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Overview

Intro - I (Rafal Gutaker) am a Research Leader in Bioinformatics at RBG Kew. I have always been fascinated by plant diversity, evolution and ecology, focusing on plants utilized by humans, and their wild relatives. Now I am a part of larger institution that share and inspire my mission for exploring and protecting plant life on Earth.

Mission - My main concern both scientifically and personally is our agricultural system, which is not sustainable or healthy, and has high ecological impact. Humans have the tendency to fix systemic problems with ad hoc patches, which often result with more problems down the stream. For example, chemical nitrogen fertilization increased the productivity of food systems, but at the cost of environmental and nutritional decay. Sometimes we need to go back few steps to redesign the system. I use retrospective tools to learn about past agricultures, and search for better designs.

CV - My research relies heavily on plant genomics and archaeogenetics, experience with which I gained throughout my PhD with Robin Allaby (University of Warwick, UK), and postdoctoral positions with Hernán Burbano (Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany) and Michael Purugganan (New York University, USA). I am using historical collections, such as herbaria, to investigate the changes in plants and their interactions with environment, microbiome and humans in spatial and temporal scales. You can find more about my research in the next tab.



News

January 20, 2022:

Neodomestication of edible plants can help us adapt to climate change. We discuss how this can be achieved here: https://t.co/H2zywkGcqf

We are planning future pathways at Kew Science, awesome collaboration between genomics, crop physiology, environmental science, and seed bank.

GREENrice

January 10, 2022:

The flagship proposal of 1000HRGP was funded by ERC! Things got very real; 1.4 mln euro to mine historical rice from herbarium for nature-based solution to improve nutrition and sustainability of rice agriculture. Stay tuned for position openings later this year.

December 20, 2021:

Norwich Research Park DTP funded a PhD to dive deep into the effects of rice breeding on its diversity. Co-supervised by me at Kew and Jose de Vega at Earlham Institute.

December 20, 2021:

I gave the talk for ADAPT network on "The origins and adaptation of European potatoes reconstructed from historical genomes". You can watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlDXHAquHWE

December 6, 2021:

Bentham-Moxon Trust funded my pilot investigation into indigenous rice in Madagascar. Networking with local researchers and collecting first herbarium samples of unique Malagasy rice in May 2022.

December 2, 2021:

I gave a talk about rice at UCL's Center for Life's Origin and Evolution Anniversary Symposium. You can watch it here : https://www.ucl.ac.uk/biosciences/gee/ucl-centre-lifes-origins-and-evolution [scroll to the bottom of the page]

November 18, 2021:

One of the 1000HRGP projects led by Rod Wing and Alice Fornasiero (KAUST) got funded! In the next 3 years, we will sequence and analyse a lot of historical and modern material of South American Oryza.

July 29, 2021:

I got NERC NEOF de novo award to build reference genome for Tillandsia latifolia. This genome will shed new light on functioning of unique Lomas ecosystem in Peru.

July 8, 2021:

Ornob Alam, a very talented PhD student at NYU, Rafal and others published a paper in MBE on rice dispersal from Taiwan to SEA.

April 6, 2021:

First time physically at RBG Kew. Guess what was I doing? Yes, browsing Oryza collection!

March 31, 2021:

My first invited talk at a conference. Check my talk entitled 'Biotic and abiotic interactions between crop plants and environment'.
Ancient Biomolecules of Plants, Animals, and Microbes (Virtual Conference) 2021.

November 19, 2020:

Our A-to-Z protocol to process historical and ancient plant tissue to get quality genomic data. https://currentprotocols.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/cppb.20121 . Contact me for pdf.

October 1, 2020:

It has finally happened, I am officially a Research Leader at RBG Kew. Feels strange to start remotely, but I am determined to push my research ideas out asap!

September 1, 2020:

Good news, I am back in the clean lab to prepare some exciting genomic libraries for 1000 Historical Rice Genome Programme!

May 15, 2020:

My best piece of work so far has been finally published! Read about the genomic history and ecology of rice spread in Nature Plants. My favourite bit is the effect of 4.2k event on rice evolution and spread.

February 12, 2020:

Incredible sampling trip to the Smithsonian Herbarium; the largest and best maintained grasses collection thus far. It was a pleasure to share my research with Department of Botany!

January 21, 2020:

Rafal accepted Kew Gardens' offer to start his independent gig as Research Leader in Bioinformatics this August. Could not have dreamt about a better match!

November 13 - 15, 2019:

We have more rice specimens, courtesy of Steere Herbarium in New York Botanical Garden. We are almost at 200 now!

October 14 - 15, 2019:

Rafal visited the Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, where he sampled rice specimens together with Michaela Schmull and Anthony Brach. 1000HRG project is growing big!

August 31, 2019

An amazing collaborative project on the dispersal of Asian rice is now summarized in the pre-print "Genomic history and ecology of the geographic spread of rice". It is ready for your comments and suggestions in bioRxiv.

July 22, 2019:

Rafal talked about the collaborative project on environmental associations in rice and its historical spread in Asia based on rice genomes, paleoenvironment reconstruction and archaeology (link to abstract book).

June 24, 2019:

Rafal's paper titled "The origins and adaptation of European potatoes reconstructed from historical genomes" is out in Nature Ecology and Evolution! Read about very old specimens in the 'behind the paper' blog.

June 24, 2019:

Jesse Lasky talked about our project "Dispersal limitation and environment drive genomic differentiation among rice landraces" during Evolution 2019 meeting in Providence (link to video recording).

June 3, 2019:

Harlan III symposium in Montpellier kicked off. Rafal talked about his research on environmental associations in rice and its historical spread in Asia based on landrace genomes.

May 20 - 21, 2019:

Rafal visited the Natural History Museum, London, where he sampled rice specimens together with Norbert Holstein. This is the official start of 1000HRG project!