8 July 2022
Dr William J Baker
Senior Research Leader
Fundamental plant diversity research, including taxonomy, systematics, phylogenetics, evolution and biogeography of angiosperms, especially palms
I am a systematic biologist, working in the fields of taxonomy, phylogenetics, evolution, biogeography and conservation of flowering plants. My work draws extensively on biological collections, especially at RBG Kew, spanning herbarium, lab and field to address fundamental questions in plant diversity research. Current research interests include:
- The angiosperm tree of life – I lead Kew’s Tree of Life Initiative in which we aim to complete the angiosperm tree of life by sequencing all 13,600 genera using the universal genomic toolkit Angiosperms353.
- Palm systematics and taxonomy – Palms are a model group for tropical research and are of immense ecological and economic importance. I have specialised in the taxonomy, systematics and evolution of this fascinating family for the past three decades.
- Applications of the tree of life – I am interested in exploring uses of the tree of life (and the data that underpin it) in broader comparative and applied research. Recent studies have addressed questions in global biogeography, biome evolution, speciation, trait evolution and sustainable management of natural resources.
- BA (Hons), Univ. Oxford, 1993
- MSc, Univ. Reading, 1994
- PhD, Univ. Reading, 1997
- Member, IUCN SSC Palm Specialist Group
Baker, W.J., Bailey, P., Barber, V. et al. (2022)
A comprehensive phylogenomic platform for exploring the angiosperm tree of life.
Systematic Biology (online early)
Johnson, M.G., Pokorny, L., Dodsworth, S. et al. (including Baker, W.J.) (2019)
A universal probe set for targeted sequencing of 353 nuclear genes from any flowering plant designed using k-medoids clustering.
Systematic Biology 68: 594–606. [Flagged as “Highly Cited” by Systematic Biology]
Baker, W. J. & Couvreur, T. L. P. (2013).
Global biogeography and diversification of palms sheds light on the evolution of tropical lineages. II. Diversification history and origin of regional assemblages.
Journal of Biogeography 40: 286–298.
Couvreur, T. L. P., Forest, F. & Baker, W. J. (2011).
Origin and global diversification patterns of tropical rain forests: inferences from a complete genus-level phylogeny of palms.
BMC Biology 9: 44.
Dransfield, J., Uhl, N. W., Asmussen, C. B., Baker, W. J., Harley, M. M. & Lewis, C. E. (2008).
Genera Palmarum – the evolution and classification of palms.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 732 pages Available in the Kew shop.
The Tree of Life Initiative
Expanding and populating the tree of life for plants and fungi
Completing the Plant Tree of Life
Discovering and disseminating the evolutionary history of all plant genera.
Darwin Tree of Life
Sequencing the genomes of all eukaryotic species in Britain and Ireland.
DNA barcoding and conservation of rattans in trade
Developing comprehensive DNA-based identification tools and extinction risk analysis to support a more sustainable rattan industry
Evolution and diversification of the palms and their seed traits
The palm tree-of-life as a key to palm seed conservation. Phylogenomic research in support of the Global Tree Seed Bank project.
Global Tree Seed Bank Programme
Conserving some of the world’s rarest, endangered and useful tree and shrub species as well as conducting vital tree conservation research in order to retain a significant resource for humanity.
Cladogenesis and niche evolution in Madagascan forests
The palms of Madagascar as a window on the evolution of the island's forests.