Dr Paul Wilkin

Head of Ecosystem Stewardship


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. 

  • 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)

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. 

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. 

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 6:29136. 

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. 

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. 187: 232–246.