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: )

Selected Publications

2016. Seddon, A.W.R., Macias-Fauria, M., Long, P.R., Benz, D., Willis, K.J. Sensitivity of global terrestrial ecosystems to climate variability. Nature, 531, 229-232. doi:10.1038/nature16986

2016. Baker, A. G., Cornelissen, P., Bhagwat, S. A., Vera, F. W. M. and Willis, K. J.Quantification of population sizes of large herbivores and their long-term functional role in ecosystems using dung fungal spores. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12580

2016. Nogué, S., Long, P.R., Eycott, A.E., de Nascimento, L., Fernández-Palacios, J.M., Petrokofsky, G., Vandvik, V., Willis, K.J. Pollination service delivery for European crops: Challenges and opportunities, Ecological Economics, 128, 1-7,

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 Applications25 (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. 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. 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






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