-standing taxonomist interest has been in bryophytes. Bryophytes, especially liverworts, are her favourite organisms. This group remains one of the least documented components of the Malagasy rich biota. She completed her PhD at the University of Cape Town in 2018, where she investigated the regional and global context of the bryophytes of Madagascar, and the factors affecting epiphytic bryophyte diversity, distribution and assemblage of communities along an elevational gradient.
Anna is working as a research engineer for the Antonelli Lab. She has a Master of Science in Biology and is responsible for the management of the molecular systematic laboratory.
Beatriz is a post-doc working on the evolution of Vriesea bromeliads in association with their pollinators. She aims to reconstruct the phylogeny of the genus using RAD-seq data, to investigate shifts among hummingbird and bat pollination syndromes and test its correlation with habit and habitat type. She did her PhD at the Museu Nacional- Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) on systematics, taxonomy and morphology of Vriesea.
My main scientific goal is to understand the evolution and distribution of biodiversity, by studying the formation, extinction, and migration of species. I am particularly interested in teasing apart the relative roles of abiotic (e.g. climate, landscape) and biotic (e.g. competition, adaptation) drivers of biodiversity change through space and time. To achieve these goals, I study the distribution of species, their genetic variation, and the fossil record. Most of my work has dealt with the tropics, especially in South America where most species occur today. I am also engaged in interactions with society and scientists across disciplines, with the main goal of increasing the knowledge, awareness and protection of biological diversity around the world.
Ian is a quantitative ecologist with 5 years of experience in research fields related to biogeography, forest ecology, movement ecology and surface hydrology. As a research assistant in French research institutions and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Ian has worked on modelling the dispersal and migration of wild populations; estimating and mapping the impact of climate change on the decline of species populations; and developing efficient, statistical, modelling and mapping tools for predicting the distribution of species. Ian has a master’s degree in Biostatistics & Modelling
Erica is a PhD student at the University of Zurich, co-supervised by Jürg Schönenberger and Alex Antonelli. Her PhD project aims at reconstructing the evolutionary history of a tropical plant group: Thunbergioideae (Acanthaceae). She is currently estimating a phylogeny of this group. For this purpose, she is further improving targeted capture for Illumina sequencing in Acanthaceae. By comparing the history of Thunbergioideae in different continents, we will shed further light on historical reasons for diversity disparities in the tropical word.
Allison is the Director of the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre (GGBC) and Project Manager of the Antonelli Lab. She studied ecology (BSc, 2008) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and protist systematics (PhD, 2013) at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. She then worked as a visiting researcher in tree fern systematics and biogeography, also at Uppsala University. In 2015 she started Forest Cat Editing, which works with academic editing and communication. While operating her company as a “digital nomad” from nearly two dozen countries, Allison further developed her interest in scientific communication and outreach. This eventually led her back to Gothenburg to work with the Antonelli Lab and to help start the new biodiversity centre. She co-edited the book Mountains, Climate and Biodiversity with Alexandre Antonelli and Carina Hoorn (Wiley, 2018), and has authored a number of scientific and popular science articles. Allison is an avid traveler and adventurer, hiker, SCUBA diver, mushroom connoisseur, fossil hunter and all-around nerd.
Rosie is interested in the biodiversity, biogeography and conservation of rock outcrop flora in Latin America, with a particular focus on Bolivia. The aim of the project is to document the flora and understand the evolutionary processes that shaped these environments. Rosie’s research yield results on the global value of the plants in these areas to inform conservation management. Rosie is a NERC funded PhD student at the University of Exeter with Prof. Toby Pennington and Dr. Lucy Rowland, and RBG, Kew, with Prof. Alex Antonelli and Dr. Nicholas Hind.
