Professor William Kunin


I graduated in Biology from Princeton, received a Masters Degree in Public Policy at Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Washington in Seattle. I moved to Britain to take a postdoctoral position at the Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College, and moved to Leeds to take up a lectureship in ecology in 1996. I was promoted to become Professor of Ecology in 2009. I live in a pink house in the suburbs with my wife, two sets of (large) twins, a Romanian rescue puppy, and quite a few plants.

My research focuses on spatial aspects of the interactions between plants and the pollinators and herbivores that feed upon them, but extends to cover aspects of conservation biology, community ecology and biogeographic issues. I served as director of BIOCONS (the European Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Research) - a Marie Curie Early Stage Training site, and serves as Biosphere leader withoin the interdisciplinary NERC Doctoral Training Partnership (SPHERES). My current research includes several interdisciplinary collaborations, including two Global Challenges Research Fund projects in southern and eastern Africa.


  • Deputy Head of School (School of Biology)
  • Biosphere leader for NERC Doctoral Training Partnership

Research interests

Spatial aspects of population and community ecology and conservation biology.

I am interested in rare species and the factors that influence their populations: their interactions with their environment and with the species that compete with them and feed upon them.  I focus particularly on plant populations, their spatial density patterns, and on their interactions with insect herbivores and pollinators.  Much of my work has relied on manipulative field experiments in which I have set up controlled populations of plants and investigated the effect on pollination and herbivory.  This work has led to larger-scale considerations of how such interactions are affected by land management, in particular in agricultural landscapes, and to wider issues of pollinator and plant conservation (and monitoring).

I also focus on community patterns, and in particular on the spatial patterns of abundance and biodiversity. Natural populations tend to be spatially complex, with individuals patchily distributed across a wide range of spatial scales.  One aspect of my recent work has been the application of multi-scale approaches to describe and predict the spatial and temporal dynamics of such populations and the consequences for community biodiversity patterns.  Modelling work suggests that autocorrelation in dynamics and disturbance may be key in predicting the probability of extinction.   The structure and dynamics of species distruibutions, and in particular the ecology and evolution of populations at range margins are of partiucular interest to me.

A third key research area is biodiversity: its maintenance and conservation.  I have conducted research on the role of dispersal across environmental boundaries on diversity (spatial mass effects), one of a range of mechanisms which may help maintain diverse natural communities.  My group has played a substantial role in documenting historic declines in pollinator diversity, and trying to assess the importance of potential driving factors such as shifts in the abundance and diversity of floral resources at landscape and national scales.  We have also been involved in helping develop and test methods for monitoring pollinator populations, and insects more widely: helping design and implement a UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS), and exploring novel approaches based on accoustic and radar monitoring.

My research has been funded by NERC, BBSRC, the EU (as part of the ALARM, SCALES, STEP, EU-BON, ExpeER and BESTMAP projects), and the interdisciplinary Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) and Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI) programmes.  Recently, I have also been involved with research under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Defra.

  • NERC BioDar project: Developing and testing tools to monitor insect abundance and diversity using weather radar (
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation PestDar project: Using weather radar to monitor agricultural pest outbreaks in Africa
  • Defra PoMS contracts:  Designing, piloting and implementing a national pollinator monitoring scheme ( 
  • EU H2020 BESTMAP project: developing behavioural, ecological  and socio-economic tools for (
  • BBSRC Global Challenges Research Fund -- "VOICES" and "AFRICAP" projects (;
  • BBSRC Global Food Security Resilient Dairy project ( )
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • AB, Princeton;
  • MPP, Harvard (Kennedy School)
  • PhD 1991, Univ. Washington (Zoology).

Student education

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Population, community and behavioural ecology; specific topics as for research interests.

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • The effects of spatial scale on species incidence and interactions

See also:

Research groups and institutes

  • Ecology and Evolution

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>