Kathy Willis

Professor of Biodiversity

Fellow of Merton College


Research Interests

My research examines long-term biodiversity responses to environmental change. Specifically I work on the dynamic processes of species and their interactions with the environment over time. Research topics covered fall broadly into three categories:  i) reconstruction of biodiversity baselines and targets; ii) determination of ecosystem resilience, variability and thresholds; (iii) understanding drivers and rates of change to ecosystem services.

My research also focuses on the development of web-based decision support tools that provide a measure of ecological risk and ecosystem service value of landscapes outside of protected areas. In development of these tools the overall aim has been to create easy-to-use automated tools that require: a) minimum input by the stakeholder; b) an output that is quick to generate and easily interpretable; c) sufficient information so that the user can reconcile the competing objectives of maximizing financial gains and minimizing ecological impacts.

Additional Information

I am currently on a 5-year secondment (2013-2018) from Oxford University to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew as their first Director of Science. I spend approximately 80% of my time in Kew and 20% in Oxford. In Kew, I am responsible for a science staff of 260 people, management of the extensive plant collections and delivery of the Kew science strategy and associated strategic outputs [see http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/kews-science-strategy]. In Oxford, I run the Oxford Long-term Ecology Laboratory [see http://oxlel.zoo.ox.ac.uk/]

I also hold a Professor II (adjunct Professor) at the University of Bergen, Norway and serve on the following committees and advisory boards:

  • Member of the Advisory Board to the International Sustainable Biomass Partnership
  • Executive Board, UK Plant Sciences Federation
  • Oxford Honorary Degree Committee
  • Delegate, Oxford University Press
  • Member of the Expert Advisory Group for the Scottish Centre of Expertise in Plant Health
  • Global Biodiversity Informatics Facility (GBIF) UK delegate



Email: kathy.willis@zoo.ox.ac.uk
PA: Sharon Cornwell (sharon.cornwell@zoo.ox.ac.uk)



Selected Publications

  • For a full list of publications please go to http://oxlel.zoo.ox.ac.uk/publications/

  • 2015. Willis, K.J., Seddon, A.W.R., Long, P.R., Jeffers, E.S., Caithness, N., Thurston, M., Smit, M.G.D., Hagemann, R., Macias-Fauria, M. Remote assessment of locally important ecological features across landscapes: how representative of reality? Ecological Applications 25 (5), 1290-1302

    2015. Romeu-Dalmau, C., Bonsall, M.B., Willis, K.J. and Dolan, L. Asiatic cotton can generate similar economic benefits to Bt cotton under rain-fed conditions. Nature Plants 1 (6)

    2015. Jeffers, E.S., Nogue, S.  and Willis, K.J. The role of palaeoecological records in assessing ecosystem services. Quaternary Science Reviews, 112, 17-32.

    2014. Jeffers, E.S., Bonsall, M.B., Froyd, C.A., Brooks, S.J., Willis, K.J. The relative important of biotic and abiotic processes for structuring plant communities through time.  Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12365

    2014. Cole, L.E.S., Bhagwat, S.A., Willis K.J. Recovery and resilience of tropical forests after disturbance. Nature Communications, 5, 3906 doi:10.1038/ncomms4906

    2014. Tovar, C., Breman, E., Brncic T., Harris, D.J., Bailey, R., Willis, K.J. Influence of 1100 years of burning on the central African rainforest. Ecography, 37 (11), 1139-1148 DOI: 10.1111/ecog.00697

    2014. Froyd, C.A., Coffey, E.E.D., Knaap, W.O., Leeuwen, J.F.N., Tye, A., Willis K.J., The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity. Ecology letters 17 (2), 144-154

    2013. Willis K.J., Bennett, K.D., Burrough, S.L., Macias-Fauria, M., Tovar, C. Determining the response of African biota to climate change: using the past to model the future. Phil Trans R Soc B 368: 20120491. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0491