Imperial College London

Professor Andy Purvis

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Research Investigator



+44 (0)20 7942 5686a.purvis Website




Silwood ParkSilwood Park





My group’s current research falls within three themes, which cut across taxonomic boundaries.

1. Modelling biodiversity responses to human impacts. 

Why do human activities threaten some species and not others? Do different facets of biodiversity respond to human impacts in the same way? Can we predict declines, enabling proactive management? Our initial work on this topic used IUCN Red List status as a response variable.  We now have two main strands, one global and one based in the UK.

A global model of local biodiversity responses to human impacts: In PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems), we are collating among-site comparisons of species' abundance and presence/absence data from as many taxa and as many settings as possible.  The project has been endorsed by GEO-BON, and we are always looking for data: please visit this page if you're interested in helping. External collaborators include Jörn Scharlemann, Georgina Mace and Drew Purves.

British ecological communities under change: The historical distributions of species are known better in Britain than anywhere else in the world. In collaboration with David Roy and others at the Biological Records Centre, we are exploring how species and communities have responded to changing land use patterns and climate, and also investigating when species distribution modelling approaches work well versus badly.

2. Macroevolution.

Why do rates of speciation and extinction vary among lineages? What controls the species-richness of clades? What shapes the rate of morphological change? Most of our previous work in this theme was on mammals, but current research focuses on planktonic foraminifera and birds.  The foram work is part of the Descent into the Icehouse consortium, led by Gavin Foster at NOCS, and is a collaboration with Paul Pearson and Tom Dunkley-Jones.  The bird research, led by Knud Jonsson, aims to understand the processes by which the core Corvoidea (crows and their relatives) have radiated across the islands on the Indo-Pacific.

3. Phylogenetics. 

Phylogenies underpin much of our research.  We put together a comprehensive supertree of extant mammal species (click here to access a downloadable version, here to view it in the brilliant OneZoom, and here to access an update that takes into account taxonomic changes), and a comprehensive species-level stratophenetic tree of macroperforate planktonic foraminifera (click here to go to the paper; the tree is drawn in paleoPhylo, an R package for working with palaeontological trees). More recently, we've been developing phyloGenerator - a semi-automated pipeline for estimating phylogenies of use to comparative biologists and community phylogeneticists.


Invited Lectures and Presentations

Selected (links to video will open in a new window):

  • Macroevolution and macroecology of planktonic foraminifera in a cooling world. The Micropalaeontological Society, Nottingham, UK, 2012.
  • Species ecology and macroevolutionary dynamics of Cenozoic planktonic foraminifera. Centre for Ecology & Evolution London, UK, 2011.
  • Phylogenies and the fossil record for understanding large-scale events in the history of life. International Palaeontological Congress, London, 2010
  • Hotspots of diversity and extinction: identifying future battlegrounds of mammalian conservation. Linnaean Society meeting, The Role of Restoration Ecology in Mitigation of Climate Change, London, UK, 2008.
  • Phylogenetic trees and the future of mammalian biodiversity. National Academy of Sciences Sackler Colloquium, University of California, Irvine, USA 2007.
  • Temporal patterns in diversification rates. British Ecological Society symposium on Speciation and Ecology, Sheffield, UK, 2007.
  • Extinction risk. Third Okazaki Conference on Extinction, Okazaki, Japan, 2006.

plus many other invited presentations at conferences and University departments in the UK and overseas.



Guest Lectures

Huxley Lecture: Species for macroevolution, The Systematics Association, Linnaean Society, London, 2010

Public lecture: Mammalian biodiversity: past, present, future?, The Royal Society, London, 2010

Imperial College Christmas Lecture: Are we in a sixth mass extinction?, Imperial College London, London, 2008

Research Staff

Knud Jonsson, EU Marie Curie Fellow,

Lawrence Hudson, Postdoctoral researcher on PREDICTS,

Tim Newbold, Postdoctoral researcher on PREDICTS,

Research Student Supervision

Adriana De Palma,, Modelling and projecting provision of ecosystem services in agricultural systems under change (2011-)

Andrea J Webster,, Ancestral body size and the evolutionary ecology of phyletic dwarfs (1996-2000)

Ben Collen,, Populations and species in conservation biology (2002-2005)

C David L Orme,, Body size and macroevolutionary patterns of species richness (1998-2002)

Gary D Powney,, Evolutionary history as a determinant of species range dynamics (2009-)

Giovanni Rapacciuolo,, Climate change and biodiversity in agricultural systems (2009-)

Helen Phillips,, Modelling biodiversity in a changing world (2012-)

Isabel Fenton,, Marine microplankton evolution in response to ancient global cooling (2011-)

Jason Taylor,, Have mammals and their chewing lice diversified in parallel? (1996-2000)

Jon Bielby,, Extinction risk in amphibians (2004-2008)

Jonathan E M Baillie,, Persistence and vulnerability of island endemic birds (1997-2001)

Lynsey McInnes,, Biotic responses to climate change: learning from the deep past (2008-2011)

Natalie Cooper,, Phylogenetic approaches for studying competition in mammals (2006-2009)

Nick J B Isaac,, Life history and species richness in mammals (1998-2002)

Richard Grenyer,, Extinction risk in mammals (2000-2004)

Sarah J Adamowicz,, Macroevolution in Crustacea (2004-2007)

Susanne A Fritz,, Extinction patterns in vertebrates (2006-2009)

William D Pearse,, The phylogenetics of communities under change (2009-2012)