World-famous Kew Gardens Facing 1.5 Million Pounds in Budget Cuts

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

When both Sir David Attenborough and Jane Goodall publicly denounce something, you know it must be a big deal.  Kew Gardens, a more than 200-year-old botanical research institution in London, is facing massive budget cuts of 1.5 million pounds to help with a 5 million pound deficit.  Up to 120 expert scientists and staff could lose their jobs.  The garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has over two million visitors per year, and has world-famous plant collections from around the world.  Kew plays an important part in plant conservation research, and has greatly improved crop production for coffee, cocoa, rubber, and other food crops. They even do drug research on plants for treating malaria, HIV and diabetes!

Paul Grafton, a union representative, said in 1983, the British Government ensured that it would adequately fund Kew “to fulfill its statutory obligations, which include: research; providing advice and education; caring for scientific collections, as national reference collections available for study; and as a resource for the public to gain knowledge. The Government is no longer fulfilling its role to allow Kew to meet these obligations. The majority of posts to be cut are for people in specialist careers measured in decades of experience so Kew will lose dedicated, expert staff, and whole areas of work are likely to be halted.”

Jane Goodall said, “There is a tremendous feeling of anger and frustration there and I share it. This an unbelievably stupid thing to do. This is the mother of all other botanical research centers. Britain should be proud of it, not dismantling it. It is like tearing up the union jack. That is why I wrote my letter. I want my protest to go viral. I want thousands and thousands of people to protest as well.”

A petition on change.org has already received over 100,000 signatures and was handed to 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jul/13/jane-goodall-david-attenborough-save-kew-gardens

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/protest-at-kew-gardens-endangered-jobs-and-funds-reaches-50000–and-growing-9271486.html

A video about Kew Gardens for a previous campaign.  David Attenborough says in the video that Kew has about 90% of all known plant species in the world!  Unbelievable.

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.