I started the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity & Climate Change research (CTBCC) in 2006 and was the inaugural Director for six years. I convene the National Adaptation Network for Natural Ecosystems hosted by James Cook University for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). I currently run the biodiversity and Global Change program within the CTBCC and teach biodiversity and climate change science. Over the last 5 years I ran the Rainforest Biodiversity program in the National Environmental Research Program (Terrestrial Ecosystems hub) and I was the Director of the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation research Facility Adaptation Research Network - Terrestrial Biodiversity. I am the Chair of the IUCN Climate Change & Biodiversity Specialist Group and Wet Tropics Management Authority Science Advisory Committee.

My research is focused on understanding biodiversity, assessing the vulnerability of biodiversity to global climate change and using this knowledge to maximise the positive benefits of conservation management and adaptation. My research group is currently examining a diverse range of research topics on climate change and biodiversity (vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and ecosystem processes) including biodiversity patterns and processes, population genetics, thermal physiology, paleo-modelling of habitats and species distributions, extinction proneness, phenology, nutrient cycling, climatic seasonality, trophic interactions, net primary productivity, vegetation structure, resilience and estimating the relative vulnerability of species and habitats

My research was one of the first to identify global climate change as a severe threatening process in the tropics and that we may be facing many species extinctions in mountain systems around the world. This work resulted in the Australian Wet Tropics being internationally recognized by the IPCC as one of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Papers in PLoS Biology, PNAS, Nature, American Naturalist, Global Change Biology, Diversity & Distributions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of London have made significant contributions to the high profile of climate change biology in the literature. My research is highly cited and has produced significant outcomes in research, policy and management at all levels from regional to international.  


  • BZ2440: Ecology and Conservation (Level 2; TSV)
  • BZ2450: Biodiversity of Tropical Australia (Level 2; TSV)
  • BZ2490: Toolkit for the Field Biologist (Level 2; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ3220: Population and Community Ecology (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ3755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ5210: Rainforest Ecology in the Amazon (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5220: Population and Community Ecology (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5440: Ecology and Conservation (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ5990: Toolkit for the Field Biologist (Level 5; CNS)
  • SC1101: Science: Nature, Knowledge and Understanding (Level 1; TSV)
  • Global Climate Change
  • Biodiveristy
  • Conservation of species and habitat
  • Earthwatch Institute Principal Investigator of the year awarded for an “outstanding contribution to conservation research and public education”.
  • JCU Faculty of Science & Engineering Deans award for “Excellence in Research
  • The Wet Tropics Management Authority “Cassowary Award” for contributions to science

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 108+ research outputs authored by Prof Stephen Williams from 1993 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Life in the canopy in a changing climate: The spatio-temporal distribution of rainforest ants along climate gradients in the Australian Wet Tropics

Indicative Funding
The project will investigate how spatial and temporal climate variability can influence species? ecological plasticity and resilience to climate change. I will quantify changes in ant community assemblage, behavioural dominance, microclimate and forest structure along spatial and temporal gradients of vertical tree height (ground to canopy), elevation and day-night (diel). My hypothesis is that ecological plasticity in response to local climate variability created by vertical forest structure and temporal change, shapes broader species resilience at a regional scale. The project will improve capacity of managers to make decisions to conserve biodiversity in the Australian Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Lily Leahy and Stephen Williams (College of Science & Engineering)
Climate change; Biodiversity; Resilience; Rainforest; Vertebrates; Ants

NCCARF - Phase 2: Adaptation Networks

NCCARF Phase 2: Natural Ecosystems Adaptation Research Network

Indicative Funding
$435,000 over 3 years (administered by Griffith University)
The NCCARF Natural Ecosystems project will be convened by Prof Stephen Williams and hosted by James Cook University. The Network will bring together three previous adaptation research networks established in NCCARF Phase 1: terrestrial, marine and freshwater biodiversity. The project will provide open exchange of knowledge information, and resources across an inclusive collaborative network that includes representation across states, sectors, stakeholder groups, ecosystems and fields of expertise. Outputs from the project will provide explicit and practical strategies that will guide decision-makers and increase the resilience and adaptive potential of natural ecosystems in the face of climate change.
Stephen Williams in collaboration with Damien Burrows, Bob Pressey, Jeremy Vanderwal and Nadiah Roslan (College of Science & Engineering, TropWATER and Research Infrastructure)
Climate Change; Adaptation; Research; Network; Biodiversity; Natural Ecosystems

Earthwatch Institute Australia - Contract Research

Wildlife of the Cloud Forest

Indicative Funding
$60,693 over 6 years
This project takes Earthwatch volunteers into the Wet Tropics rainforest to undertake scientific data collection and learn about the impacts of climate change on tropical biodiversity. This project undertakes monitoring of biodiversity along standardised transects in the rainforest and trains members of the general public to undertake these activities.
Stephen Williams (College of Science & Engineering)
Wet tropics; Climate Change

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Diversity, Habitat Use and Movements of Small Mammals in Fragmented Landscapes (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Climatic seasonality in the Australian Wet Tropics: birds, insects and dry season bottlenecks. (PhD , Associate Advisor)
  • The vulnerability of microhylid frogs, Cophixalus spp., to climate change in the Australian Wet Tropics (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Life in the Canopy in a Changing Climate: What Factors Increase Species Vulnerability to Climate Change in Tropical Forest Canopies and how does this Effect Species Interactions in the Canopy Community? (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit the JCU Research Data Catalogue.


The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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