Oxford Long-Term Ecology Lab

Long-Term Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship Technologies

Current Projects

A Holocene palaeoenvironmental reconstruction for Nicaragua & Guatemala; synthesising climate, vegetation and pre-Columbian civilisation
The Role of Soil Nutrients in Arctic Greening
Local Ecological Footprinting Tool (LEFT)
Restoring native biological diversity in the Galápagos Islands: determination of baseline ecological conditions
Forest Conservation in a Changing World: using palaeoecology to improve the effectiveness of conservation planning in the Apuseni Mountain, NW Romania
Potential impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem function in small-holder agro-ecosystems in Northern Ghana
Rapid Ecosystem Service Assessment Technique (RESAT) : An indicator methodology for assessing ecosystem processes and function, goods and services, and human well-being in agricultural landscapes
Systemic Integrated Adaptation planning framework
Linking soil management to ecosystem functions and services in oil palm plantings
Resilient landscapes in the Okavango Delta Ecosystem
Resilience of Tropical Peat Swamp Forests
Holocene tree-cover in Europe and implications for re-wilding strategies
Impact of EU Agri-environment policies on ecosystem functioning
Resilience of Southeast Asian Lowland Rainforest to large-scale climatic changes
Disturbance regimes in Central African Rainforests
Retrospectively evaluating the effectiveness of Community Based Conservation projects in Madagascar
Mammal defauntation and trophic cascades in Ethiopia
100,000 years of Climate change and forest resilience in the Eastern Mediterranean
Optimising Protected Area Networks in Europe
Unravelling biofuel impacts on ecosystem services, human wellbeing and poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa
Agro-economic and ecological impact of GM and non-GM cotton farming in India
Long Term Biodiversity Change of Canary Islands
Floods & Droughts: Environmental Dynamics in the Upper Zambezi Valley
Role of Sacred Sites in Conservation
Palaeo-Trophic Cascades (PACE)
Palynological Reconstructions of Past Solar Radiation (PARASOL)

Completed Projects

Academic Profile

Kathy Willis is Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Zoology and a Professorial Fellow at Merton College. She gained her first degree in Geography and Environmental Science from the University of Southampton, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in Plant Sciences. In her early postdoctoral career, Prof. Willis held a Selwyn College Research Fellowship and then a NERC Postdoctoral Fellowship in the department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge. This was followed by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in the Godwin Institute for Quaternary Research, University of Cambridge. Kathy moved to a University Lectureship in the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford in 1999 where she established the Oxford Long-term Ecology Laboratory in 2002 and was made a Professor of Long-term Ecology in 2008. Kathy Willis was appointed first Director of the James Martin Biodiversity Institute in Zoology in October 2010.

Kathy is currently on a 5-year secondment (2013-2018) from Oxford University to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew as their first Director of Science. She spends approximately 80% of her time in Kew and 20% in Oxford. In Kew,  she is 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 (read more about the science strategy here).

Kathy also holds a Professor II (adjunct Professor) at the University of Bergen, Norway and serves on the following committees and advisory boards:


Current Research

Kathy’s research examines long-term biodiversity responses to environmental change. Specifically she works 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.

Her 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

Selected Publications