Natalia is a specialist in archaeogenomics, population genomics and plant domestication. Based at RBG Kew, she is supporting research activities of Oscar Pérez-Escobar. This includes orchid phylogenomics and domestication of useful plants such as the date palm.
de Lima Ferreira, Paola
Paola is a biologist working on phylogenetics, morphology and taxonomy in different angiosperm families. Her main interest is in the early branches of Asteraceae, with focus on the subfamily Barnadesioideae. She is seeking to understand the phylogenetic relationship between all genera using the target enrichment method and to also understand the historical biogeography of the group. She just finished her PhD at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, under the main supervision of Milton Groppo and co-supervised by Alexandre Antonelli at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Pérez-Escobar, Oscar Alejandro
Oscar is Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, working on orchid phylogenomics and evolution. His main research interests are centred towards understanding the macroevolutionary dynamics of Neotropical orchids.
Sonia specialises in biodiversity conventions and is based at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She started her PhD in 2020 on the “conservation priorities of wild orchids in trade”. Sonia is researching the social complexities of CITES family listings, as well as CITES scientific decision-making processes. She is undertaking her PhD with Emily Woodhouse in the Human Ecology Research Group at UCL, with Alex Antonelli as a co-supervisor.
Myriam Ramírez is interested in the ecology and evolution of birds, focused on understanding the evolutionary origin of certain traits and behaviors. She is a PhD student at the University of La Serena, Chile. Her research focuses on understanding how several environmental and geological changes that occurred in South America have affected macroevolutionary patterns of Neotropical parrots. She is currently undertaking an internship in the Antonelli Lab under the supervision of Alexandre Antonelli. She is carrying out different analyses of diversification, trait-evolution and niche evolution on Neotropical parrots. At the same time, she is working with several research projects in ecology that assess endemic parrots in Chile.
Keywords: macroevolution, behavior, trait-evolution, birds, phylogenetics
Louisa was a biodiversity and systematics Msc student with a focus on systematic theory. Her master thesis examined biodiversity loss and material flows. Looking at supply chain data and using spatial analysis she focused on determining the products with the largest impact on biodiversity hotspots.
Rodrigues Silva, Gislaine A.
Gislaine’s main interest is related to evolution of natural populations of plants in dry areas. In her PhD (supervised by Maura Manfrin at University of São Paulo in collaboration with Alexandre Antonelli), she worked with the impact of Pleistocene climate change on the population dynamics of a South Brazil cacti species. Currently, she is a post-doc at University of São Carlos supervised by Evandro Moraes, mainly focusing on the evolutionary process of naturally distributed populations of rare and endangered cacti in Serra do Espinhaço (rocky savanna) to establish their conservation strategies as a part of National Plan of Action for the Conservation of Cacti of Brazil (PAN Cactaceae).
Daniel is interested in developing software and algorithms to better understand the complex patterns of biodiversity through space and time.
After studying engineering physics at Uppsala and Umeå University, he worked as a research engineer at Icelab, Umeå University, on developing Infomap (a network clustering algorithm based on information theory) and visualization tools to simplify and highlight important structures in complex networks.
In 2016 he joined the Antonelli Lab in Gothenburg, where he worked part-time developing the Infomap Bioregions project, applying network theory to reveal the underlying geographical structure in species distributions (http://bioregions.mapequation.org). He also worked with developing a digital citizen science platform to let anyone log and share the species they see, and get help with identification (http://knowme.earth).
He is currently doing a PhD project about “mapping flow pathways in complex systems”, supervised by Martin Rosvall at the Department of Physics, Umeå University, with Alexandre Antonelli as assistant supervisor.
Smith, Rhian J.
Rhian is the coordinator for the Antonelli research programme at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She studied Ecology and Environmental Management at Cardiff University (BSc, 1997) and then went on to do a PhD in population biology and conservation genetics and a Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics at Trinity College Dublin (PGradDip (Distinction), 2001; PhD, 2004), while also working as a Senior Ecologist for Natura Environmental Consultants. She has been at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for 14 years, conducting postdoctoral work on orchid population genetics and the phylogeny of the plant family Haemodoraceae before moving into science education and communication. She was the first Kew director of the MSc in Plant and Fungal Taxonomy, Diversity and Conservation, delivered with Queen Mary University of London. Combined with her current position as Senior Science Editor, she is responsible for coordinating the strategic development and management of Alex Antonelli’s research programme at Kew, as he builds a new and dynamic research group.
