Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Reader in Biodiversity and Ecosystems



+44 (0)20 7594 1059j.tobias




KennedySilwood 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.



García-Navas V, Tobias JA, Schweizer M, et al., 2021, Trophic niche shifts and phenotypic trait evolution are largely decoupled in Australasian parrots., Bmc Ecol Evol, Vol:21

Sayol F, Cooke RSC, Pigot AL, et al., 2021, Loss of functional diversity through anthropogenic extinctions of island birds is not offset by biotic invasions, Science Advances, Vol:7, ISSN:2375-2548

Hordley LA, Gillings S, Petchey OL, et al., 2021, Diversity of response and effect traits provides complementary information about avian community dynamics linked to ecological function, Functional Ecology, Vol:35, ISSN:0269-8463, Pages:1938-1950

Drury JP, Clavel J, Tobias JA, et al., 2021, Tempo and mode of morphological evolution are decoupled from latitude in birds, Plos Biology, Vol:19, ISSN:1544-9173

Rurangwa ML, Aguirre-Gutierrez J, Matthews TJ, et al., 2021, Effects of land-use change on avian taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity in a tropical montane rainforest, Diversity and Distributions: a Journal of Conservation Biogeography, Vol:27, ISSN:1366-9516, Pages:1732-1746

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