Whittaker, R.J., Fernández-Palacios, J.M., Matthews, T.J., Borregaard, M.K. and Triantis, K.A. (2017) Island biogeography: Taking the long view of nature's laboratories. Science. View: Abstract | Reprint | Full text.

Academic Profile

Rob Whittaker has a BSc in Botany and Geography from the University of Hull (1980), an MSc in Ecology from University College North Wales (1982), and a doctorate from University College Cardiff (1985), where he studied vegetation succession on recently deglaciated terrain, in the Jotunheimen, Norway. He joined the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment in 1986, having previously worked for a year as a research officer at Birkbeck College, London. In 1990 he was appointed to a university lectureship and a fellowship at St Edmund Hall. In 1999 he was awarded the title of Reader and, in 2004, Professor of Biogeography.

Rob has published over 140 peer-review articles and is author or co-author of several books. Recently collaborations within Rob's research group have included two Marie Curie fellows (Dr Miguel Araújo and Dr Kostas Triantis) and three Rhodes Scholars (Dr Niall O'Dea, Dr Ben Sharp and Dr James Watson).

Rob is the editor-in-chief of Frontiers of Biogeography, the scientific magazine of the International Biogeography Society. He served as editor-in-chief of Global Ecology & Biogeography - a journal of macroecology - from 1995 to 2004, and as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biogeography, the leading international journal in biogeography from 2004 to 2015. Rob is a founding member of the International Biogeography Society, was a Director-at-Large from 2005-2006, was co-convener of the biennial meeting, Tenerife 9-13 January 2007, and was President of the International Biogeography Society for 2009-2010.

Rob Whittaker was appointed a Full Professor (part time) in the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen for a fixed term from June 2015 to December 2019. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Society of Biology in September 2011. Rob was elected a foreign member of the Academia das Ciências de Lisboa in July 2011.

Current Research

Rob is a member of the Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Conservation research cluster. He works on island biogeography, conservation biogeography, diversity theory and macroecology and is a core member of the Conservation Biogeography and Macroecology Programme. His recent and ongoing research programmes have involved international collaborations with laboratories in Greece, Portugal and Spain including the following projects as member or partner:

  • Species-area relationship: new challenges for an old pattern.
    2007-2008: European Commission, 6th Framework Programme on Research, Technological Development and Demonstration (Marie Curie Actions, Intra-European Fellowships held by Kostas A. Triantis).
  • Native and invasive species on islands: the functionality perspective.
    Fundação da Ciência e Tecnologia, funding 2008-2010; partner on project led by Dr Paulo Borges of the Azorean Biodiversity Group, University of the Azores.
  • Predicting extinctions on islands: a multi-scale assessment
    Project FCT- PTDC/BIA-BEC/100182/2008; partner on project led by Dr Paulo Borges of the Azorean Biodiversity Group, University of the Azores; (2010-2013).
  • Biodiversity on oceanic islands: towards a unified theory
    PTDC/BIA-BIC/119255/2010 Budget: 99 000 Euros; started July 2012.
  • Palaeoecological studies in the Canary Islands
    Please also see: The long-term dynamics of the Macaronesian islands and their biota.
    1. Laguna Grande in the National Park of Garajonay
      Ref: 003/2008; Spanish Ministry of the Environment, and Rural and Marine Environs, 2008-2009; PI: J.M. Fernández-Palacios, participants: K.J. Willis, R.J. Whittaker, and L. de Nascimento.
    2. History of Canarian vegetation since Last Glacial Maximum: using the past to manage the future
      Ref: CGL2009-10939; Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, 2010-2012); PI: J.M. Fernández-Palacios, participants: K.J. Willis, R.J. Whittaker, R. Otto, and L. de Nascimento.
    3. Vegetation history in Tenerife during the Holocene
      Ref: SolSubC200801000053; Canarian Government, 2009-2012; PI: J.M. Fernández-Palacios, participants: K.J. Willis, R.J. Whittaker, S. Nogué, and L. de Nascimento.
  • Island-Biodiv
    Understanding biodiversity dynamics in tropical and subtropical island in an aid to science based conservation action. Member of steering group for project provisionally selected for funding under the Netbiome 2010 call. PI: Brent Emerson.


Undergraduate Teaching

Rob teaches the 'Ecology of the Biosphere' module of the 'Earth System Processes' course for the Preliminary Examination. He teaches the 'Island Life' Finals option, and also teaches on the option course 'Biogeography, Biodiversity and Conservation' for the Final Honour School.

Postgradate Teaching

Rob teaches 'Conservation Biogeography', 'Strategic Conservation Planning' and takes the Tenerife Field Course for the MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Management. Rob also acts as college adviser to around four students a year on the MSc in BCM within St Edmund Hall.

Current Graduate Research Students

Iqbal Singh Bhalla

The distribution and ecosystem services of insectivorous bats in Indian rice plantations

Sergio Henrique Collaço de Carvalho

Protected Area Financing in Megadiverse Upper-Middle Income Countries

Laure Rurangwa

Impact of land-use change on bird communities of a Rwandan Biodiversity hotspot

Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)

Sarah Terry
Completed DPhil in 2016

Spaces for nature: neoliberal conservation in post-Reformasi South Sumatra

Eden Cottee-Jones
Completed DPhil in 2015

Isolated Ficus trees and conservation in human-modified landscapes

Thomas Matthews
Completed DPhil in 2015

Analysing and modelling the impact of habitat fragmentation on species diversity: a macroecological perspective

Leticia Ochoa Ochoa
Completed DPhil in 2012

Amphibian diversity conservation in a changing world: a view from Mexico

Cecile Girardin
Completed DPhil in 2011

Tropical montane forest ecosystem responses to mean temperature change

Ana Malhado
Completed DPhil in 2009

The functional biogeography of the Amazon forest canopy.

