The Plant Conservation and Population Biology research group from the Biology Department at KU Leuven studies the effects of anthropogenic disturbances such as nutrient enrichment, invasive species, forest management and habitat fragmentation on plant species richness and plant genetic diversity. This involves using state of the art techniques in the field of population genomics and remote sensing. The objective is to understand the mechanisms behind the worldwide decline of plant (genetic) diversity, and to provide practical, science-based guidelines regarding its conservation and sustainable use. Two important target species are wild Arabica and Robusta coffee (the Crop Wild Relatives of cultivated coffee), growing in Ethiopian Afromontane forests and the Congo basin, respectively. The research group is also involved in the scientific evaluation of agro-ecological practices, both in temperate and tropical ecosystems where we study coffee agroforestry systems.
Robrecht has a degree in bioscience engineering from KULeuven and is currently a Phd researcher for the Coffeebridge project. He will characterize the Robusta coffee genetic resources in the Congo Basin (DRC), focussing on geno- and pheno-typification as well as the quality of the coffee genetic lines in the Yangambi collection. His passion for coffee started in Peru when he was investigating cocoa beans for his master thesis and he discovered the world of coffee processing and quality. His previous work experience was as a food technologist in a research and development laboratory in Leuven. He is a coffee hobbyist and enthusiast who now gets to pour all his energy and drive into this coffee research program. He is looking forward to discussing, collaborating and exploring the potential of the Robusta genetic resources in the Congo Basin.
Olivier has a Master’s degree in agronomy and a PhD in plant ecology. He is a full professor of Conservation Biology at the Biology Department of KU Leuven and he is head of the Plant Conservation and Population Biology research group. Olivier has broad expertise in plant population genetics and plant ecology and is strongly involved in Arabica coffee research in Ethiopia.