Dr Gavin Thomas

Dr Gavin Thomas

Room B2 207, Alfred Denny Building
Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0136
Email: gavin.thomas@sheffield.ac.uk

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 URF (2015-present)
  • Royal Society University Research Fellow (2013-present)
  • NERC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sheffield (2012-2013)
  • NERC Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bristol (2010-2012)
  • Postdoctoral Associate, Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College (2006-2010)
  • Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Birmingham (2005-2006)
  • PhD, University of Bath (2005)
  • MSc Palaeobiology, University of Bristol (2001)
  • BSc (Hons) Ecology, Cardiff University (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 data base 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 have 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

Group website: macroevolution.group.shef.ac.uk/about-the-team/

Post Docs

Dr Chris Cooney

Postgrad Research Assistants

Elliot Capp

Emma Hughes

PhD Students

Angela Chira

Emma Jardine (lead supervisor: Prof Colin Osborne)

Kim Mullins (lead supervisor: Prof Colin Osborne)

Magnus Clarke (lead supervisor: Prof Rob Freckleton)

Lab alumni

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

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

Mark Puttick (complete PhD at University of Bristol 2016, now a postdoc 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), and phylogenies and diversification in APS220 (Evolutionary Biology) and APS342 (Evolutionary Ecology). From 2017 I will also teach on APS352, a new hands-on level 3 course on phylogenetic approaches to evolution. At level four, I supervise projects 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.