Tom Wells

Research Interests

I am a botanist and plant systematist with a collections-based approach to studying plant diversity, evolution and ecology. I am interested in patterns of biodiversity, speciation, ethnobotany, philosophy of biology and the taxonomic process, and how a better understanding of these topics can inform conservation and sustainable agriculture practice. My current DPhil work as part of the Scotland Group focuses on the taxonomy and systematics of Crop Wild Relatives of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.). This primarily involves the analysis of existing herbarium and germplasm collections from across Latin America using morphological, phylogenetic and genomic methods. My aim is to produce a comprehensive account of the group of wild species most closely related to sweet potato, which will provide the basis for a better understanding of its evolution, domestication, and contemporary diversity.

Additional Information

As part of the BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Program, I was also previously involved in work on diversity and ancient hybridization in date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), joining a project at RBG Kew that used DNA extracted from archaeological remains recovered from a ~2000 year old Egyptian tomb. I undertook my Masters in Plant Taxonomy and Biodiversity at RBGE, where my thesis focused on the genus Urera s.l., which are tropical trees and lianas in the nettle family (Urticaceae). I followed up this work through a temporary position at RBGE funded by the Sibbald Trust, and I continue to work on the wider group with Urticaceae specialist Alex Monro at RBG Kew and David Harris at RBGE. I originally trained as an Architect before becoming a gardener and training in botanical horticulture. I have spent 10 years designing, creating and caring for gardens in the UK and elsewhere, and have a long-standing interest in sustainable agriculture and making things from plants. My most recent project involves adapting traditional coracle-building techniques to construct a canoe made entirely from plant fibres and materials.

Additional Affiliations


Contact Details