School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Professor Dick Vane-Wright

Honorary Professor of Taxonomy

Conservation Ecology


profile image for Professor Dick Vane-Wright

Currently I am focused on completing a diverse portfolio of books, including a short series on individual contemporary British artists inspired by nature, on the purpose and function of taxonomy, on butterfly biology, on the higher classification of butterflies, on particular 18th century entomologists (notably William Jones of Chelsea, and Luke Robins), and, most substantially, a work on worldviews, values and attitudes to biodiversity. I am continuing with a number of collaborative research projects on Lepidoptera, including butterflies of specific regions (notably North America, Tanzania, Bali, Maluku and the Pacific), systematics of various genera of Nymphalidae, and mimicry in tiger moths. I am also sampling and surveying Tipulidae, Limoniidae and other Diptera at sites in East Kent, and co-ordinating attempts to record and document chironomid midges and beetles within Westgate Parks, Canterbury. The 2014 special issue of the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, concerning the role of behaviour in evolution, is now featured on the ‘Third Way of Evolution’ website.

Research interests

  • Systematics, specialising on the taxonomy, biogeography, general biology and evolution of butterflies, and also nematocerous Diptera
  • History of entomology, especially 18th century
  • Since 1990, biodiversity and conservation evaluation
  • Since 2005 (funded by NESTA 2005–2008), worldviews, values and attitudes to biodiversity

Dick Vane-Wright catching butterfliesInternational/national activities

  • Chairman, Friends of Westgate Parks, 2012-2014
  • Chairman, North American Butterfly Association Names Committee, 2012–
  • Guest Editor, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012-2013
  • Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Geographical and Life Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, 2010–
  • Associate Editor, Systematics and Biodiversity (Taylor & Francis), 2004-2012
  • Doctor of Science (honoris causa), University of Copenhagen, 2003
  • Visiting Research Fellow, DICE, 1997–2000
  • Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, 1993–1994
  • Fieldwork: 5 months Africa (1972); 4 months Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea (1980, 1981); 2 months Indonesia (1985, Royal Entomological Society of London Project Wallace expedition); 2 weeks Tanzania (2001), 1 week Mexico (2006)
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Queen butterfliesSelected Publications

Vane-Wright, R.I. (ed.). 2014. The role of behaviour in evolution. Special Issue. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 112(2): 219–365.

Boppré, M. & Vane-Wright, R.I. 2012. The Butterfly House Industry: conservation risks and opportunities. Conservation & Society 10(3): 285–303.

Vane-Wright, R.I. 2009. Planetary awareness, worldviews and the conservation of biodiversity. In Kellert, S.R. & Speth, J.G. (eds), The Coming Transformation. Values to sustain human and natural communities, pp. 353–382. New Haven: Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Vane-Wright, R.I. 1996. Identifying priorities for the conservation of biodiversity: systematic biological criteria within a socio-political framework. In K.J. Gaston (ed.), Biodiversity: a biology of numbers and difference, pp. 309–344. Blackwell, Oxford.

Vane-Wright, R.I., Humphries C.J. & Williams, P.H. 1991. What to protect?—systematics and the agony of choice. Biological Conservation 55: 235–254.

Full list of publications


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School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, T: +44 (0)1227 827056

Last Updated: 31/08/2017