Professor Jane K Hill


Research in my lab is examining how species are responding to habitat destruction and climate warming, and we study both tropical and temperate ecosystems. 

We have shown that species are responding to global climate warming by advancing their phenology (e.g. earlier budburst), by expanding their distributions to higher latitudes/uphill at their leading-edge range margins, and by retreating at their low latitude trailing-edge range margins.  However, many species are failing to expand their ranges because of lack of suitable new habitats to colonise, and we are examining methods for designing better-connected landscapes to help promote species’ range expansion.

The climate-driven range expansion of the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria is reduced where less habitat is available. A multi-species analysis of UK butterflies has revealed that stable population growth rates are a prerequisite for species’ range expansion during recent climate warming.


We are using entomological radar to examine population fluxes of migratory insects and we have  revealed the vast numbers of moth and butterfly migrants that travel aloft and exploit seasonally favourable winds. We estimate that 10–240 million insect immigrants reach the UK each spring, and that the persistence of migrants is dependent on summer breeding in high-latitude regions.

Spillover of species from rainforest into oil palm plantations shows that plantations can benefit from proximity to forest. Ant species richness declined in plantations with distance from the forest edge. Grey shading and solid symbols represent forest sampling stations, white shading and hollow symbols represent oil palm sampling stations (mean +/- SE).

Spill over of Species Graph

On Borneo, we are investigating how rainforest disturbance and fragmentation affects species’ diversity and ecosystem functioning, and we are developing methods for reducing biodiversity losses in agricultural (oil palm) plantations. Our results show that retaining large rainforest fragments increases diversity within plantations.

Conversion of tropical rainforest to oil palm plantations greatly reduces biodiversity, and we are examining methods for producing oil palm more sustainably.


Research Group

Jennifer Lucey (NERC) Postdoctoral Research Associate Knowledge Exchange Fellow. Knowledge exchange for sustainable tropical landscapes.

Georgina Palmer (NERC)

Postdoctoral Research Associate Variables rates of response by species to climate change.

Patrick Büker (BBSRC)

Postdoctoral Research Associate Using wild ancestors to make rice more resilient to increasingly unpredictable water availability.

Phil Platts (NERC)

Postdoctoral Research Associate Refugial populations at trailing-edge range margins: attributes, survival and conservation.

Andrew Suggitt (NERC)

Postdoctoral Research Associate Refugial populations at trailing-edge range margins: attributes, survival and conservation.

Sarah Scriven (NERC)

PhD Student Promoting resilience and biodiversity in tropical agricultural landscapes.

Kuntal Singh (BBSRC)

PhD Student Modelling relationships between climate and yield of new elite rice cultivars.

Suzanna Mason (NERC)

PhD Student Determinants of variation in the rates of range expansion across a wide range of taxonomic groups.

Gail Stride (NERC ACCE CASE with Proforest)

PhD Student Assessing the effectiveness of Protected Areas to conserve biodiversity under climate change.

Teaching and Scholarship

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My goal is to instil understanding of ecological systems, underpinned by knowledge. It is important that students gain knowledge and synthesise information to understand fundamental ecological principles, which can be used to develop new ideas, especially in relation to understanding the causes and consequences of humans on natural landscapes. I think it is important for students to question received evidence and opinions, and to develop their own critical thinking.

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‌As an ecologist, I teach about global diversity and factors affecting the natural world. My research inspires my teaching, and I use examples and case studies from my current research in my lectures. My research covers topics such as the impacts of climate change on species, and the consequences of habitat loss on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Much of my work focuses on butterflies. These iconic species are very sensitive to environmental changes and there is a vast amount of ecological knowledge about them, making them great model organisms to study. The fascination of the general public in these species makes them important for developing new policy and conservation managements options. How do species vary in their responses to climate and land-use change? How will ecological communities change in future? What are the implications of biodiversity changes? How can we reduce biodiversity losses?

We analyse existing data for species that go back many decades to examine ecological and evolutionary factors affecting species declines. We carry out field work, analysis of existing data and computer modelling to understand the ecological factors affecting species’ declines. We examine the effectiveness of conservation actions to conserve species. Computer models can determine the best places to conserve habitat to improve landscape connectivity for species. I try to convey state of the art knowledge and understanding in biodiversity conservation and environmental change impacts.

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‌I cover a broad range of topics in tutorials, in the fields of conservation ecology. Issues concerning species declines are particularly evident in tropical regions and so we often discuss topics related to rainforests.  Tutorials are a forum for students to learn and practice how to question, have ideas and to discuss topical scientific issues.  I get students to discuss and critically assess published papers and to talk about designing research programmes to tackle current conservation problems. The informal nature of the small tutorial group is a great place to explore ideas and come up with solutions. 

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‌Students taking a project in my lab will work on topics aligned with our research. Students can chose to do field work projects over the summer, or computer-based projects during term-time. Most recent projects have arisen from questions about testing consensus in the existing literature on the effects of environmental change on biodiversity. Student gain skills in data extraction and synthesis, meta-analysis and new quantitative approaches and investigate the drivers of biodiversity declines and the consequences of species extinctions.



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Dr Jane K Hill

Contact details

Prof. Jane K Hill
Department of Biology (Area 18)
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328642