Paul Wilkin

Head of Science (Natural Capital)


I am Head of the Natural Capital and Plant Health Department, which investigates the value of plant and fungal diversity to humankind and how it underpins provisioning, supporting and regulating ecosystem services.

My personal research is primarily on yams (Dioscorea), a genus that provides both dietary starch for millions and secondary compounds of considerable economic importance. It currently incorporates taxonomy, systematics, conservation and metabolomics approaches. I use methods including phylogenetics and population genetics to investigate crop, crop wild relative and edible/wild yam diversity with a view to improved livelihoods and economic innovation. I also work on other wild and cultivated plant diversity and have a strong interest in biodiversity informatics.



Qualifications and appointments: 
  • 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: 

Wilkin, P., Suksathan, P., Keeratikiat, K., Van Welzen, P. & Wiland-Szymańska, J. (2013). A new species from Thailand and Burma,Dracaena kaweesakii Wilkin & Suksathan (Asparagaceae subfamily Nolinoideae)PhytoKeys 26: 101–112. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.26.5335.

Mengesha, W. A., Demissew, S., Fay M. F., Smith, R. J., Nordal. I. & Wilkin. P. (2013). Genetic diversity and species delimitation in the cultivated and wild Guinea yams from Southwest Ethiopia as determined by AFLP (Amplified Fragment length Polymorphism) markers. Genetic Resources & Crop Evolution 60: 1365­–1375. DOI 10.1007/s10722-012-9925-4

Corney, D. P. A., Clark, J. Y., Tang, H. L. & Wilkin, P. (2012). Automatic extraction of leaf characters from herbarium specimens. Taxon 61: 231–244.

Mengesha, W. A., Demissew, S., Fay M. F., Smith, R. J., Nordal. I. & Wilkin. P. (2012). Genetic diversity and population structure of Guinea yams and their wild relatives in South and South West Ethiopia as revealed by microsatellite markers. Genetic Resources & Crop Evolution 60: 529–541. DOI 10.1007/s10722-012-9856-0

Wilkin, P., Burrows, J., Burrows, S., Muasya, A. M. & van Wyk, E. (2010). A critically endangered new species of yam (Dioscorea strydomiana Wilkin, Dioscoreaceae) from Mpumalanga, South Africa. Kew Bulletin 65(3): 421–433.