Richard Abbott is a botanist and evolutionary biologist whose research interests span processes of speciation, mating system evolution, and the role of geographic fragmentation and migration in the response of plants to past climatic changes.
He discovered three hybrid plant species that originated within the last 200 years and his subsequent research on hybrid evolution resulted in significant advances to current understanding of the role of interspecific hybridization in adaptive divergence and speciation. His work on the historical biogeography of plant species occupying arctic, alpine, Mediterranean or temperate environments, co-pioneered use of intraspecific molecular based phylogenies for determining the origins of these plants, where they survived ice ages, and the migration pathways they followed during range expansions. In particular, his research has shown that many arctic plants originated in the high mountains of North America and Central Asia and migrated into the Arctic when global temperatures fell markedly 3-4 million years ago.
Richard has published over 160 scientific papers and served as an editor of several scientific journals during his career.