Welcome to the Tobias lab at Imperial College London. We study biodiversity from the level of individuals to complex communities with the goal of understanding how ecosystems function and respond to environmental change.
We study a wide array of factors influencing variation in populations of organisms, with a focus on speciation and trait diversification.
A key goal of our research is to understand how interactions among species drive evolution and determine the structure and functioning of ecological communities.
We apply insights from biodiversity science to understand and predict the responses of ecosystems to environmental change and to help develop strategies for conservation and sustainable development.
January 2023 – We joined forces with Matthias Schleuning and Daniel Garcia to edit a special issue of Functional Ecology focused on animal functional traits. Now published, this contains articles on a range of systems from springtails to crocodiles, along with our editorial summarising current progress and future priorities in trait-based ecology. Read editorial
March 2022 – The AVONET bird trait dataset is released in Open Access form as the flagship paper in a special issue of Ecology Letters. AVONET contains measurements of over 90,000 individual birds from >99% of the world’s species, along with information on their ecology, life history and biogeography, and the rest of the issue showcases current uses of the data in studies of macroevolution, macroecology and conservation biology. Read paper | Read editorial
April 2021 – A global meta-analysis published in Nature Ecology & Evolution revealed that the island rule predicts patterns of body size evolution across all terrestrial vertebrates, with small animals becoming larger and large animals becoming smaller after colonising islands. This paper was led by Ana Benitez-Lopez, based at the Coto Donana research institute, along with a number of other international collaborators. Read paper | Read overview | Read blog
August 2020 – Our article on avian diversity published in this year’s Annual Reviews of Ecology, Evolution & Systematics. This paper integrates the different research activities of the lab by linking speciation and trait diversification with community assembly and trait-based macroecology. It’s a slightly long-winded but hopefully informative summary of what we do and why. Read paper
April 2020 – Catherine Sheard publishes her analyses of bird wing morphology in Nature Communications showing a strong latitudinal gradient in flight ability. This project began as a PhD chapter and ended up eight years later as a compendium of wing measurements from >99% of the world’s bird species. All other co-authors are former members of the lab. Read paper | Read overview | Read blog
January 2020 – The first global analyses of our bird trait dataset is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, a team effort between current and former lab members and international collaborators who visited museums worldwide to measure specimens of >99% of the world’s birds. The results show general concordance between morphological traits and ecological niches at global scales. Read paper | Read overview