Professor Baroness Willis

Principal

Professor Baroness (Katherine (Kathy)) Willis, CBE, took up the role as Principal of St Edmund Hall on 1 October 2018. Kathy is also Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.

Prior to this, between December 2013 and September 2018 Professor Willis was Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where she spearheaded the launch of Kew’s Science Strategy 2015-2020. She also previously held the Tasso Leventis Chair of Biodiversity at Oxford and was founding Director of the Oxford Martin School Biodiversity Institute.

Professor Willis’ research interests focus on the relationship between long-term ecosystem dynamics and environmental change. She has published extensively being author of over 100 scientific publications, including the landmark book The Evolution of Plants, now in its second edition. She has also written several popular science books (including Plants: From Roots to Riches and Botanicum) and she explored the importance of plants through the BBC Radio 4 series Plants: From Roots to Riches. In August 2015, Professor Willis was awarded the prestigious Michael Faraday Prize from the Royal Society for her excellent work in science communication and in February 2016 she was appointed to the Natural Capital Committee, an independent advisory body to the UK Government which will take forward the implementation of the new 25-year Environment Plan. Professor Willis was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list in June 2018.

The House of Lords Appointment Commission appointed Professor Willis to the House of Lords as non-party-political life peer on 17 May 2022. The appointment recognises her contribution to biodiversity science and to policy formulation in roles such as her membership of the government’s Natural Capital Committee and in scrutiny of the scientific evidence base underpinning the Government’s 25-year environment plan. Professor Willis will be taking up this role alongside her continuing duties as Principal of St Edmund Hall.

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