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Biologist awarded Research Award 2019


The recipient of the Faculty of Science’s Research Award 2019 is Christine Bacon from the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences. Her research into plant systematics focuses on identifying macroevolutionary patterns by surveying endangered species in tropical rainforests.

How does it feel to receive the Faculty’s Research Award?

“I’m proud to be recognised by the Faculty for my research and to be representing my department and the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre. I’m also honoured to be seen as a role model for other women and students in my department and within my field of research,” says Christine Bacon.Portrait picture of Christine Bacon in garden.

What is your research about?

“It’s about identifying patterns in biodiversity in terms of time and space. In my research I integrate the genetic and the morphological, coupling the organisms’ form and make-up with ecological and geological information to understand systematics and diversification in terrestrial systems. I work on collections, in the field and in the lab, so although tropical plants are my area of expertise, my research covers a broad spectrum. I also have a keen interest in biological hotspots – areas of the planet with the highest biodiversity– and how these areas are formed, their function and their conservation.”

How might your research benefit society?

“We can't protect what we know nothing about. We will soon face one of the most serious extinctions in the history of the earth. We have an ethical and moral responsibility to protect species and their habitats. It’s also vital for our own survival, as we humans need plants for food, medicine and a roof over our head. One major problem both within science and for society is loss of species and the only solution is to understand and preserve biodiversity. My research into systematics and biodiversity may act as a contribution to finding creative solutions to the imminent biodiversity crisis.”

What are you working on at the moment and do you have any plans for the future?

“I’m currently working on a research project looking at how new species occur in nature. My postdoc and I have also collected palms in the Amazon in our hunt for repeating patterns and to study the role of ecology in this process. In addition, I’m in the process of starting a project on population genomics and environmental analysis of South American bromeliads, a family of plants that in many ways represent tropical biodiversity. As a researcher, I’m driven by a desire to combat the mass extinction of species and I therefore want to do more research on preserving biological hotspots. My long-term goal is therefore to develop a strong research group to study tropical biodiversity. With palms as models, we’ll investigate the formation, the formation, assemblies, propagation of environments with great biodiversity, and what threatens these habitats,” says Christine.

Christine Bacon was awarded the Faculty of Science’s 2019 Research Award for the following reasons:

“Christine Bacon’s research advances our understanding of plant systematics and its evolution by demonstrating macroevolutionary patterns in the diversity of species in tropical rainforests. Systematic biology and research into biodiversity will continue to be a driving force in finding solutions to the mass extinction of species, which requires knowledge on many levels, including ecosystems, diversity of species and genetic variation. Christine Bacon’s research aims to categorise the status of the threat to species and enable their protection through national and international legislation, and is thus of global benefit for conservation biology. She is developing and integrating automated tools for conservation analyses through robust new molecular methods. As such, Christine Bacon has contributed to the vitality into biodiversity research at the University of Gothenburg.”