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Dr Philip Wheeler

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

I am an ecologist and conservation biologist in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences interested in a wide range of conservation and environmental management questions. In the past I have been interested in tackling real-world conservation problems, particularly by investigating landscape-scale processes, but I am now increasingly interested in urban environments, and particularly urban trees. My areas of teaching and research are quite varied, ranging from species ecology to wildlife monitoring and conservation, quantitative methods and spatial modelling. 

I joined the Open University in 2015. Prior to coming to the OU I was at the University of Hull's Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences.

Research interests

Urban trees and Citizen Science.

I lead the OU's citizen science project Treezilla: the Monster Map of Trees aiming to engage members of the public, local authorities and voluntary organisations in mapping and measuring urban trees in the UK. This work is a collaboration with Forest Research's Urban Forest Research Group and Treeconomics and has been supported by NERC and InnovateUK. 


Ecology of Brown Hares and Rabbits in agroecosystems.

Work investigating the distribution and ecology of these species which are of conservation interest as well as agricultural pests. Thus work is in collaboration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, York.


Ecology and conservation of large tropical forest mammals.

Work on species including the highly endangered anoa, a dwarf buffalo endemic to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, with perhaps only 3000 individuals in the wild, and Baird's Tapir in Honduras. This work informs activities of the IUCN Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group and Tapir Specialist Group.

I am always looking to take on suitably qualified research students in any of the above areas. If you are interested, contact me to discuss applications and possibilities for funding.

Teaching interests

I teach a wide range of subjects across ecology and environmental science. I am the module team chair for the OU's core Environmental Science module (S206/SXF206) and input into SDT306 Environment: responding to change.

Impact and engagement

My research work is very applied and several previous and current projects have inputted into active wildlife monitoring and conservation, notably guidelines on surveying brown and mountain hares for ecological impact assessments and information for conservation action plans for tropical forest large mammals.

My current work on engaging people in monitoring and mapping urban trees and their ecosystem services works closely with large numbers of individual volunteers, groups and the public and private sectors to improve the understanding of the value of urban trees and promote their conservation.

I have worked extensivey with partners and colleagues across the globe, primarily in south east Asia and Indonesia in particular.

Externally funded projects

Integrating technological solutions to modernise the study and assessment of coral reefs
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Feb 202031 Jan 2028Operation Wallacea Ltd

PhD project looking at technological solutions to mapping and monitoring coral reef fish populations

Valuing green Infrastructure through Tree Assessment tooLs (VITAL)
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Jan 201631 Dec 2017NERC Natural Environment Research Council

Trees provide a wide range of ecosystem services including provision of wood and timber, regulation of water quality and quantity, carbon sequestration and storage, and cooling local air temperatures, mitigating air pollution, supporting biodiversity, as well as their cultural and public and amenity values. They are a vital component of green infrastructure. Services provided by forest ecosystems are well documented, and a number of tools - including the OU's citizen science based tree mapping Treezilla ( and i-Tree ( ) - have been developed to help assess the value of trees in urban environments to support the advocacy of trees in towns and cities, as well as to encourage budgetary support in the maintenance and expansion of urban forests. This project aims to develop these systems with a focus on Treezilla to provide better UK-based data. Our goal is to deliver a platform for valuing trees usable by ordinary citizens, environmental and planning professionals which leads to a broader understanding of the value of green infrastructure to society and which promotes investment and support for green infrastructure amongst individual citizens and organisations.

Restoration of the long-spined sea urchin PhD studentship
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Oct 201530 Sep 2018Operation Wallacea Ltd

The long-spined sea urchin Diadema antillarum is a keystone species in Caribbean coral reefs. Its loss has led to dramatic changes in the ecology of Caribbean reef systems. This project investigates the potential for restoration of Diadema to Caribbean coral reefs in Honduras.

Resource Recovery and Remediation of Alkaline Wastes (Transfer in)
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead02 Feb 201530 Aug 2017NERC Natural Environment Research Council

Resource Recovery and Remediation of Alkaline Wastes


Teaching and learning in ecology: a horizon scan of emerging challenges and solutions (2020)
Cooke, Julia; Araya, Yoseph; Bacon, Karen L.; Bagniewska, Joanna M.; Batty, Lesley; Bishop, Tom R.; Burns, Moya; Charalambous, Magda; Daversa, David R.; Dougherty, Liam R.; Dyson, Miranda; Fisher, Adam M.; Forman, Dan; Garcia, Cristina; Harney, Ewan; Hesselberg, Thomas; John, Elizabeth A; Knell, Rob; Maseyk, Kadmiel; Mauchline, Alice L.; Peacock, Julie; Pernetta, Angelo P.; Pritchard, Jeremy; Sutherland, William J.; Thomas, Rebecca L.; Tigar, Barbara; Wheeler, Philip; White, Rachel L.; Worsfold, Nicholas T. and Lewis, Zenobia
Oikos ((Early Access))

Landscape connectivity and spatial prioritization in an urbanising world: A network analysis approach for a threatened amphibian (2019-09)
Matos, Cátia; Petrovan, Silviu O.; Wheeler, Philip M. and Ward, Alastair I.
Biological Conservation, 237 (pp. 238-247)

