GCBC Research Symposium 2024: fostering connections and learning

GCBC Research Symposium 2024: fostering connections and learning

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


Grant announcement: Unlocking the potential of nature to deliver climate solutions and improve livelihoods

The Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (GCBC) – a UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme that funds research into nature-based solutions to climate change and poverty reduction announced its first round of successful grant applicants today. This first round of grant calls closed in July 2023 and 13 successful applicants were selected from a total of 155.

According to the World Economic Forum, nearly half of the global gross domestic product depends on nature, and yet biodiversity is disappearing quicker than at any time throughout history. A 2019 IPBES report found that around 1 million plant and animal species are currently threatened with extinction. Biodiversity also plays an important role in generating and contributing to local livelihoods; rural and indigenous people and local communities are particularly dependent on nature for their livelihoods. The conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity, therefore, has tremendous potential to regulate the environment, contribute to improved livelihoods, and ensure a more habitable planet for current and future generations.

This new research and development grant portfolio has a £9.3 million budget allocated to 13 organizations across 16 countries. Through this first round of grant awards, the GCBC expects to research the evidence gaps related to 1) key pressures causing serious negative impacts to livelihoods, nature and climate; 2) enablers of change (both incremental and systemic) contributing to the implementation of evidence-based policy and decision-making by policymakers, investors and practitioners, to strengthen the science-policy-practice interface and adoption of solutions; 3) solutions and interventions – through science, nature and knowledge combined by identifying what works, where, why and for whom; and 4) the importance of systems approaches in tackling complex problems and the need to integrate appropriate solutions to achieve lasting transformative change across different sectors and regions.

“We are very excited to announce the first round of grant award recipients through the Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (GCBC) in partnership with RBG Kew and DAI Global UK. This is a significant milestone and the first step towards delivering climate solutions for vulnerable populations by working in partnership with organizations across the Global South to harness nature’s potential to enhance climate resilience and improve livelihoods,” Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

 “We are delighted to work in partnership with Defra and DAI Global UK to bring together an international network of research institutions and experts, with the aim of fostering new inter- and intra-disciplinary partnerships. At Kew, we know how vital the potential of nature-based solutions are in improving the livelihoods of marginalized and vulnerable populations. In our role as Strategic Science Lead and with these collaborations sharing knowledge and best practice, we hope to deliver the evidence needed to inform policy and interventions that sustainably conserve and use biodiversity for climate resilience and poverty reduction,” Prof. Monique Simmonds OBE, Deputy Director Science – Partnerships, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“We welcome the opportunity, working with Defra and Kew, in our role as Fund Management Lead to support the delivery of the different portfolios of research projects funded to meet the ambition of the GCBC programme. This will involve ensuring that the design and implementation of all projects delivers the key outcomes for climate solutions and improved livelihoods through regular monitoring and learning,” Kelmend Kavaja, Team Leader, DAI.

Through this first round of research grants, the GCBC will work in partnership with scientists, academics, and research institutions on nature-based solutions related to the biodiversity-climate-livelihoods nexus that can improve climate mitigation and adaptation, reduce biodiversity loss and climate migration, and protect the most vulnerable, especially those across the Global South, who are impacted by climate change the most.

Find the first round of successful grantees below:

The University of Oxford

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

University of Durham

University of Birmingham

Nature Kenya

Bangor University

International Centre for Research in Agroforestry

Birdlife International

International Institute for Environment and Development

International Potato Center

Corporación de Investigación y Acción social y económica (CIASE)

Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)


About GCBC

The Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (GCBC) is a UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) research and development programme that funds research to unlock the potential of nature to provide climate solutions and improve livelihoods.

By working in partnership with scientists, academics, and research institutions in the Global South, we seek to develop scalable approaches to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity that delivers resilience to climate change and improves the livelihoods of the poor.

The GCBC is funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs working in partnership with DAI Global as the Fund Manager Lead and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as the Strategic Science Lead.