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School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

All Staff

Dr Stephen G Willis, BSc Msc PhD

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41379

(email at s.g.willis@durham.ac.uk)

Biography

Most of my recent research is tied to the role of climate and habitat in determining species distributions with as particular focus on conservation biology. Much of my research examines the effects of environmental change, particularly global climate change, on ecosystems and the mechanisms by which environmental change acts upon species. I also examine how environmental change impacts upon factors such as biodiversity and causes range shifts in both native and invasive species. Most of my research in this area involves ecological modelling using spatially explicit models and GIS, often incorporating remote-sensed data, though I also undertake experimental manipulations in the field. My research has involved collaboration with many research institutions e.g. NERC Centres for Ecology and Hydrology at Monks Wood, Banchory and Dorset, Universities of York, Leeds, Birmingham, Cambridge and Copenhagen and non-academic bodies such as English Nature, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, BirdLife International, Scottish Natural Heritage, British Trust for Ornithology, Environment Agency & Butterfly Conservation.

Research Projects

Ongoing Projects

1) PARCC (http://www.parcc-web.org/). Climate-proofing protected areas in West Africa.
Funding: UNEP
David Baker is the PDRA on this project, 2012-2014
 
2) Effectiveness of the global protected area system to conserve biodiversity
Funding: various
Alke Voskamp is the post-graduate student on this project, 2012-2015
 
3) Carbon stock in urban environments
Funding: IHRR
Steve Long worked as an intern on this project, 2012
 
4) A climate change index for North American breeding birds
Funding: Grevillea Trust
Jamie Alison is the post-gradate student on this project, 2012-2013
 
5) Simulating range shifts using linked climate-habitat-demographic models
Funding: Grevillea Trust
Bethan Hindle is the post-graduate student on this project, 2012-2013
 
6) Engaging students in biodiversity monitoring: using citizen science for research and learning
Funding: self-funded
Emily Perrin is the post-graduate student on this project (co-supervised with PAS), 2012-2013
 
7) Simulating population changes of trans-Saharan migratory birds
Funding: NERC with BTO CASE support
Christine Howard is the post-graduate student on this project, 2011-2015.
 
8) Modelling the migratory process in birds
Funding: Durham Doctoral Scholarship
Naiara O’Mahony is the post-graduate student on this project, 2011-2014
 
9) Assembling climate change indicators for countries across Europe
Funding: RSPB supported
Lucy Malpas is the PDRA on this project (at RSPB), 2012-2013
 
10) The impact of the recent La Nina climatic event in Australiaon the nomadic terrestrial birds of the interior
Funding: NERC
A team of 10 staff collected data in the field, 2011-2012
 
11) Adapting to climate change in protected areas ofSouth East Asia
Funding: MacArthur Foundation
Robi Bagchi is the PDRA on this project, 2009-2013
 
12) Modelling species’ dynamic responses to environmental change in South Africa
Funding Leverhulme Trust
Yvonne Collingham is the PDRA on this project (with BH), 2010-2014
 
13) Impacts of climate change on Alpine ungulates
Funding: NERC
Tom Mason is the post-graduate student on this project, 2010-213
 
14) Modelling the spread of deer across the UK and their impacts on biodiversity
Funding: Whitehead Trust
Georgina Palmer is the post-graduate student on this project, 2010-2013
 
15) Utilisation of protected and non-protected areas by vultures inSouth Africa
Funding: Leverhulme Trust
Louis Phipps was the post-graduate on this project (at University of Pretoria), 2010-2012
 
16) Implementing an adaptive management plan for the Albertine Rift
Funding: MacArthur Foundation
Robi Bagchi is the PDRA on this project, 2009-2013
 
17) Climate change impacts on a pan-European protected area network
Funding: RSPB)
Dave Hole, CI, continues to collaborate on this project.
 
18) Climate change impacts across trophic levels: effects of vegetation and predation on population dynamics of roe deer
Funding:Durham Doctoral Scholarship
 
Miranda Davis is the post-graduate student on this project (with PAS), 2010-2013
 

Post-graduate Completions in 2012:

1) Louis Phipps: 2-year MRes on ‘Spatial patterns of land-use by White-backed vultures from satellite-tracking across southern Africa’ (with Prof Naidoo, Pretoria Uni)

2) David Ochanda: 2-year MRes on ‘Climate and the distribution of endemic birds in the Albertine Rift Valley,East Africa’ (with Prof Pomeroy, Kampala Uni)

3) Julia Crabbe: Research MSc on ‘Biodiversity perception and value in UK protected areas’.

4) Chantelle Kerr: Research MSc on ‘Range changes in British butterflies: the roles of climate, habitat and dispersal in patterns of spread’.

5) Charlotte Bellamy: Research MSc on ‘The use of birds as biodiversity indicators of climatic change: downscaling European indicators to regional and national trends’.

