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: https://supportoffice.jp/ficessa/ )
2015-2018 - £500,000 from Google Impact Challenge Award. Principal Investigator - Willis: Remote assessment and identification of mosquito species using smartphone technologies (see: http://humbug.ac.uk/ )
2013-2018 - €1.9million from EU Life+ grant. Principal Investigator - Willis: NaturEtrade creating a marketplace for ecosystem services (see: http://naturetrade.net/ )
Multi-dimensional poverty effects around operational biofuel projects in Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland
Biomass and Bioenergy
LEFTA web-based tool for the remote measurement and estimation of ecological value across global landscapes
Island biodiversity conservation needs palaeoecology.
Nature ecology & evolution
The discovery and colonization of islands by humans has invariably resulted in their widespread ecological transformation. The small and isolated populations of many island taxa, and their evolution in the absence of humans and their introduced taxa, mean that they are particularly vulnerable to human activities. Consequently, even the most degraded islands are a focus for restoration, eradication, and monitoring programmes to protect the remaining endemic and/or relict populations. Here, we build a framework that incorporates an assessment of the degree of change from multiple baseline reference periods using long-term ecological data. The use of multiple reference points may provide information on both the variability of natural systems and responses to successive waves of cultural transformation of island ecosystems, involving, for example, the alteration of fire and grazing regimes and the introduction of non-native species. We provide exemplification of how such approaches can provide valuable information for biodiversity conservation managers of island ecosystems.
Phytolith analysis reveals the intensity of past land use change in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot