William J. [Bill] Baker

Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology

Role

I lead Kew’s Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology Department, which comprises around 50 researchers (plus students and associates) specialising in comparative research on specific lineages and traits to understand the principles that generate and drive plant and fungal diversity. My research spans herbarium, laboratory, gardens and field to explore the diversity and evolution of plants, especially the palm family, an iconic angiosperm family of immense ecological and economic importance. My current interests include 1) fundamental biodiversity research, especially taxonomy, informatics and conservation, 2) phylogenetics applied to systematic and comparative questions and 3) biogeography and rainforest biome evolution. I lead Kew’s Plant and Fungal Trees of Life (PAFTOL) programme, which aims to gather and analyse genomic data for at least one species from each genus of plants and fungi to produce the most extensive and robust tree of life for these groups yet generated.

Strategic Outputs 2020

Output leader for Plant and Fungal Trees of Life

Background

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BA (Hons), Univ. Oxford, 1993
  • MSc, Univ. Reading, 1994
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1997
  • Chair, IUCN SSC Palm Specialist Group

Publications

Selected publications: 

Baker, W.J. & J. Dransfield. (2017). More new rattans from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (Calamus, Arecaceae). Phytotaxa 305: 61–86.

Baker, W. J. and 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 Available online

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. Available online

Eiserhardt, W.L., T.L.P Couvreur & W.J. Baker. (2017). Plant phylogeny as a window on the evolution of hyperdiversity in the tropical rainforest biome. New Phytologist 214: 1408–1422.

Dransfield, J., Uhl, N. W., Asmussen, C. B., Baker, W. J., Harley, M. M. & Lewis, C. E. (2008). Genera Palmarumthe evolution and classification of palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 732 pages Buy from Kew books