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Robin B. Foster

Conservation Ecologist, ECCo; and Adjunct Curator, Botany Dept.

Identification Tools
Rapid Inventories

Robin Foster is a Conservation Ecologist with ECCo.  He is active in programs to preserve biological diversity and threatened habitats in the tropics, especially in Cenral and South America.  He has a long history of research and exploration in Latin America, focusing on tropical forest ecology and geography, plant community composition and dynamics; floristics; and reproductive biology of plants.  As part of the tropical Rapid Biological Inventory teams, Robin uses the information on ecological and floristic patterns to recommend conservation priorities. 

The lack of resources for identifying plants in the tropics has been a bottle-neck for all conservationists, researchers and students, and a barrier to public interest for a long time.  It has provoked Robin to develop a variety of new tools to speed up the identification and learning process, such as the Rapid Reference Collection and Rapid Color Guides, while taking advantage of digital technology and the vast resource of tropical collections in the herbarium of The Field Museum.   
Links: Tropical Plant Guides, Tropical Animal Guides, Rapid Inventory of Vegetation

He has also been on the biology faculty of the University of Chicago, a senior ecologist at Conservation International, and a staff biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Additional Information


Chester High School, Chester, Vermont 1962 

B.A. in Biology from Dartmouth College in 1966

Ph.D. in Botany/Plant Ecology from Duke University in 1974


            The achievements of which I am proudest are: 1) demonstrating the instability of tropical forests; 2) demonstrating that tropical flora can be mastered for ecological ends; 3) setting up (with S. Hubbell) a large, permanent, forest plot that opened everyone's eyes to the structure of tropical plant populations and how they and the community change over time; 4) training four PhD graduates, and several research assistants, who now do ecological research in the tropics; 5) teaching numerous students from tropical countries about importance, fascination, and the beauty of tropical vegetation and tropical plants; 6) demonstrating with teamwork that rapid biological assessment of tropical areas by experienced people can have an immediate effect on conservation action; 7) making emergency field guides and images of tropical species available at low cost to a wide audience.