Dr Paul Wilkin

Head of Natural Capital and Plant Health

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Biography Plus

My current role is to lead and drive forward Kew’s science and conservation via helping to deliver its science and collections strategies. In so doing I will strengthen its position as a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge, and promote plant and fungal-based solutions to current global challenges.

My personal research is primarily on the tuberous yams (Dioscorea), and Enset (Ensete). Yams provides both dietary starch for millions and secondary compounds of considerable economic importance. Enset is a key starch staple for 20 million people in southern Ethiopia, as well as providing a broad range of further ecosystem services and having the potential to be a climate smart crop with a major role in the future of Africa. Approaches encompass taxonomy, systematics, conservation and metabolomics, including phylogenomic and population genetics to investigate crop, crop wild relative and edible/wild yam diversity with a view to improved livelihoods and economic innovation. 

Qualifications and appointments Plus
  • BA, Natural Sciences, Cambridge, 1987
  • MSc, Pure & Applied Plant Taxonomy, Univ. Reading, 1988
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1993.
  • Member of Palynology Specialist Group, Linnaean Society
  • Council & Newsletter Editor, Systematics Association (2002-2005)
Selected publications Plus

Filloux, D., Murrell, S., Koohapitagtam, M., Golden, M., Julian, C., Galzi, S., Uzest, M., Rodier-Goud, M., D'Hont, A., Vernerey, M.S., Wilkin, P., Peterschmitt, M., Winter, S., Murrell, B., Martin, D.P. & Roumagnac, P. (2015)

The genomes of many yam species contain transcriptionally active endogenous geminiviral sequences that may be functionally expressed

Virus Evolution 2015 1 (1): vev002. Available online

Viruel, J., Segarra-Moragues, J., Raz, L., Forest, F., Wilkin, P., Sanmartín, I & Catalán, P. (2016)

Late Cretaceous–Early Eocene origin of yams (Dioscorea, Dioscoreaceae) in the Laurasian Palaearctic and their subsequent Oligocene–Miocene diversification

Journal of Biogeography 43: 750–762. Available online

Price, E.J., Wilkin, P., Sarasan, V. & Fraser, P.D. (2016)

Metabolite profiling of Dioscorea(yam) species reveals underutilised biodiversity and renewable sources for high-value compounds

Scientific Reports. 2016; 6:29136. Available online 

Maurin, O., Muasya, A.M., Catalan, P., Shongwe, E.Z., Viruel, J., Wilkin, P. & van der Bank, M. (2016)

Diversification into novel habitats in the Africa clade of Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae): erect habit and elephant’s foot tubers

BMC Evolutionary Biology 16 :238. Available online 

Viruel, J., Forest, F., Paun, O., Chase, M.W., Devey, D., Couto, R.S., Segarra-Moragues, J.G., Catalan, P. & Wilkin, P. (2018)

A nuclear Xdh phylogenetic analysis of yams (Dioscorea, Dioscoreaceae) congruent with plastid trees reveals a new Neotropical lineage

Bot. J. Linn. Soc. (in press). Available online

Projects Plus