Cabaret Dangerous Ideas – Saturday 2nd of August

This Saturday the 2nd of August our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas discussion based event “Cocaine – between white lines” will take place at 15.40.The illicit production of cocaine has serious environmental and social consequences for Colombia, the world’s leading producer of the drug. Colombian researchers from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will tell you about the devastating effects of the cocaine trade on their country.

Follow the link below for more details of the event and how to get tickets for it.



Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas – tickets now available

Tickets are now available for our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas discussion based event “Cocaine – between white lines”. Follow the link below for more details of the event and how to get tickets for it.

Scotland has the highest per-head consumption of cocaine on the planet, and it damages more than just our health. The inhabitants of wealthy nations pay a high price for their drug consumption, but it‘s nowhere near high enough. The illicit production of cocaine has serious environmental and social consequences for Colombia, the world’s leading producer of the drug. Colombian researchers from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh will tell you about the devastating effects of the cocaine trade on their country.

In association with….


Upcoming Events

A quick post to let you know of the exciting series of events we have planned over the course of the next few months.

Monday the 7th to Sunday the 13th of April. Expedition Botanics with a Colombian theme, part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. This will be a fun, family activity travelling through our glasshouses and learning about the plants and people of Colombia along the way. Last year it was based on RBGE’s Malaysian program, so we are delighted that this year the focus is on Colombia. You can find more information or buy tickets in advance at

loresImage for Page 10 - Expedition Botanics (c) RBGE

Thursday the 17th of April – Botanics Late “Indigenous?”. A special evening event in the Gateway linking different indigenous cultures including those of Colombia. We will have the fabulous Khantara ( playing Colombian rhythms live, plus Scottish singer Mairi Campbell (, and activities such as our ever popular jewellery making from seeds and chocolate tasting. If you would like to volunteer, or offer an activity, please contact myself and I will pass on your details to the co-ordinator. Or just come along and enjoy the evening! Further information and advance tickets here

loresBotanicsLate13_066 (c) Eoin Carey

Photo: Eoin Carey

Saturday the 2nd of August – In association with the Beltane Public Engagement Network we present “Cocaine – Between White Lines” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. As part of the Shared Responsibility program we will host a discussion on the environmental and social impact of the cocaine trade. This will be a one hour event compered by Edinburgh based comedienne Susan Morrison.


Sunday the 3rd of August – Festival Colombiano at the Botanics. Our fourth year of running this highly popular event and this year we plan to do one longer day instead of two shorter ones, AND WE NEED YOU. We are looking for ideas for activities, volunteers to help run the event, or if you have an activity you could offer to share with us we would welcome you. Please contact Suzanne Harris ( if you would like to join us.

Third Network for Neotropical Biogeography Meeting Bogotá

The Third Network for Neotropical Biogeography meeting took place at the University of the Andes in Bogotá last week. The meeting was attended by 150 delegates from a multitude of countries from the region, Europe and North America. The organization was seamless thanks largely to the efforts of Professor Santiago Madriñán who is RBGE’s main collaborator in Colombia. The meeting began with workshops on Marine Biogeography and an introduction to spatial analysis using R by another RBGE collaborator, Ivan Jimenez from Missouri Botanical Garden. This was followed by workshops on Conservation planning organized by representatives from the Von Humboldt Institute and R methods by Luke Harmon from the University of Idaho. The final workshop outlined processes for applying for collection permits in a number of Latin America countries and also highlighted some examples of international collaborations .


The organizers aimed to mix talks with early and advanced stage researchers working on a diverse range of organisms. Thus, undergraduates spoke before experienced researchers in an informal setting. Us botanists were able to learn about the biology and biogeography of caecilians to pseudoscorpions. A key message was the apparent lack of adaptability of organisms to climatic changes over geological time scales. Animals seem to be under a similarly severe risk as plants to anthropogenic climatic changes that are occurring over much shorter time periods.

The rbgeColombia team was well represented at the meeting….


From left to right: Dayana Sanchez (working on her Masters project on DNA barcoding of Micropholis at La Universidad Distrital), Javier Luna, Eugenio Valderrama, James Richardson, Tiina Sarkinen, Julieth Serrano, Santiago Madriñán, Ivan Jimenez (who collaborates on projects with Julieth Serrano on Sapotaceae distributions) and Karina Banda. Thanks to all of them for putting on a great show and demonstrating the tremendous advances RBGE is making in furthering our knowledge of Colombian biodiversity.

The NNB, initiated by Alex Antonelli of the University of Gothenburg, continues to grow at an extraordinarily rapid rate. The next meeting will be in Panamá this time next year.

More Páramo stories….

Our Páramo paper has now also been featured on radio programs in Italy and the United States and a newspaper article in Chile.

Third Network For Neotropical Biogeography Meeting in Bogotá Colombia, 9th and 10th of January 2014

The Neotropics is the most species-rich region on Earth. The Network for Neotropical Biogeography was established to encourage interaction amongst scientists from multiple disciplines to help us to try to understand the mechanisms underlying the historical assembly and evolution of this extreme biodiversity. The third meeting of the Network will take place at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia on the 9th and 10th of January 2014. Information about the meeting including confirmed speakers and field expeditions can be found at

We hope to welcome a diverse array of scientists to Bogotá.

Páramo is the world’s fastest evolving and coolest biodiversity hotspot

The high altitude Páramo ecosystems of Northwest South and Central America cover very small areas geographically but are packed with species, 3500 in a total area that is half that of Scotland that only has 1000 species. This region has been the subject of studies by rbgeColombia collaborator Santiago Madriñán of the University of the Andes. Together with Andrés Cortés, now studying for a PhD at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, we have recently published a paper that determines that this ecosystem is the fastest evolving biodiversity hotspot on earth. Species evolve over shorter periods in Páramo than in other hotspots. Despite it being located in the tropics the fact that it is found in the high Andes means that it experiences extremely cold night time temperatures that also make it the coolest hotspot on earth. We hope that our work will demonstrate the importance of Páramo, not only from the point of view of evolutionary studies, but also because this ecosystem provides valuable services as it harbours many of the reservoirs that provide water for cities throughout the Andean region. The ecosystem is threatened by climate change, mining activity and agricultural expansion. In the face of increasing temperatures plants have three options, to adapt to the changes, to migrate or to go extinct. Our work demonstrates that their capacity to adapt is low. Whether they can migrate fast enough to survive seems unlikely and, being high alpine plants, they have only a limited area into which they can migrate.

The paper can be found in the journal Frontiers in Genetics at


Laguna de San Rafael, Parque Nacional Natural Puracé, Cauca, Colombia. Photo: María Camila Gómez-Gutiérrez.

rbgeColombia team member María Camila Gómez-Gutiérrez continues to study this region by determining in more detail how populations of species in the sedge genus Oreobolus and a genus in the Melastomataceae family, Castratella, may have been affected by climate changes over the course of the last two million years.

Through our work we aim to highlight the plight of the Páramo and other unique and valuable ecosystems.


Parque Nacional Natural Sumapaz, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Photo: María Camila Gómez-Gutiérrez.