Steve Hopper to leave Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in 2012

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew director (CEO and chief scientist), Professor Stephen Hopper FLS will step down in autumn 2012 after six years in the job.

Steve Hopper is to leave Royal Botanic Gardens Kew - image: RBG Kew
Steve Hopper is to leave Royal Botanic Gardens Kew - image: RBG Kew

He will return to Australia to take up a new chair in biodiversity at The University of Western Australia in order to devote more time to research, writing and teaching in biodiversity conservation, plant science and evolutionary biology.

He will explore options at UWA to further develop a significant international research programme, including ongoing collaborative links with Kew. The search for his successor in one  will begin immediately.

Trustees chairman Marcus Agius said: "Steve has been an inspiration to all who work for Kew and the Trustees wish to put on record their appreciation for the leadership that he has given since 2006. In his time as Director, Kew’s contribution to plant science, conservation and sustainable living has been of global importance and its reputation as a centre of excellence has been sustained. We send him, Chris and his family our very best wishes for their future in Perth."

He added: "His leadership has significantly improved Kew’s corporate structure and its strategies under the Breathing Planet Programme, an innovative plan for the next 10 years with global partners to meet and address the 21st Century conservation and sustainability challenges that the world faces."

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "I’d like to thank Professor Hopper for all his work at Kew and inspirational stewardship of a national treasure over the past five years, and wish him every success in the future."

Hopper has led new developments in Kew’s science, including a concerted focus on restoration ecology aimed at repairing and restoring wild biodiversity. His publication in 2009 of OCBIL Theory dealing with biodiversity on old, climatically-buffered, infertile landscapes has been a career highlight.

He said: "I came to Kew from The University of Western Australia with a simple aim – to ensure the world, biodiversity and the organisation were in a better place by the time I left. Like all such aims, my time is marked by achievement in some quarters and much more left to do in others. Biodiversity has an enormous role to play in helping moderate the worst aspects of global warming and in enabling people to live healthy sustainable lives. The world is slowly realizing this, and Kew has a pivotal role to play in science-based plant and fungal conservation aimed at enhancing the quality of life. After six years at Kew, it will be an appropriate time to hand on the reins to inject fresh momentum and innovative solutions to pressing global problems we all face.

"I will leave Kew with sadness but also pleasure knowing that it is in safe hands. Kew has exceptionally dedicated and talented staff, students, volunteers and Trustees and I pay tribute to all who have supported Kew over the years, past and present, locally, nationally and internationally including, in particular, colleagues and ministers at Defra."

Professor Alan Robson, vice-chancellor of The University of Western Australia, said: "We are delighted that such an outstanding academic and researcher is returning to the University and to one of the world's major bio-diversity hotspots in the South-West of Western Australia. Winthrop Professor Hopper's enthusiasm for his work, coupled with the opportunities that the South-West provides, are sure to drive major advances in the preservation of rare flora with the potential to solve future global problems.

"There is much to do in my remaining year at Kew", said Professor Hopper. "I look forward in time to working with my successor to ensure a smooth transition, and to seeing Kew attain even greater prominence in its vital work and partnerships worldwide".

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