Scientific Staff

Murphy Westwood, PhD

Vice President of Science and Conservation

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As Vice President of Science and Conservation, Murphy Westwood works to strengthen the Arboretum’s leadership activities in tree science and conservation.

Murphy supports the  Arboretum’s service to the public to improve the health of the urban forest in the Chicago region, protect threatened tree species around the globe, facilitate technology transfer to industry and the public, and provide professional leadership to the world’s arboreta. She is also responsible for planning, strategic direction, program integration, fundraising, and external relations for Science and Conservation at the Arboretum.

Murphy oversees numerous key programs and initiatives, including:

  • Scientific research through the Center for Tree Science
  • Improving the health of the urban and community forest of the Chicago region through the Community Trees Program and Chicago Region Trees Initiative
  • Building collaborations, strategizing, and protecting threatened tree species through the Global Tree Conservation Program
  • Supporting professional development and collaboration among arboreta nationally and worldwide through ArbNet

In addition to her leadership position at the Arboretum, Murphy continues to work closely with colleagues from botanical gardens, universities, and other sectors in strategic locations like Mexico, Central America, Europe, China, and Southeast Asia—as well as throughout the United States—to develop conservation projects targeting key threatened tree species, especially oaks (genus Quercus).

She also creates tools, guidelines, publications, and other resources to build capacity and catalyze action for tree conservation. Murphy manages ArbNet, the interactive, global community of arboreta and tree-focused professionals. She also leads the Global Conservation Consortium for Oak; is a Global Tree Conservation Officer for Botanic Gardens Conservation International, and works to build support for the Global Trees Campaign.

Murphy has an extensive background in plant biology, evolution, and conservation, having worked in botanical gardens and universities in Europe and America for more than twenty years.

She has published numerous articles on plant conservation, evolution, morphological development, and systematics and presented her research and program initiatives to a diverse range of audiences at dozens of conferences, symposia, workshops, and seminars in more than twelve countries. She has also taught more than 400 hours of undergraduate plant science, ecology, and evolution courses and mentored many students as they pursued science-related degrees. 

After joining the Arboretum in 2013 as a Tree Conservation Specialist, Murphy played a crucial role in founding the Global Tree Conservation Project (GTCP) in 2014, developing its mission and strategy and building its team of researchers. In 2017, she was named Director of the GTCP.

In April 2021, Murphy was appointed Vice President of Science and Conservation at the Arboretum.

  • Member, IUCN Global Tree Specialist Group
  • Certified IUCN Red List global assessor
  • Member, Board of Directors, Polly Hill Arboretum (Martha’s Vineyard, MA)
  • Member, Oak Conservation and Research Committee, The International Oak Society

Projects (18)