Faculty of Biological Sciences

Prof Bill Kunin

AB, Princeton; MPP, Harvard (Kennedy School); PhD 1991, Univ. Washington (Zoology).
Professor of Ecology
School of Biology

Background: Bill Kunin 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. He 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. He was promoted to become Reader in spatial ecology in 2006. He lives in a pink house in the suburbs with his wife, Helen Lewis, and their two sets of twins, Nat, Miriam, Toby and Sam. His research focuses on spatial aspects of the interactions between plants and the pollinator and herbivores that feed upon them, but extends to cover aspects of conservation biology, community ecology and biogeographic issues. He manages the BSc programme in Ecology & Environmental Biology, is director of BIOCONS (the European Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Research) - a Marie Curie Early Stage Training site, and is active in organising the University's interdisciplinary Earth and Biosphere Institute, and UKPopNet - a NERC-funded distributed centre of population biology research. His current research includes several interdisciplinary collaborations, including a NERC PgP project on the range limits of a sub-arctic/alpine plant, two RELU projects on scale effects in farmland biodiversity and sustainable uplands, and coordinating field based research in the EU FP6 ALARM project.

Contact:  Miall 9.19, +44(0) 113 34 32857, email address for  

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, 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.  These experiments have highlighted strong positive effects of population density on pollination, while effects on herbivores varies greatly, raising interesting questions for future research.

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 fractal and other multi-scale models to describe and predict the spatial and temporal dynamics of such populations.  Modelling work suggests that autocorrelation in dynamics and disturbance may be key in predicting the probability of extinction.   More generally, I have begun work on species distributions, and in particular of the dynamics of populations at the margins of a species’ range.  Some of this recent work has included collaborations with molecular geneticists to examine the factors limiting populations in these marginal areas. 

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.  We will soon begin work on the role of surrounding landscapes in explaining local biodiversity in agricultural and upland landscapes, in the UK and across Europe.

My research has been funded by NERC (including a large collaborative Postgenomics project), the EU (as part of the ALARM consortium), the US Forest Service and the interdisciplinary Rural Economy and Land Use and Insect Pollinator Initiative programmes.

Bill Kunin


Current Projects


Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

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:

Modules managed

BLGY2313 - Mediterranean Ecology Field Course
BLGY5102M - Community Ecology
BLGY5156M - Masters Mediterranean Ecology Field Course

Modules taught

BLGY1124/1128 - The Diversity of Life/Living Planet
BLGY1125 - Biology Practicals and Data Analysis
BLGY1128 - Living Planet
BLGY1303 - Tutorials for Biology and Genetics
BLGY1304 - Research Experience and Skills Level 1
BLGY2100 - Enhanced Study Skills for Biologists
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY3133 - Advanced Topics in Ecology
BLGY3340 - Biology Research Projects
BLGY5102M - Community Ecology
BLGY5191M - Biodiversity and Conservation MSc and MRes Summer Project
BLGY5198M - Biodiversity and Conservation MRes Research Project 1

Centre membership: The Earth and Biosphere Institute

Group Leader Prof Bill Kunin  (Professor of Ecology)

Spatial aspects of population and community ecology and conservation biology 

Prof Les Firbank  (Professor of Sustainable Agriculture)

Sustainable land management 

Dr Mark Goddard  (Visiting Researcher)

Biodiversity conservation in urban environments 

Dr Richard Gunton  (Research Fellow)

Spatial community ecology 


Andrea Barden (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
David Brooks (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Jordan Chetcuti (Primary supervisor) 100% FTE
Thomas Dally (Primary supervisor) 80% FTE
Johan Fruh (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Sofia Biffi (Co-supervisor) 25% FTE
Luca Budello (Co-supervisor) 30% FTE
Solène Guenat (Co-supervisor) 33% FTE
James Hunter (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Jens Van Eeckhoven (Co-supervisor) 25% FTE