Harith is a Mozambican biologist and has been working in Mozambique for the last 6 years as a lecturer and a researcher, where he mostly carries out inventories of amphibians and reptiles across the country. He started his PhD in 2016 on the biodiversity value of the inselberg forests of Northern Mozambique. His main interests are species distribution and conservation and he expects that his PhD can help conservation in Mozambique by screening the country for important areas of genetic storage.
Keywords: biogeography, conservation, amphibians, reptiles, ecology, genetics
Weston is a postdoc in the Antonelli Lab at the University of Gothenburg interested in understanding the processes underlying patterns of plant diversity at regional and global scales. His current research focuses on understanding how habitat loss is impacting species distributions and driving extinction amongst the vascular plant flora on the island of Hispaniola. Previously, Weston was a postdoc at the University of Florida, where he worked on developing phylogenomic methods and generating target-capture sequence data for studying the early evolution of land plants. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Vermont in 2018, where his dissertation focused on the evolution of the clubmosses (Lycopodiaceae), especially the group’s rapid radiation in the tropical Andes.
Marie is a PhD student based at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Queen Mary University of London, supervised by Ilia Leitch, Andrew Leitch and Alex Antonelli. She is interested in how species distributions in the UK flora change in space and time and how genome size influences these dynamics. Using historic distribution data, maps of land use change and environmental monitoring, she investigates how genome size contributes to the determination of plant species’ spreads. To establish the value of genome size as a powerful ecological predictor, she makes use of the unique sampling history of the British flora in building predictive models of future plant distributions in response to ongoing changes in climate, land use and pollution.
Torres Jimenez, Maria Fernanda
Mafe is interested in phylogeography and biodiversity in the Neotropics, mainly involving ant-plant mutualisms as her subject of study. Currently, she is a postdoc at the University of Gothenburg working with Christine Bacon on the Amazonian palm Geonoma. By studying the genetic and ecological differences between morphotypes of Geonoma macrostachys, she aims to understand the mechanisms behind ecological speciation in plants. She is interested in using NGS data to infer plants’ evolutionary histories at the population and species levels.
Keywords: palms, ant-plant, Neotropics, phylogenomics, phylogeography
Carina is a geologist/paleoecologist and associate researcher at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) of the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands) and holds an MSc and PhD from this university, and an MSc in Science Communication from the Imperial College London (UK). Her main interest is the natural history of the Amazon region and its seaward extension, the Amazon Fan. Most of her work is focused on better understanding the crucial role of Andean uplift on past biodiversity, drainage reconfigurations, and the extent and effect of marine incursions in the Amazonian heartland. This is best exemplified in her Science paper, published in 2010, where the links between biodiversity patterns and mountain uplift are explained. Together with Hubert Vonhof, Carina edited a special issue on Amazonia in the Journal of South American Earth Sciences (2006) and with Frank Wesselingh edited Amazonia, landscape and species evolution: A look into the past, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2010). In the past, Carina was lecturer at the Sultan Qaboos University (Oman) and Delft Technical University (The Netherlands), and research associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK). She has also worked as technical writer for External Communications at Shell International Exploration and Production (The Netherlands). Carina regularly gives presentations, serves in academic review panels, acts as reviewer for international academic journals, and occasionally writes popular science articles.
Emke is an industrial ecologist with a background in biology. She is interested in the impacts of land use and land transformations on biodiversity, specifically from product and production systems. Her work is focused primarily on the identification and development of models for the inclusion of biodiversity indicators into life-cycle assessment (LCA), which is a frequently used decision support tool for the systematic evaluation of the environmental aspects of a product or service system through all stages of its life cycle (from cradle to grave). Emke is a PhD student at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg under the main supervision of Ulrika Palme and co-supervised by Alex Antonelli.