A/Prof Nick Williams

I am an ecologist who works predominantly in urban areas because, although cities cause of many of the world’s environmental problems, they offer one of humanity’s best hopes for a sustainable future.

I seek to understand urban biodiversity patterns and ecosystem processes and develop applied solutions to reduce negative impacts of urbanisation such as biodiversity loss, excess urban heat, stormwater runoff and CO2 emissions.

My biodiversity research focuses on vegetation, in particular native grasslands and plant traits, but I have also worked on mammals, molluscs and increasingly with insects.

Together with social scientist colleagues I have even investigated the most complex aspect of urban environments―humans!

In 2007 I established a research program to develop and evaluate the benefits of green infrastructure, in particular vegetated roofs, as a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy for Australian cities. This has evolved into one of the largest green roof research programs in the world attracting substantial funding and publicity.

Together with colleagues Steve Livesley and John Rayner I lead the Green Infrastructure Research Group which is studying how we can maximise the benefits plants provide to the urban environment.



PhD students

Andrew Pianella (2013-): Thermal performance of green roofs

Annie Hunter (2012-): Designed green facade systems

Kate Lee (2010-):  Living roofs for healthier living? Impacts on employee stress,  engagement, well-being and performance

Dave Kendal (2008-11): Public preference for cultivated native plants: a trait-based approach. Dave is now a Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology.

Briony Norton  (2007-12): The sanitisation of urban ecological systems: a study of the distribution and management of leaf litter in eucalypt woodlands. Briony is now a post-doc working on the Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability project at The University of Sheffield.

Masters students

Paul Richards (2011-13): Hydrology of a vegetable raingarden: implications for vegetable yield and stormwater management

Honours students

Keith Primrose (2012-13): Using site and infestation variables to predict re-emergence of Hawkweed on the Bogong High Plains

Alison Farrar (2011): How does the structure of a native grassland edge influence its ecological and social function?

Brendan Nugent (2009-10): Autecological aspects of the Threatened Grampians Bitter-pea Daviesia laevis

Kate Giljohann (2008-9): Modelling the distribution of the invasive Salix cinerea on the Bogong High Plains Victoria

Jenny Bear (2008): Seed ecology of invasive Hieracium species

Aaron Dodd (2006):  Spatial seed bank dynamics and plant invasions in Victoria’s Western Basalt Plains Grasslands

Kelly Holland (2005): The potential impact of mollusc herbivory on Victorian native grasslands