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The Morton Arboretum Announces the Promotion of Murphy Westwood, Ph.D. to Director, Global Tree Conservation Program

Director Murphy Westwood, PhD
February 15, 2017

The Morton Arboretum has named Murphy Westwood, Ph.D. Director of the institution’s Global Tree Conservation Program (GTCP).

In her expanded role, Westwood is responsible for fostering collaborations and advancing conservation efforts with botanic gardens and institutions in the United States, including the United States Forest Service, and internationally, with a particular emphasis on Latin America and Asia. In 2017, the GTCP will host several conservation training workshops with partners around the world while taking systematic steps to assess the state of endangered tree species and the threats, such as over-exploitation, deforestation, and climate change, which put their survival at risk. It is estimated that at least 10 percent of tree species worldwide are threatened with extinction

Westwood joined the Arboretum in 2013 as Tree Conservation Specialist and played a crucial role in founding the GTCP in 2014, developing its mission and strategy and building its team of researchers. In addition to leading the GTCP, Westwood serves as a Global Tree Conservation Officer for Botanic Gardens Conservation International and works to build support for the Global Trees Campaign, the only international conservation program dedicated to saving the world’s tree species. She has been working with the Global Trees Campaign to compile a global threat assessment for the world’s oak trees, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Oaks. She also oversees ArbNet, the interactive community of arboreta, managing the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and developing resources and content for the ArbNet website. Westwood is a member of the IUCN Global Tree Specialist Group and a certified IUCN Red List global assessor.

“In just a few years, Murphy has made critical inroads with collaborators in biodiversity hotspots around the world, bringing together botanical gardens and arboreta to tackle the issue of endangered trees head on,” said Nicole Cavender, vice president of science and conservation at The Morton Arboretum. “Her depth of research and conservation experience and passion for the environment make her a great asset to lead the Global Tree Conservation Program, as the network expands into Asia and Mexico, home of many of the world’s threatened trees.”  

Westwood holds a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental policy and behavior from the University of Michigan, a Master of Science in advanced methods in taxonomy and biodiversity from the Imperial College London, U.K., and a Ph.D. in plant developmental biology from the University of Cambridge, U.K.  She has an extensive background in plant biology, evolution, and conservation, having worked in universities and botanical gardens in Europe and America for nearly 15 years. She has published numerous articles on plant systematics, evolution, development, and conservation.

Tree Conservation at The Morton Arboretum
The Global Tree Conservation Program at The Morton Arboretum was founded to save trees from extinction through global collaborations. The Arboretum is developing close partnerships with botanical gardens in China, Europe, and Mexico, as well as throughout the United States, to work as a global community of gardens focused on protecting the estimated 10 percent of tree species threatened with extinction worldwide.

The Morton Arboretum has been a leader in conservation for decades. In addition to the Global Tree Conservation Program, its efforts include international partnerships to conserve endangered species of trees in arboretum and public garden collections; restoring more than half its 1,700 acres as natural woodlands, prairies and wetlands; and outreach programs that help municipalities, tree professionals, and homeowners care for the urban forest. Its heritage includes the pioneering restoration of the Schulenberg Prairie more than 50 years ago and Plants of the Chicago Region by Arboretum staff members Floyd Swink and Gerould Wilhelm, a major work in conservation biology and restoration ecology.