Did you know 50 billion years of evolutionary history is under threat of extinction?  Rikki Gumbs from ZSL Edge programme and Dr James Rosindell discuss punk turtles (aka Mary River Turtle), how to Zoom in on the Tree of Life and why we need to save the rarest and most precious of our species who are on the edge of extinction.
This podcasts is the latest in our series in collaboration with the Grantham Institute.
Picture courtesy of ZSL and copyright Chris Van Wyk

Our guests:


Rikki Gumbs is a Research Postgraduate on The Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet Doctoral Training Partnership (SSCP DTP), which is based at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London.  He also works with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

He is the lead author of a recent study that maps the tree of life for the world’s terrestrial vertebrates for the first time. In this work, Rikki and his collaborators discovered that we face the loss of more than 50 billion of years of unique evolutionary history due to human activities.

Rikki is passionate about safeguarding the tree of life and works with ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme to identify the world’s most evolutionarily unique and threatened species for applied conservation action, or ‘EDGE species’. In 2018 he developed the latest global priority EDGE rankings for amphibians, birds and mammals, along with the first priority EDGE List for the world’s reptiles. Rikki works closely with early-career conservationists from developing nations, or ‘EDGE Fellows’, to implement vital conservation research and action for many of the priority species identified in his research.

A keen fascination with reptiles has driven much of Rikki’s scientific and conservation work, and he is involved with projects around the world, from protecting Critically Endangered slender-snouted crocodiles in West African swamps to understanding the drivers and potential mitigation of venomous snakebites in South Asia.


James Rosindell is a reader in biodiversity theory at Imperial College London. After studying maths at the university of Warwick as an undergraduate he moved across into applications of maths and computing in biology. His area of research interest, biodiversity theory, is focused on improving our understanding of biodiversity through the use of simulation models and analyses of large datasets. His publications include work on ‘extinction debt’, spatial patterns of biodiversity, conservation prioritisation, data visualisation and ‘neutral’ models of biodiversity. He has dedicated a lot of time to science outreach and co-founded the non profit organisation ‘OneZoom’ which aims to provide easy access to scientific knowledge about biodiversity and evolution, and raise awareness about the variety of life on earth together with the need to conserve it.



Rikki’s work is emblematic of the important science and conservation work taking place across ZSL, an international charity funded largely by donations and visitors to London and Whipsnade Zoo. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the Zoos remain closed and this threatens the future of this vital conservation work worldwide.  To support the work of ZSL click here.