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: )
  • Multi-dimensional poverty effects around operational biofuel projects in Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland

  • LEFTA web-based tool for the remote measurement and estimation of ecological value across global landscapes

  • Exploring the Ecological History of a Tropical Agroforestry Landscape Using Fossil Pollen and Charcoal Analysis from Four Sites in Western Ghats, India

  • Island biodiversity conservation needs palaeoecology.

  • Phytolith analysis reveals the intensity of past land use change in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot

  • The natural capital of city trees.

  • Vegetation of Eurasia from the last glacial maximum to present: Key biogeographic patterns

  • Landscape Erosion, Karstic Activity and the Development of a Wetland in the Southern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon During the Last Glacial Period

  • More
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