Professor Richard Buggs is an evolutionary biologist and molecular ecologist. His current research group, at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Queen Mary University of London, analyses DNA sequences to understand how plants, especially trees, adapt in response to climate change and new pests and pathogens.

He is known for his work on a variety of evolutionary processes including: natural selection, speciation, hybridisation and whole genome duplication. A full scientific publication list can be found here.

Richard is a Christian, and sometimes blogs and speaks on issues where biology and Christianity intersect. Views expressed here and on X are expressed in a personal capacity.

He also occasionally blogs on scientific topics at Springer Nature Research Communities. For these articles, see his profile here.


Richard Buggs studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specialising in Plant Sciences. He was particular influenced by: plant ecologists Oliver Rackham and Peter Grubb, geneticists Mike Majerus and John Parker, and philosopher of science Peter Lipton.

During a DPhil at Oxford University with John Pannell, Richard did seminal work on hybrid zone movement. A review he subsequently wrote on this topic helped move the field away from a predominant view at the time that hybrid zones are in evolutionary equilibrium.

As a post-doctoral researcher with Doug and Pam Soltis at the University of Florida, Richard studied changes in gene content and expression in newly formed hybrid species with duplicated genomes, showing that these happen rapidly and repeatedly.

He was given a NERC Fellowship to move to Queen Mary University of London, where he started his own research group, working on the effects of climate change on hybridisation in British birch tree populations. With PhD students, he sequenced the dwarf birch genome and showed that footprints of past hybrid zone movement could be detected in the genomes of current populations of downy birch.

When ash dieback was found in the UK, Richard won a grant to sequence the genome of the European ash tree for the first time. This generated a successful research programme exploring the genetic basis of resistance to ash dieback and the emerald ash borer, which led to his permanent appointment at Queen Mary and recruitment by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

At Kew, Richard was also funded by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs to explore the contribution of genetics to resistance to acute oak decline.

This led to the setting up of the Centre for Forest Protection, a collaboration between Kew and Forest Research. Within this, Richard’s group works on ash, oak, birch, alder and elm, seeking to understand how they can adapt to pest, pathogens and changing climates.

Richard has a side research interest in Darwin’s “abominable mystery”, the explosive origin of the “higher plants”. He investigated the origin of the mystery, showing that it is deeper today than it was in Darwin’s time.

Richard Buggs is currently Senior Research Leader (Plant Health & Adaptation) at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Royal Society of Biology. He sits on the UK Government Trees and Woodlands Scientific Advisory Group. The birch species Betula buggsii was named after him in 2022 by his former PhD student Nian Wang.

Photograph: Sam Ford