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Barbara Willaarts

Research Scholar

Water Security Research Group

Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program


Barbara Willaarts is a researcher in the Water Security Research Group of the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program. Born in Spain and originally from The Netherlands, she has 16 years of research experience. Her research is driven by two main principles: one is collaborative and interdisciplinary research aiming to understand complex problems and find joint solutions to support the development of pathways to sustainability; and the other is impact-oriented research in- and beyond academia to enhance the social and policy relevance of science and her research in particular. Her work covers a broad range of topics relevant to water and food sustainability transitions. It also benefits from an international reach through geographical settings ranging from Europe to Latin America, and more recently, Africa and Asia.

Her PhD work provided her with a solid understanding of quantitative approaches and integrated modeling. In her post-doc, she built on this applied scientific basis to bring this expertise into her work on governance research, a crucial step on the pathway to any transition to sustainability. As part of her interest in enhancing the social impact of science, she has also devoted substantial efforts to research approaches for stakeholder engagement to address complex sustainability challenges.

Outside of the lab, she dedicates her time to ensuring the availability of scientific knowledge to all relevant stakeholders, including policymakers to support informed decision-making, the next generation of scientists through teaching, and the public through engagement on social media.

Last update: 03 FEB 2022


Awais, M. , Vinca, A. , Parkinson, S., McPherson, M., Byers, E. , Willaarts, B. , Muhamma, A., & Riahi, K. (2022). Replenishing the Indus Delta through multi-sector transformation. Frontiers in Environmental Science 10 e958101. 10.3389/fenvs.2022.958101.

Martin, J. , Kanade, R., Bhadbhade, N., de Bruijn, J. , Hanger-Kopp, S., Irshaid, J., Joy, K., Lokahare, K., Thomas, B., & Willaarts, B. (2022). Transdisciplinarity in practice: the food-water-biodiversity nexus and its fairness in the Upper Bhima Basin. In: Systems Analysis for Reducing Footprints and Enhancing Resilience, 16-17 November, 2022, Vienna, Austria.