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Dr Will Simonson

Research Associate
Dr Will Simonson
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 333925


  • BA hons (Cantab.) in Natural Sciences (Part II Botany), University of Cambridge (1989)
  • MSc in Environmental Technology, Imperial College London (1990)
  • PhD in Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge (2012)

PhD thesis: Vegetation structure and composition of Mediterranean oak forests: an investigation with airborne lidar

Research Interests

Since graduating I have worked for both governmental (English Nature) and non-governmental (A Rocha) conservation organisations, specialising in biodiversity action planning, European environmental policy and legislation, and Mediterranean plant ecology. In my 12 years at A Rocha's field study centre in southern Portugal, I undertook botanical inventories and GIS vegetation mapping, management planning, and studies of post-fire vegetation recovery.

My PhD research (2009-2012) was into cork oak and mixed oak forests of southern Iberia, using airborne lidar and multispectral imagery, combined with field data, to explore patterns of vegetation structure and plant species composition, and their determinants. My two study areas were the Serra de Monchique of the Algarve, Portugal, and Sierra del Aljibe of Andalucia, Spain.

As a Research Associate in the Forest Ecology and Conservation Group, I am currently participating in the European (EU FP7) programme FunDivEurope (, looking at the functional significance of forest biodiversity

Key Publications

Simonson, W.D., Allen, H.D. & Coomes, D.A. (2013) Remotely sensed indicators of forest conservation status: Case study from a Natura 2000 site in southern Portugal. Ecological Indicators, 24: 636–647

Simonson, W.D., Allen, H.D. & Coomes, D.A. (2012) Use of an Airborne Lidar System to Model Plant Species Composition and Diversity of Mediterranean Oak Forests. Conservation Biology, 26(5): 840–850

Mitchell, R.J., Simonson, W.D., Flegg, L.A., Santos, P. & Hall, J. (2009) A comparison of the resilience of four habitats to fire, and the implications of changes in community composition for conservation: a case study from the Serra de Monchique, Portugal. Plant Ecology and Diversity, 2, 45–56.