Dr Gavin Thomas

Dr Gavin Thomas

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0136

Email: gavin.thomas@sheffield.ac.uk

Room B2 207, Alfred Denny Building

Lab website: macroevolution.group.shef.ac.uk

Bird bills citizen science: macroevolution.group.shef.ac.uk

Bird phylogeny website: birdtree.org


Senior Research Fellow & Royal Society Research Fellow, Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK (2015-present)
Royal Society University Research Fellow, Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK (2013-present)
NERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK (2012-2013)
NERC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bristol, UK (2010-2012)
Postdoctoral Associate, Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, UK (2006-2010)
Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Birmingham, UK (2005-2006)
PhD, University of Bath, UK (2001-2005)
MSc Palaeobiology, University of Bristol, UK (2001)
BSc (Hons) Ecology, Cardiff University, Wales (1998)

Research Interests

Phylogeny, diversification and trait evolution

My research focuses on modelling the diversification of species and traits at a macroevolutionary scale. I am particularly interested in how we can use information on the phylogenetic relationships among species to infer how present day biodiversity has arisen over time and ask:

  • How and why do lineages and traits diversify?
  • What are the consequences of varying tempo and mode of lineage and trait evolution for temporal and spatial patterns of diversity?

My lab are currently preoccupied with collecting a large database of bill shapes and plumage colours from all extant bird species (~10,000 species) using museum study skins (mainly the NHM at Tring and also the University of Manchester Museum).

You can get involved with this ERC-funded project with our Bird bill citizen science website: markmybird.org.

Gavin Thomas Research

Previously, I worked on constructing a global phylogeny of birds to understand avian diversity in space and time (more information at birdtree.org )

Phylogenetic bird tree

Research Group

Visit the group website (macroevolution.group.shef.ac.uk/about-the-team/) for more information on the team.

Postcoctoral Researcher

Dr Chris Cooney

Postgraduate Research Assistants

Elliot Capp

Emma Hughes

PhD Students

Angela-Marie Chira

Emma Jardine (lead supervisor: Prof Colin Osborne)

Yichen He

Lab alumni

Dr Jen Bright (ERC postdoctoral worker, now Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, USA)

Dr Thanh-Lan Gluckman (ERC postdoctoral worker, now at The College de France)

Mark Puttick (completed PhD at University of Bristol, UK, in 2016, now a postdoctoral researcher at the NMH)

Chris Moody (Research Assistant, now CAD technician for GTC)

Professional Activities

Scientific Associate at the Natural History Museum

Associate Editor: Evolution, Global Ecology and Biogeography, Ecology and Evolution


My research interests are reflected in my teaching. I currently lecture on biogeography and macroecology in APS123 (Population and Community Ecology), phylogenies and diversification in APS220 (Evolutionary Biology) and APS342 (Evolutionary Ecology).

I also teach on APS352, a hands-on level 3 course on Phylogenetic Approaches to Evolution. At level 4, I supervise Research Projects (APS406) that typically address core themes of the lab: how and why do species and their traits diversify? Recent projects have asked how occupancy of isolated islands influences divergence in bill morphology in finches and whether egg laying (oviparity) versus live-bearing (viviparity) determines the rate of speciation in snakes.