James Kalema graduated from Makerere University in 1994 with a doctorate in environment and natural resource management and then worked as a national park warden in Uganda before securing a position as a lecturer in botany at Makerere. He was in charge of the herbarium and botanical garden of the university from 2008 to 2017, becoming an associate professor in 2018. His research has included the assessment of priority places and species for plant conservation in Uganda and studies of cycads, carnivorous plants and Acanthaceae. He is one of the authors of a conservation checklist for Ugandan trees. He helped design Uganda’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and is a member of the East Africa Plant Red List Authority and Global Tree Specialist Group (IUCN). He was the principal investigator in a project to establish how the sites used in oil and gas exploration in Uganda can be ecologically restored. His publications include 14 contributed book chapters and 25 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.