Imperial College London

Prof Joseph Tobias

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Professor of Biodiversity & Ecosystems



+44 (0)20 7594 1059j.tobias Website




2.10KennedySilwood Park





My research focuses on understanding biodiversity and its role in maintaining the structure and function of global ecosystems. I use a combination of approaches from lab- and field-based experiments to phylogenetic modelling and spatial mapping. Most of this work uses the world's birds as a study system, but increasingly focuses on other components of biodiversity, from plants and insects to primates and people. I am interested in using these insights to help us predict and manage the response of ecosystems and food-production systems to global change, with applications from biodiversity conservation to sustainable development. My main interest lies in tropical ecosystems but recent work is increasingly global in scope.

Current areas of interest are:

  • Trait evolution, speciation and diversification
  • Assembly and functioning of complex ecological communities
  • Species interactions, and their behavioural, ecological and evolutionary implications 
  • Impacts of climate and land-use change on ecosystem function
  • Biodiversity conservation, and how this can best be achieved in the context of sustainable development and food security

A major component of my research involves developing global functional trait databases, and applying them to key questions in a range of research fields, including evolutionary biology, ecology, and ecosystem science. This work has led to a range of collaborations with international research networks - for example, the B10K avian genomics initiative. I am also increasingly involved in more applied or policy-related missions, including the SENTINEL and Food and Forests in Africa projects, both of which are focused on meeting sustainable development goals in developing countries.

For recent news and more information about the activities of my research group, see the Tobias Lab website.

For a full list of publications, see here or here.



Hunt ESE, Felice RN, Tobias JA, et al., 2023, Ecological and life-history drivers of avian skull evolution., Evolution, Vol:77, Pages:1720-1729

Germain RR, Feng S, Chen G, et al., 2023, Species-specific traits mediate avian demographic responses under past climate change., Nat Ecol Evol, Vol:7, Pages:862-872

Matthews TJ, Wayman JP, Whittaker RJ, et al., 2023, A global analysis of avian island diversity-area relationships in the Anthropocene., Ecol Lett, Vol:26, Pages:965-982

Weeks TL, Betts MG, Pfeifer M, et al., 2023, Climate-driven variation in dispersal ability predicts responses to forest fragmentation in birds, Nature Ecology and Evolution, Vol:7, ISSN:2397-334X, Pages:1079-1091

Germain RR, Feng S, Buffan L, et al., 2023, Changes in the functional diversity of modern bird species over the last million years., Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, Vol:120, Pages:e2201945119-e2201945119

More Publications