Scientific Staff

Sean Hoban, PhD

Tree Conservation Biologist

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As the Arboretum’s Tree Conservation Biologist, Sean Hoban works to understand, document, and address threats to species, including rare and common species, of Quercus, Juglans, Populus, and Pinus.

Hoban’s research spans a diverse range of topics in evolutionary biology, conservation science, biogeography, genomics, and forestry. His four primary areas of focus are: 

  • Interpreting genetic and ecological data from trees in their natural habitats, using modern statistical methods, to reveal basic aspects of plant ecology and ‘look back in time’ at population demographic changes.
  • Determining how best to conserve species in safehouses like seed banks and living collections (including The Morton Arboretum’s own collection). Hoban’s lab uses sophisticated mathematical and computational modeling approaches to make sure that genetic, phenotypic, evolutionary, ecological, horticultural, and other aspects of diversity are conserved, documented, and shared.
  • Connecting conservation research to local and global policy. Hoban has worked for over a decade to ensure that policy initiatives will conserve biodiversity, create and test metrics for tracking and reporting on biodiversity change, and build capacity for non-scientists to understand biodiversity research, data, and applications.
  • Developing and improving statistical methods and software in conservation and summarizing complex data in accessible ways.


Sean Hoban has published more than 50 scientific research articles and presented his work at more than two dozen regional, national, and international conferences and forums. He has planned and led workshops for the Society for Conservation Biology, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden, The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Convention on Biological Diversity, and numerous agencies throughout the European Union.

Hoban is a member of the IUCN Global Tree Specialist Group and the Conservation Genetics Specialist Group, an Editor for the journal Conservation Genetics, a blogger, and a reviewer for two dozen scientific journals. He is a leading member of working groups in the IUCN, SCB, and GEO BON (the Group on Earth Observation Biodiversity Observation Network). He has contributed technical expertise to species’ assessment reports for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, to a new management strategy for CapeNature in South Africa, and to the Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Hoban’s teaching experience includes instruction on genetics, ecology, biostatistics, and plant science, as well as mentoring K-12 students through the program He has also mentored several students through guided and independent research.

Before coming to The Morton Arboretum, Hoban spent time as a postdoctoral researcher in France and Italy, and was also awarded a prestigious fellowship to work at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, Tennessee. Hoban received a PhD in Biology from The University of Notre Dame, under the advising of forest genetics researcher Jeanne Romero-Severson, PhD. He currently holds affiliate positions at The Field Museum, the University of Chicago, and the College of Charleston.

In May 2024, Hoban was a recipient of a Biota Award, a Walder Foundation program recognizing leaders in biodiversity science, for his project “Preserving Genetic Diversity in Trees: Integrating an Affordable, Rapid Approach With Action and Policy”.


PhD, Biology

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana

BA, Biology

Bellarmine University
Louisville, Kentucky


  • Affiliate Faculty, Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago (2020 – present)
  • Co-founder and Co-Working Group Chair, GEO BON (Group on Earth Observation Biodiversity Observation Network) Genetic Composition Working Group (2018 – present)
  • Member, IUCN Global Trees Specialist Group (2016 – present)
  • Sole Editor in charge of Review and Perspective articles, Journal Conservation Genetics (2014 – present)
  • Member and Regional Coordinator, IUCN Conservation Genetics Specialist Group (2014- present)
  • Northern Nut Growers Association Research Committee (2011 – present)
  • Instructor, Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area

Projects (10)