Alumni and Past Projects:

1) Climate Change and African Important Bird Areas
Funding: RSPB
Collaborators: RSPB, BirdLife International

Dr Dave Hole was employed as PDRA on this project. Dave now works for Conservation International

2) Climate change impacts on European migratory birds
Funding: NERC CASE studentship
Collaborators: RSPB

Nathalie Doswald completed this project for her PhD. Nathalie now works for WCMC, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre

3) Using Sr isotopes to infer the origins of migrant birds
Funding: Nuffield Foundation
Collaborators: Northern Centre for Isotopic and Elemental Tracing (NCIET)

Dr Laura Font was the PDRA collaborating on this project. Laura Font is now an NFI and EU funded Post-doctoral researcher at Amsterdam University.

4) Conservation in the face of climate change: developing an adaptive management framework across Africa
Funding: The Macarthur Foundation
Collaborators: The BirdLife Partnership

Dr Dave Hole was the PDRA on this project. Dave Hole now works for CI in Washington, USA.

5) Climate change impacts on protected areas across Europe
Funding: EU
Collaborators: BirdLife Europe, RSPB

Dr Yvonne Collingham was the PDRA on this project.

6) A stable isotope approach to trace the unknown breeding grounds of the Slender-billed Curlew
Funding: RSPB
Collaborators: RSPB, Northern Centre for Isotopic and Elemental Tracing (NCIET)

7) The potential costs of climate change to ecotourism revenue in Africa
Funding: Self-funded
Collaborators: University of Stirling

Georgina Palmer worked on this project for her research MSc

8) Using climate envelope models to simulate migrant bird distributions on breeding and non-breeding ranges: Applications and validation at fine spatial scales
Funding: Durham University
Collaborators: University of St Andrews

Mark Boyd worked on this project for a research MSc

9) Incorporating climatic change into the selection of priority areas for conservation
Funding: Self-funded
Collaborators: BirdLife International

George Frater worked on this project for his research MSc

Research Groups

Publications

Books: authored

  • Huntley, B., Green, Rhys E., Collingham, Yvonne C. & Willis, Stephen G. (2007). A climatic atlas of European breeding birds. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Books: reviews

  • Willis, SG. (2006). The new standard text for fledgling ornithologists. Global Ecology and Biogeography 15: 318-319.

Books: sections

  • Huntley,B, Hole, DG & Willis, SG (2011). Assessing the effectiveness of a protected area network in the face of climatic change. In Climate Change, Ecology and Systematics. Hodkinson, Jones, Waldren & Parnell. Cambridge University Press. Systematics Association Special Volume Series.
  • Willis, SG, Hole, DG & Huntley, B (2010). Climate change and conservation. In Trade-offs in conservation: Deciding what to save. Leader-Williams, N, Adams, B & Smith, R. Blackwell. Conservation Science and Practice Series.
  • Rogers, DJ, Randolph, SE, Lindsay, SW & Willis, SG (2008). Vector-borne diseases. In Health effects of climate change in the UK. Department of Health and Health Protection Agency Crown Publishing.
  • Lindsay, SW & Willis, SG (2006). Predicting future areas suitable for vivax malaria in the United Kingdom. Chapter in. In Foresight; Infectious diseases: Preparing for the future. Office of Science and Innovation, London.
  • B. Huntley, R. Baxter, Y. C. Collingham, S. G. Willis & M. Sykes (2003). Insights on synergies: models and methods. In Climate Change and Biodiversity. Lovejoy & Hannah Yale University Press. pp15-23.
  • Overpeck, J., Whitlock, C., Huntley, B., Bartlein, PJ., Collingham, YC., Grimm, EC., Webb, TI., Williams, JW. & Willis, SW. (2003). Terrestrial biosphere dynamics in the climate system: past and future. In Palaeoclimate, global change and the future. Springer.
  • Hulme, PE., Crawley, M., Hofgaard, A., Huntley, B., Lurtz, P., O'Connell, M., Rushton, S., Schaffner, U., Sykes, M., Vila, M., Watt, A. & Willis, SG. (2000). Alien species and outbreaking species in ecosystems. In Terrestrial ecosystem research in Europe: successes, challenges and policy. M.A. Sutton, J.M. Moreno, W.H. van der Putten & S. Struwe European Communities. 44-48.
  • Willis, SG., Hulme, PE. & Huntley, B. (1997). Habitat suitability and the distribution of alien weeds of riparian ecosystems. In Species dispersal and land-use processes. A. Cooper & J. Power IALE (UK). 37-44.
  • Wadsworth, RA., Swetnam, RD. & Willis, SG. (1997). Seeds and sediment: modelling the spread of Impatiens glandulifera Royle. In Species dispersal and land-use processes. A. Cooper & J. Power IALE (UK). 53-60.

Journal papers: academic