I’m an evolutionary palaeobiologist with particular interests in macroevolution, macroecology and conservation palaeobiology.
My research aims to understand patterns of biodiversity through the integration of macroevolution and macroecology over broad temporal and spatial scales. I use data from phylogeny, fossils and the geological record to investigate how biota have responded to environmental change through deep time and how this information can inform knowledge of extinction risk and species’ future responses to climate change.
I am interested in many groups of taxa. So far I have actively worked on birds, dinosaurs, decapods, insects, myriapods and arachnids.
I began my scientific career as a geologist with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Geology from the University of Edinburgh. I moved sideways a little with a M.Sc. in Palaeobiology obtained at the University of Bristol then completed my transition into biology with a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Glasgow where I worked on the first supertree of birds.
In between completing my PhD and first post-doc position I had a 3.5 year career break. I undertook a variety of roles during this period and gained some valuable perspective and insight into what I wanted to do with my life. By two or three years in I knew that research was where I needed to be and from then on began to actively plan my return to academia.
I began by contacting Prof. Matt Wills at the University of Bath to discuss the possibility of working together on “something to do with arthropod phylogeny”. This developed into a SynTax grant working on a “proof of concept” project on malacostracan supetrees. This grant was successful and I began my first post-doc at the University of Bath in October 2011. This was just a six month contract but we further developed the idea and submitted a full grant proposal to work, broadly, on arthropod supertrees to BBSRC. The application was successful and, after a short employment gap, I began working on this project at Bath in December 2012. After four years at the University of Bath I decided it was time to move on. I had already begun developing a new grant idea with a colleague at the Natural History Museum of London and after some careful consideration I contacted Dr Peter Mayhew at the University of York. Along with other colleagues at the University of York we chose to submit this grant to The Leverhulme Trust. The application was successful and, after finishing my post at Bath at the end of April 2016, I moved up to York to take up a new position, in September 2016, as a Research Fellow working on the evolution of song in Orthoptera.
My research is entirely computational with no field component therefore when I’m not actively engaged in research I like to spend as much time as possible outdoors, whether that be bird watching in the Amazon, snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef or just enjoying the beautiful British countryside. I grew up spending a lot of time on the North Yorkshire coast to which I attribute my early enthusiasm for palaeontology, geology and nature and I still love to go back there as often as possible. It is often said that the best geologists are the ones who have seen the most rocks but I think this could be applied equally well across all the natural sciences, and so I make it my life’s mission to see as much of nature as I can, while I can (and while it is still there to be enjoyed).