Welcome Carolina Tovar - New SE

Submitted by editor on 24 November 2021.

We are thrilled to welcome Carolina Tovar to our Editorial Board at Oikos! She is a research leader in Spatial and data analysis at The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and specializes in biogeography, conservation, biodiversity, ecology, and tropical ecosystems! Read her interview below:


1. What's your main research focus at the moment?

I am an ecologist and a biogeographer with a special focus on tropical regions. In the last 5 years, I’ve been working mostly in the tropical Andes studying how the strong environmental gradients found in this region have shaped plant community composition, functional traits and species distribution. I have implemented several projects along with partners in South America and students in the UK aimed at unveiling trait-environment relationships in these regions. I also led several projects on understanding how tropical ecosystems have been and will be affected by climate and land use change. More recently, I’ve been interested on identifying plant species potentially vulnerable to climate change but also those that could be resilient and constitute natural assets such as crop wild relatives among other useful plants. I use a variety of methods of enquiry including modelling, remote sensing, palaeoecology and community ecology.

2. Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?

I hold a Biology degree from Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru. After graduating and working for 6 years in conservation in Peru I decided to pursue a MSc in Ecology and Evolution at University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, which I completed in 2010. Then I moved to the UK to conduct my PhD at University of Oxford which I completed in 2015. There I studied the long-term changes of the African forest composition due to past climate change and prehistoric fire using a palaeoecological and a modelling approach. After my PhD, I joined the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as a Research Fellow and was appointed as a Research leader in Spatial and data analysis in 2019. At Kew, I developed further my interest in the biogeography of the Andes using a plant community approach to understand variations in different functional traits across environmental gradients.

3. How come that you became a scientist in ecology?

My interest in ecology is deeply grounded on my family because my father and several of my uncles were biologists. Since I was a child, we loved traveling around Peru, my home country, going from the desert to the Andes and the rainforest. I was always fascinated by these extreme contrasts and by the high biodiversity in most of the Peruvian ecosystems. At the same time, I was very conscious of how land use change was causing a negative impact on biodiversity and the threats of climate change. This led me to study Biology with a specialty in Ecology. Since then, I’ve learned so much on the interrelations between species and their environments in tropical ecosystems and continue to do so.

4. What do you do when you're not working?

I like swimming, cycling, and spending time with my family doing activities with my children.