Professor Katherine Willis, CBE

Research Interests

I am currently the Principal at St Edmund Hall where I am responsible for the oversight, management and strategic direction of one of the oldest Colleges in the University of Oxford.

In conjunction with this position, I also hold a position in the department as Professor of Biodiversity and Head the Oxford Long-term Ecology group (see Oxford Long-term Ecology Lab). My research is focused on the use of fossils and modern datasets, models and innovative technologies to determine the diversity, distribution and abundance of plants and animals across global landscapes in space and time. This evidence-base is then used to understand biodiversity baselines, the resilience of biological communities to external shocks, the relationship between biodiversity and human health, and the distribution of natural capital assets across global landscapes that are important for human well-being.

In addition to the above two roles, I am also a member of the Government’s Natural Capital committee (NCC). My role on the NCC role entails interactions with a wide range of stakeholders from UK landowners through to Ministers (Secretary of State for Defra and Under-Secretaries) with a remit to advise on the delivery of UK’s 25-year plan for biodiversity. Through this role I have been directly involved in the development of the Government’s 25 Year Environmental Plan and the recently announced Biodiversity Offsetting and Environment Bills.

Recent grants include:

  • 2018-2021 - $1.98 million from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Principal Investigator - Willis: HUMBUG: Developing a mosquito monitoring tool for Least Developed Countries.
  • 2015-2018 - £450,000 from Belmont Foundation Grant. Co-Principal Investigator – Willis: Food Security Impacts of Industrial Crop Expansion in Sub-Sahara Africa (see: )
  • 2015-2018 - £500,000 from Google Impact Challenge Award. Principal Investigator - Willis: Remote assessment and identification of mosquito species using smartphone technologies (see: )
  • 2013-2018 - €1.9million from EU Life+ grant. Principal Investigator - Willis:  NaturEtrade creating a marketplace for ecosystem services (see: )
  • A new malaria vector in Africa: Predicting the expansion range of Anopheles stephensi and identifying the urban populations at risk.

  • Indigenous uses of wild and tended plant biodiversity maintain ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes of the Terai Plains of Nepal.

  • Identifying drivers of forest resilience in long-term records from the Neotropics.

  • Bioacoustic detection with wavelet-conditioned convolutional neural networks

  • A palynological perspective on the impacts of European contact: Historic deforestation, ranching and agriculture surrounding the Cuchumatanes Highlands, Guatemala

  • Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change.

  • Potential adaptive strategies for 29 sub-Saharan crops under future climate change

  • Enset in Ethiopia: a poorly characterized but resilient starch staple.

  • More