Welcome to the Tobias lab at Imperial College London. We study how species evolve, interact, and regulate ecosystem function. Our mission is to find solutions for major challenges facing humanity – from biodiversity conservation to food security – using insights from ecology and evolutionary biology.
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.
February 2024 – On the cover: a longterm collaboration with Jonathan Drury (Durham) and Helene Morlon (CNRS Paris) published in Current Biology. Global analyses using AVONET bird trait data show that species co-occurrence and interspecific competition drive widespread slowdowns in phenotypic evolution, but that these are effects are pervasive across latitudes rather than accentuated in tropical systems as many have proposed. Read paper
May 2023 – Tom Weeks published his first PhD thesis chapter in Nature Ecology & Evolution: a global analysis combining field survey data from forest fragments and morphological measurements from the AVONET database showing that dispersal ability shaped by climatic seasonality is a key factor determining bird species responses to habitat change, outweighing effects of latitude, historical disturbance and diet. Read paper | Read overview
March 2023 – A longterm collaboration with Ryan Germain and the rest of the DEMOCHANGE team, based largely at the GLOBE Institute in Copenhagen, was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Using whole genomes of 100s of bird species we explored the link between ecological traits and demographic responses to climate change over the last million years. Read paper
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, based largely on collections of 71 museums, 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. The rest of the issue showcases current uses of the data in studies of macroevolution, macroecology and conservation biology. Read paper | Read editorial
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. A summary of what we do and why. Read paper