GCBC Research Symposium 2024: fostering connections and learning

by Claudine Domingue, Communications & Engagement Manager, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

GCBC Phase 1 and RGC1 projects meet for knowledge sharing, learning and networking

Underpinning GCBC’s mandate to unlock the potential of nature to deliver resilience to climate change and improve livelihoods is the need for funded projects to explore scalable solutions and develop trans-disciplinary partnerships within the programme.

In its role as Strategic Science Lead for GCBC, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (RBG Kew) organized an all-day Research Symposium of talks and presentations to encourage collaboration between projects, hosting project leads from both established and newly funded projects. Representatives from the 14 projects who were funded as part of Phase 1 of the GCBC programme (2022 – 2024), as well as 13 projects announced as the recipients of the Research Grant Call1 (RGC1) funding in January 2024 were invited to attend.

The Research Symposium on 21 March 2024, also included staff from GCBC’s funding body – the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Fund Management Lead DAI Global. With so many projects spread across the globe, we were fortunate to welcome many project representatives in person and several more were able to join online.

We were gifted with a beautiful spring day in which to congregate in Kew Garden’s historic Cambridge Cottage.

After a warm welcome from Kew’s Dr Monique Simmonds, OBE and Deputy Director of Science – Partnerships, the day officially began with insightful opening remarks from Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra.

Monique Simmonds with Gideon Henderson who reminded us all how urgently these programmes are needed and their potential benefits to us all.
l to r: Frida, Jessica, Constanza with Tim Wheeler.

Prof Tim Wheeler, newly appointed Deputy Director of International Science at Defra, spoke next and hosted the first panel of the day focussing on three of the seven projects awarded grant funding as part of Phase 1. These projects are identifying evidence gaps, new metrics, and policy options; with their outputs helping to shape GCBC’s priorities and guide future research and investments.

Joining him were Dr Constanza Gonzalez Parrao, Technical Lead on the Climate Change and Biodiversity Evidence Gap Map (based in Washington DC), Frida Diaz, Project Lead on the Nature Transition Support Programme (Columbia & Ecuador), and Dr Jessica Witt, Technical Lead on The Safe & Sustainable Food Systems (One Food) in South Africa.

Continuing with Phase 1 projects, the second panel of the morning was chaired by Dr Elizabeth Warham, Head of GCBC for Kew. These projects had focussed on research outcomes and impact for farmers and communities.

l to r: Richard, on stage with Elizabeth Warham, and Yves discuss the Bio+Mine project.
l to r: Richard, on stage with Elizabeth Warham, and Yves discuss the Bio+Mine project.
Carolina presents her project.









Speakers included two from the Biodiversity positive mining for the net zero challenge (Philippines), Prof Richard Herrington, Science Lead, and Yves Plancherel, Lead of the drone team. Kew’s Research leader in Ecosystem Stewardship, Dr Carolina Tovar, followed with her project, Realising the potential of plant bioresources as nature-based solutions in African biodiversity hotspots (Ethiopia).

Dr Elizabeth Cottier-Cook, Coordinator of Global Seaweed SUPERSTAR (Indonesia & Malaysia) and Dr Petr Sharov, Manager of Environmental Pollution Programme (Vietnam) also joined us remotely to talk about their work.

Helen is the Policy lead for Sexual Exploitation Abuse & Harassment (SEAH) Safeguarding for Defra ODA programmes.

Before our lunch break, Helen Poulsen, the Senior Social Development Adviser in Defra’s ODA Hub, gave us a thought-provoking presentation on the importance of considering gender equality and social inclusion as the GCBC grantees develop their projects.

After lunch – and for many, a stroll through Kew’s gardens – we returned for an afternoon of 5-minute flash talks by our newest grantees, facilitated by Samantha Morris, GCBC Project Manager for Kew. Ten of the 13 RGC1 projects attended both in-person and online giving us an informative overview of their upcoming work.

l to r: Bettina, Aster and Samantha listen to Mark Grindley’s talk online.

Joining us in person for these sessions, were Aster Gebrekistos (CIFOR-ICRAF) talking about Multifunctional agroforestry for Ethiopia and Bettina Heider (CIP) who spoke on Andean diversity for climate change (Peru & Ecuador).

Fiona Nunan (University of Birmingham) on Building adaptive fisheries governance capacity (Malawi & Uganda), Isabella Bovolo and Dr Anthony Brown (both University of Durham) presented on Enhancing coastal ecosystem services in Suriname and Guyana, and William Thompson (Oxford University) introducing his Flourishing Landscapes Programme in Ghana, Ecuador, and Vietnam.


l to r: Zuhail Thatey Mohamed (UNEP-WCMC), Lubasi Limweta (Oxford University).

Online we were pleased to meet Mark Grinley from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) with his project Following the Water in Madagascar, Stefano Barcheisi (Birdlife International) on Ecosystems services under climate change for Key Biodiversity Areas in Ecuador, and James Gibbons (Bangor University) on Habitat – harnessing smallholder pasture management for biodiversity in the Kenyan highlands.

l to r: Ryan Goldrick and Thomas Shaw (Defra), Subira Bjørnsen (Cadmus), Edward Gould (Defra).


Defra’s Jamie Carr, Bettina, and Aster – who travelled from Peru and Ethiopia for the symposium – chat during a break.









As Strategic Science Lead for GCBC, one of Kew’s goals is to encourage and nurture collaboration and learning within project groups and between research projects, and, by every measure, the research symposium achieved that result.

Our thanks to all the symposium participants and our Defra and DAI partners who attended.

All funded projects are listed here on the GCBC website: Projects – GCBC

* The GCBC is funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with International Climate Finance and managed in partnership with DAI as Fund Management Lead. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is the Strategic Science Lead.  

** All photos ©RBGKew