Orchid collecting in SW Madagascar: me & Hanta Razafindraibe (PBZT)

About David Roberts

I am interested in a wide variety of questions, both theoretical and empirical, relating to biodiversity and conservation biology. Much of my research focuses on questions of species detectability and extinction, and orchid ecology; in particular the response of orchids to climate change, epiphyte community ecology and modelling epiphyte seed dispersal. More recently I have moved into the area of wildlife trade and the role of digital resources.

In pursuit of these goals, I have travelled widely, focusing on study systems in the western Indian Ocean islands and Africa. Although I am primarily an "orchid" person, I have worked on a diverse range of taxa including, ants, the dodo, mammoths and the North Atlantic Right Whale.


5th July 2011 - Most of the world's "missing" or undiscovered species live in regions already identified by scientists as conservation priorities, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Lucas Joppa, myself, Norman Myers and Stuart Pimm. The study's findings suggest recent conservation efforts have been on target and should reduce uncertainty over global conservation priorities. However it also suggests the extinction threat for many of the as-yet undiscovered species is worse than previously feared. Click here for the press release.

15th April 2011 - Lin Taylor, my former intern/sandwich student, had her account of Britain's rarest orchid, Epipogium aphyllum (Ghost Orchid), published in Journal of Ecology!

22nd September 2010 - In a recent paper in the Journal of Ecology, my co-authors, Karen Robbirt, Tony Davy, Mike Hutchings, and I, provide the first validation of herbarium specimens as a potential source of phenological data for climate change studies. We compared the response to temperature of flowering based on field observations and herbarium specimens and show that you find exactly the same response. Click here for the press release.

7th July 2010 - In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, my co-authors, Lucas Joppa. Stuart Pimm, and I, estimate that 10-20% flowering plants are left to be discovered. We go on to show that these are likely to be found in biodiversity hotspots which are by definition threatened through habitat destruction. If we then add to these the 20% of plant species currently described we know to be threatened, then we get a figure of 27-33% of the total flowering plant species being threatend with with extinction. Click here for the press release.

24th March 2010 - Great news, Lin Taylor, an intern/sandwich student in my lab, won first prize for her poster at the Student Conference on Conservation Science, University of Cambridge. Her poster was titled "How does sampling bias affect our accumulation of knowledge about a species?: A case study of Madagascan orchids".

1st January 2010 - I left the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, after 8.5 years to take up a position as lecturer in Biodiversity Conservation at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, in Canterbury.

Note - Prof Stuart Pimm from Duke University recently discovered he has the electronic rights for his environmental book, "The World According to Pimm." Download a free copy here! pdf (9.2Mb)