Short-term movements and behaviour govern the use of road mitigation measures by a protected amphibian (2019-06-04)
Matos, C.; Petrovan, S. O.; Wheeler, Philip and Ward, A. I.
Animal Conservation, 22(3) (pp. 285-296)

Careful considerations are required when analysing mammal citizen science data – A response to Massimino et al (2019-04)
Wheeler, Philip M.; Ward, Alastair I.; Smith, Graham C.; Croft, Simon and Petrovan, Silviu O.
Biological Conservation, 232 (pp. 274-275)

Distribution and status of threatened and endemic marsupials on the offshore islands of south-east Sulawesi, Indonesia (2019)
Martin, Thomas E.; Monkhouse, Joseph; O'Connell, Darren P.; Analuddin, Kangkuso; Karya, Adi; Priston, Nancy E. C.; Palmer, Charlotte A.; Harrison, Barnabas; Baddams, Jack; Mustari, Abdul H.; Wheeler, Philip M. and Tosh, David G.
Australian Mammalogy, 41(1) (pp. 76-81)

Detecting the elusive cost of parasites on fig seed production (2018-07)
Segar, Simon T.; Mardiastuti, Ani; Wheeler, Philip M. and Cook, James M.
Acta Oecologica, 90 (pp. 69-74)

Dietary niche partitioning between sympatric brown hares and rabbits (2017-09)
Lush, L.; Ward, A. I. and Wheeler, P.
Journal of Zoology, 303(1) (pp. 36-45)

Can aggregate quarry silt lagoons provide resources for wading birds? (2017-08)
Day, George; Mayes, William M.; Wheeler, Philip M. and Hull, Susan L.
Ecological Engineering, 105 (pp. 189-197)

Bioenergy crops and farmland biodiversity: benefits and limitations are scale-dependant for a declining mammal, the brown hare (2017-06)
Petrovan, Silviu O.; Dixie, John; Yapp, Emma and Wheeler, Philip M.
European Journal of Wildlife Research, 63, Article 49(3)

Facilitating permeability of landscapes impacted by roads for protected amphibians: patterns of movement for the great crested newt (2017-02-28)
Matos, Cátia; Petrovan, Silviu; Ward, Alastair I. and Wheeler, Philip
PeerJ, 5, Article e2922

Interacting effects of temperature, habitat and phenotype on predator avoidance behaviour in Diadema antillarum: implications for restorative conservation (2017-02-27)
Bodmer, M. D. V.; Wheeler, P. M.; Hendrix, A. M.; Cesarano, D. N.; East, A. S. and Exton, D. A.
Marine Ecology Progress Series, 566 (pp. 105-115)

Artificial reefs and marine protected areas: a study in willingness to pay to access Folkestone Marine Reserve, Barbados, West Indies (2016-07-20)
Kirkbride-Smith, Anne E.; Wheeler, Philip M. and Johnson, Magnus L.
PeerJ, 4, Article e2175

Use of tri-axial accelerometers to assess terrestrial mammal behaviour in the wild (2016-04)
Lush, L.; Ellwood, S.; Markham, A.; Ward, A. I. and Wheeler, P.
Journal of Zoology, 298(4) (pp. 257-265)

Opposing effects of agricultural intensification on two ecologically similar species (2014-07-01)
Lush, Lucy; Ward, Alastair I. and Wheeler, Philip
Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 192 (pp. 61-66)

Effects of sheep grazing on abundance and predators of field vole (Microtus agrestis) in upland Britain (2008-01-01)
Wheeler, Philip
Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 123(1-3) (pp. 49-55)

Fieldscapes – Creating and Evaluating a 3D Virtual Field Trip System (2017-06-29)
Burden, D.J.H.; Argles, T.; Minocha, S.; Rock, J.; Tilling, S. and Wheeler, P.
In : The Immersive Learning Research Network Conference - iLRN 2017 (26-29 Jun 2017, Coimbra, Portugal) (pp. 18-29)

Evaluating remote access to fieldwork with interactive fieldcasts for distance learning students (2017)
Robson, Julie; Cooke, Julia; Wheeler, Philip; Maseyk, Kadmiel and Collins, Trevor
In : The 6th eSTEeM Annual Conference (25-26 Apr 2017, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes)

Using a citizen science tool to model the health benefits of roadside trees (2017)
Goodenough, Jessica; Ansine, Janice and Wheeler, Philip
In : Trees, People and the Built Environment 3 (TPBE3) Conference (5-6 Apr 2017, University of Birmingham)

Enhancing ecological fieldwork with Virtual Reality (2016-12)
Tilling, Steve; Wheeler, Philip; Burden, David and Argles, Thomas
In : British Ecological Society Annual Meeting 2016 (11-14 Dec 2016, Liverpool, UK)

Widening access to fieldwork with interactive livecasts (2016-09)
Cooke, Julia; Wheeler, Philip; Maseyk, Kadmiel and Collins, Trevor
In : Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase 2016 (12-13 Sep 2016, Reading, UK)