National Tropical Botanical Garden names new Director of Science and Conservation

Kalāheo, Hawaiʻi  (August 9, 2019) — The National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) has named Dr. Nina Rønsted as its new Director of Science and Conservation. Rønsted will oversee the Science and Conservation Department at the Juliet Rice Wichman Botanical Research Center (BRC) at NTBG’s national headquarters in Kalāheo, Hawaiʻi on the island of Kauaʻi.

Dr. Rønsted comes to NTBG from the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen where she has held multiple research positions since 2002, serving as Professor of vascular plants, Herbarium Curator, Director of Education and most recently Director of Research (2015-2019).

As a botanist specializing in conservation science and ethnobotany, plant systematics, and the evolution of plant diversity, Rønsted has a Ph.D. in medicinal plant sciences from the University of Copenhagen and has held research fellowships at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK and the University of Minnesota.

Over the course of her career, Rønsted has explored the evolution of plant diversity and the relationship between people and plants with an emphasis on medicinal and other charismatic plants. She has conducted field work in Southeast Asia, South America, China, Australia, and various regions of Africa. In addition to her numerous international scientific publications, she is an enthusiastic science communicator.

Upon welcoming Dr. Rønsted to her new post, NTBG’s CEO and Director, Janet Mayfield said, “We are delighted to welcome Dr. Rønsted to NTBG and her family to Kaua‘i. Her experience and passion for plant conservation and ecosystem preservation are in perfect alignment with NTBG’s mission. Accelerated rates of plant extinction in Hawai‘i and globally, intensified by increasing threats to biodiversity, create an urgent need for the work of scientists such as Dr. Rønsted. We are looking forward to her contributions to research and conservation as she begins her career with NTBG.”

Upon her arrival at NTBG, Rønsted said, “NTBG is already an internationally renowned institution with excellent staff conducting critical research within tropical plant and conservation science. People and plants are tightly linked and I look very much forward to help further develop and communicate NTBG’s research program and provide science-based understanding and solutions to the local and international challenges of today.”

Dr. Rønsted succeeds Dr. David H. Lorence who has been employed by NTBG since 1987, serving as Director of Science and Conservation and Curator of the Herbarium (2002–2019). Lorence will remain on staff at NTBG, focusing his work on floristics, taxonomy, and systematics of Pacific Island plants. He will continue to serve as Senior Research Botanist and devote time to editing and publishing the Flora of the Marquesas (early 2020) and the Flora of Samoa.

NTBG has more than 20 staff working in positions directly related to science and conservation. The organization manages an 87,000 specimen herbarium, a seed bank and laboratory housing nearly 12.8 million seeds representing 694 taxa and cultivars, and over 100,000 accessions in the living collections which are located within NTBG gardens and preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida.

Additionally, the Science and Conservation Department is responsible for documenting biodiversity, adding wild-collected plants to the living collections, conservation efforts in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific through collection of seeds and cuttings, as well as supporting the work taking place in five preserves including the 987-acre Limahuli Preserve, located in one of Hawaiʻi’s most biodiverse habitats.

The National Tropical Botanical Garden ( is a not-for-profit, non-governmental institution with nearly 2,000 acres of gardens and preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida. NTBG’s mission is to enrich life through discovery, scientific research, conservation, and education by perpetuating the survival of plants, ecosystems, and cultural knowledge of tropical regions. NTBG is supported primarily through donations and grants.

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