Stephen (Steve) Williams is a Professor in the College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Australia. His research has focussed on field-based ecology, understanding biodiversity, assessing the resilience of natural ecosystems to environmental change and using this knowledge to maximize the positive benefits of conservation management and adaptation.


Steve was one of the first to identify global climate change as a severe threatening process to biodiversity in the tropics, especially in mountain ecosystems. In 2006, he started the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University and was the inaugural Director for the first six years. He was lead author of the Australian National Adaptation Research Plan for Natural Ecosystems and was the Director of the Australian Adaptation Network for Natural Ecosystems (marine, terrestrial, freshwater) within the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF).  He has over 150 publications and, with more than 28000 peer review citations, he is one of the most-cited global change biologists in the world.



Over the last few years, Steve was the inaugural Chair of the IUCN Climate Change & Biodiversity Specialist Group and chaired the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area Science Advisory Committee. His research has focussed on Australian tropical rainforest, however he now has an emphasis on establishing an Asia-Pacific climate change research and monitoring network. His aim is to help foster international collaboration and information exchange in order to provide the resources needed by natural resource managers around the world to adapt to a changing climate. 



  • BS2460: Fundamentals of Ecology (Level 2; TSV)
  • BS5460: Fundamentals of Ecology (Level 5; TSV)
  • BZ3220: Population and Community Ecology (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • BZ3755: Climate Change and Biodiversity (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ5220: Population and Community Ecology (Level 5; TSV)
  • Global Change Biology
  • Tropical Ecology
  • Macroecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation Biology
Research Disciplines
  • Earthwatch Institute Principal Investigator of the year awarded for an “outstanding contribution to conservation research and public education”.
  • The Wet Tropics Management Authority “Cassowary Award” for contributions to science
  • JCU Faculty of Science & Engineering Deans award for “Excellence in Research

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 119+ 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.

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Rainforest Protection Grant

Determinants of spatial variation in population density in a tropical folivore community: conservation implications in a changing environment

Indicative Funding
$5,000 over 1 year
Climate change is the greatest threat to the preservation of global biodiversity. Our capacity to predict species? vulnerability and make informed conservation management decisions relies on understanding processes that control species population size. However, the factors that limit species populations are generally unknown due to the intrinsic difficulties of studying species across their entire range. This project will study the factors that limit the populations of ringtail possums in the Australian Wet Tropics at a landscape scale. The empirical knowledge gained will be used to forecast species response to a changing thermal, nutritional, and toxicological environment using mechanistic niche modelling.
Alejandro de la Fuente Pinero, Stephen Williams and Ben Hirsch (College of Science & Engineering)
Climate Change; Macroecology; Animal-plant interaction; Pseudocheiridae; conservatiion biology; Landscape ecology

Abriculture - Contract Research

Terrestrial refugia health surveillance of Dinden and Little Mulgrave National Parks by Abriculture Indigenous Rangers.

Indicative Funding
$80,000 over 1 year (administered by Abriculture)
Work with Abriculture and Wet Tropics Management Authority to assist traditional owners and rangers to monitor biodiversity, set up collection and data management in Dinden and Little Mulgrave National Parks. Field based training on biodiversity surveys will be conducted with indigenous rangers for spotlighting, camera trapping, bird surveys, frog survey and climate data. Provide qualified staff, provide training to indigenous rangers, help create monitoring forms, reporting templates. Assist in the development of future project proposals for on-the-ground ecological management for climate change in Dinden and Little Mulgrave National Parks.
Stephen Williams in collaboration with Alejandro De La Fuentes Pinero (College of Science & Engineering)
Indigenous management; Climate Change; Biodiversity; Rainforest; Global change

Queensland Department of Environment and Science - Contract Research

Possum monitoring in the Wet Tropics

Indicative Funding
$42,474 over 1 year
Long term monitoring by Williams demonstrates that possum and bird populations have been seriously declining in response to changing climate in the Australian Wet Tropics. There is currently no field-based monitoring of these trends. Discussions with the Wet Tropics Management Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife have resulted in a collaborative project with funds from QPWS to conduct monitoring and extend the network of sites by training rangers in the techniques. Funding will potentially extend over coming years especially to support a phd project by Alejandro de la Fuente Pinero.
Stephen Williams in collaboration with Alejandro De La Fuentes Pinero (College of Science & Engineering)
Rainforest; Climate Change; Biodiversity; Tropical Ecology; Global Change Biology; Vertebrates

Wet Tropics Management Authority - Student Research Grant Scheme

Feral cats in the North Queensland Wet Tropics region: understanding the behavioural and ecological interactions that affect conservation outcomes.

Indicative Funding
$3,945 over 2 years
The project aims to determine how feral cats, as an invasive pest species, are influencing native biodiversity and trophic interactions within the wet tropics landscape. This project will address the knowledge gap surrounding the ecosystem level impacts of feral cats and whether they pose a major threat to native species in the region. We will investigate how cats are distributed throughout the habitat and test if human development e.g. roads are facilitating access into protected areas. If significant cat populations are found within the region, we will identify their likely ecological effects, which will lead to evidenced based mitigation strategies.
Thomas Bruce, Ben Hirsch and Stephen Williams (College of Science & Engineering)
Feral Cat; Camera-trapping; Occupancy; Habitat Preference; Population Ecology; Species Interactions

NCCARF - Phase 2: Adaptation Networks

NCCARF Phase 2: Natural Ecosystems Adaptation Research Network

Indicative Funding
$435,000 over 2 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 5 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 Primary or 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.

  • Determinants of spatial variation in population density in a tropical folivore community: Conservation implications in a changing environment (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Climatic seasonality in the Australian Wet Tropics: birds, insects and dry season bottlenecks. (PhD , Associate Advisor)
  • Climatic variability and vulnerability in a warming world (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Feral cats in the North Queensland wet tropics region: Understanding the behavioural and ecological interactions that affect conservation outcomes. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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


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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