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Dr Philip Wheeler

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Senior Lecturer in Ecology
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences
  • philip.wheeler

Professional biography

I am an ecologist and conservation biologist in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences interested in tackling real-world conservation problems, particularly by investigating landscape-scale processes. My areas of teaching and research are quite varied, ranging from species ecology to wildlife monitoring 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

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.


Restoration of quarry silt lagoons for wader conservation.

This project is a partnership with HeidlebergCement, Hanson UK, the RSPB and Birdlife international, in collaboration with Will Mayes and Sue Hull at the University of Hull. We're looking at the characteristics of silt lagoons so that they might be improved as feeding habitat for wading birds and considering how they might improve connectivity in wetlands at large spatial scales.


Ecology and conservation of the Lambusango forests, Buton, South-east Sulawesi.

I have been involved in research in the Lambusango forest reserve on the island of Buton, South east Sulawesi, Indonesia for over a decade. This multi-disciplinary research  is largely funded through the research tourism organisation Operation Wallacea. It currently examines a range of forest biodiversity questions and is exploring systems for forest carbon assessments using volunteer 'citizen scientests' as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership.


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.

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.

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

Research Activity

Externally funded projects

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


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)
Distribution and status of threatened and endemic marsupials on the offshore islands of south-east Sulawesi, Indonesia (2018)
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, Article AM17052 ((Early Access))
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)