Dr. Helen Phillips


Research interests


The effect of human impacts on earthworm diversity: Increasingly large-scale synthesis studies are being used to determine how biodiversity is responding to human impacts, such as land use change or climate change. However, most of these synthesis studies focus on, or are bias towards, above-ground biodiversity, thus little is known about how below-ground biodiversity is responding to the same pressures. I am primarily involved with compiling a large dataset of earthworm diversity, abundance, biomass, and their functional role to address this gap in our knowledge. Earthworms are ideal to focus on as they are a relatively well-studied (as they are relatively easy to identify to species level compared to some other soil organisms) and have direct links to ecosystem services based on their functional role. I aim to show how earthworm diversity is responding to human impacts, determine what changes might occur under future climate and land use change scenarios, and what these changes mean for the ecosystem functions that are provided by earthworms that humans rely on.

Global Soil Biodiversity Database: Although biodiversity databases exist, they are often focused towards (1) above-ground taxa, (2) specific groups of below-ground taxa or (3) a specific region or country. sWorm, the sDiv working group I am PostDoc with, is aiming to facilitate the advancement of a global soil biodiversity database. We hope that the data we collate for the earthworm diversity analysis can be the foundation of such a database, with the framework proposed being able to be expanded to other soil biodiversity taxa in the future.

Curriculum Vitae


November 2016 – present
PostDoc Position

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Synthesis Centre sDiv, Leipzig, Germany

October 2012 – October 2016
PhD Student
Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, UK (based at the Natural History Museum, London)
Thesis: “Effects of land use and habitat fragmentation on local biodiversity”

September 2011 – September 2012
MSc Student
Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, UK
Course: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Thesis: “Responses of biodiversity to land-use change: Is the biota of Asia more sensitive than other continents?”

September 2010 – September 2011
Research Assistant at Flamingo Land Zoo, Yorkshire, UK

September 2005 – June 2008
Zoology BSc with Honours

University of Liverpool, UK

Publications before iDiv


Please see here!



Phillips, H. R. P., Cameron, E. K., Ferlian, O., Türke, M., Winter, M., Eisenhauer, N.

Red list of a black box Nature Ecology & Evolution 1, 0103

Phillips, H. R. P., Knapp, S., Purvis, A.

Estimating the potential biodiversity impact of redeveloping small urban spaces: the Natural History Museum’s grounds PeerJ 5, e3914

Phillips, H. R. P., Newbold, T., Purvis, A.

Land-use effects on local biodiversity in tropical forests vary between continents Biodiversity and Conservation 26(9), 2251-70
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Deutscher Platz 5e
04103 Leipzig

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+49 341 9733176
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Universität Leipzig

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