Dr David Williams

Dr David Williams

I am a conservation scientist interested in preserving the incredible diversity of life on Earth while also looking after people. I largely do this by examining how different land-use strategies change the impact of food production on biodiversity. My background is in natural sciences, but I integrate social science techniques and am seeking to expand my collaboration with social scientists. In particular, my main areas of research at the moment are local and regional land-use strategies that provide everything that people need at the least cost to the natural world; global patterns of land-use change and the likely impacts on biodiversity; understanding and tackling the underlying drivers of biodiversity decline; and maximising the impact of research.

Much of my research has focused on the “land sparing / land sharing” debate, which asks whether biodiversity is best served through small areas of high-yielding agriculture, or larger areas of more wildlife-friendly farming.

Working with Dr Michael Clark, I have developed a high-resolution model to project where land-use change is most likely to occur. We then combine that with maps of suitable habitats for thousands of species to estimate where the impacts of agricultural expansion are likely to be the most severe. This provides vital data for conservation scientists, planners, and policymakers to plan conservation responses.

Michael ClarkDavid Tilman, and I have developed methods to link future projections of human food demand to possible changes in biodiversity. We can then tweak these projections to see what has the biggest impact in different parts of the world.

The ultimate goal of conservation science is to preserve biodiversity and the benefits it provides to humanity. However, much of the time, we focus on the detrimental changes: “How is biodiversity declining? Where? And why?” Much more rarely do we ask: “What are the concrete steps we can take to save species?”. I want to change this!