Janice Golding
Completed DPhil in 2008

Change in plant biodiversity of the Flora Zambesiaca region of south-central Africa.

Selected Publications

  • View Professor Robert J. Whittaker's ORCID profile
  • View Professor Robert J. Whittaker's Scopus profile
  • View Professor Robert J. Whittaker's ResearchGate profile
  • View Professor Robert J. Whittaker's Academia.edu profile
  • View Professor Robert J. Whittaker's Google Scholar profile
  • View Professor Robert J. Whittaker's ResearcherID profile


  • Cover: Biogeography, 5th ednLomolino, M.V., Riddle, B.R., and Whittaker, R.J. (2017) Biogeography, 5th edn. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA. pp. 730. ISBN: 9781605354729.
  • Cover: Conservation BiogeographyLadle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (eds.) (2011) Conservation Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 320. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3503-3.
  • Cover: Biogeography, 4th editionLomolino, M.V., Riddle, B.R., Whittaker, R.J. and Brown, J.H. (2010) Biogeography, 4th edition. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA, USA. pp. 764. ISBN: 978-0-87893-494-2.
  • Cover: Island Biogeography: ecology, evolution and conservation, 2nd ednWhittaker, R.J. and Fernández-Palacios, J.M. (2007) Island Biogeography: ecology, evolution and conservation, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp. 416. ISBN: 978-0-19-856612-0.
  • Matthews, J.A., Bridges, E.M., Caseldine, C.J., Luckman, A.J., Owen, G., Perry, A.H., Shakesby, R.A., Walsh, R.P.D., Whittaker, R.J. and Willis, K.J. (eds.) (2001) The Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Environmental Change. London: Arnold xiii. pp. 690.
  • Whittaker, R.J. (ed.) (1998) Island Biogeography: ecology, evolution and conservation. Oxford University Press, Oxford. pp. 285.

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • Fuller, R.A., Ladle, R.J., Whittaker, R.J. and Possingham, H.P. (2011) Planning for Persistence in a Changing World. Chapter 7 in, Ladle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (eds.) Conservation Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 161-189. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3503-3.
  • Jepson, P., Whittaker, R.J. and Lourie, S.A. (2011) The Shaping of the Global Protected Area Estate. Chapter 5 in, Ladle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J (eds.) Conservation Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 93-135. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3503-3.
  • Ladle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (2011) Prospects and Challenges. Chapter 10 in, Ladle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (eds.) Conservation Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 245-258. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3503-3.
  • Riddle, B.R., Ladle, R.J., Lourie, S.A. and Whittaker, R.J. (2011) Basic Biogeography: Estimating Biodiversity and Mapping Nature. Chapter 4 in, Ladle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (eds.) Conservation Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 45-92. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3503-3.
  • Whittaker, R.J. and Ladle, R.J. (2011) The Roots of Conservation Biogeography. Chapter 1 in, Ladle, R.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (eds.) Conservation Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 1-12. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3503-3.
  • Shilton, L.A. and Whittaker, R.J. (2010) The role of pteropodid bats (Megachiroptera) in re-establishing tropical forests on Krakatau. In, Fleming, T.H. and Racey, P.A. (eds.) Island Bats: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. pp. 176-215. ISBN: 9780226253305.
  • Triantis, K., Borges, P.A.V., Hortal, J. and Whittaker, R.J. (2010) The Macaronesian province: patterns of species richness and endemism of arthropods. In, Serrano, A.R.M., Borges, P.A.V., Boieiro, M. and P. Oromí (eds.) Terrestrial arthropods of Macronesia - Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution. Sociedade Portuguesa de Entomologia. pp. 45-64.
  • Whittaker, R.J., Triantis, K.A. and Ladle, R.J. (2010) A general dynamic theory of oceanic island biogeography: extending the MacArthur-Wilson theory to accommodate the rise and fall of volcanic islands. In, Losos, J.B. and Ricklefs, R.E. (eds.) The Theory of Island Biogeography Revisited. Princeton University Press. pp. 88-115. ISBN: 9781400831920.
  • Triantis, K.A. and Whittaker, R.J. (2009) Radiation zone. In, Gillespie, R. and D. Clague (eds.) Encyclopedia of Islands. University of California Press. pp. 772-775.
  • Henderson, S.J. and Whittaker, R.J. (2003) Islands, version 1.0. In, Nature Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Nature Publishing Group.
  • Whittaker, R.J., Willis, K.J. and Field, R. (2003) Climatic-energetic explanations of diversity: a macroscopic perspective. In, Blackburn, T.M. and Gaston, K.J. (eds.) Macroecology: concepts and consequences. British Ecological Society Symposia Series, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. pp. 107-129.
  • Whittaker, R.J. (2002) Island Biogeography. In, M. Pagel et al. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Whittaker, R.J. (2000) Krakatau. In, M.C. MacCracken and J.S. Perry (eds.) Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change. John Wiley, Chichester.
  • Whittaker, R.J. and Bush, M.B. (1993) Dispersal and establishment of tropical forest assemblages, Krakatau, Indonesia. Chapter 12 in, J. Miles and D.W.H. Walton (eds.) Primary Succession on Land. . pp. 147-160. Special publication series of the British Ecological Society.
  • Whittaker, R.J. (1992) Biogeography and ecology. In, Rogers, A., Goudie, A.S. and Viles, H. (eds.) The Student's Companion to Geography. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 41-48.