New study by the Sumner lab reveals that wasps are universally disliked by the public and this is most likely due to a low-level interest in nature and a lack of knowledge about the benefits wasps bring to our planet’s health and function.
Publication date: 19 September 2018
The study, published in Current Biology and funded by Wellcome, shows that normal biological processes which are useful early on in life, continue to ‘run-on’ pointlessly in later life causing age-related diseases.
Publication date: 10 August 2018
Professor Kate Jones talks about what can happens when people transport species or diseases around the globe.
Publication date: 2 August 2018
New study co-authored by CBER’s Fiona Spooner and Richard Pearson identifies global warming rate as a critical factor behind birds and mammals population declines
For the study, published in Global Change Biology, 987 populations of 481 species across the globe were studied to investigate how the rate of climate change and land-use change (from natural to human-dominated landscapes) interact to affect the rate of decline on mammals and birds, as well as whether species located in protected areas and body size had an influence.
The rate at which our climate is warming was found to be the best explanation for the observed rate of population declines.
Publication date: 25 July 2018
Congratulations to all colleagues whose achievements have been recognised in the most recent round of Senior Promotions. This year has been exceptional in terms of the number of applications received and successful promotions. We proudly present a list of Divisional promotees:
Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment
Publication date: 19 July 2018
Please join us in congratulating Dr Eloi Camprubi, who last week completed his PhD thesis on “The beginnings of proto-metabolism at the origin of life in alkaline hydrothermal vents”.
Publication date: 18 July 2018
The research, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, argues that human ancestors did evolve in Africa but were scattered across continent, largely kept apart by a combination of diverse habitats and shifting environmental boundaries, such as forests and deserts.
Publication date: 12 July 2018
ZSL’s Scientific Medal is awarded to research scientists with up to 15 years postdoctoral experience for distinguished work in Zoology. CBER’s Richard Pearson was awarded the medal for outstanding contributions to the study of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
Publication date: 26 June 2018
New study co-authored by Professor Helen Chatterjee looks into a new gibbon genus discovered in ancient Chinese tomb
The tomb, first excavated in 2004, was found to contain 12 burial pits with animal remains, which included gibbon bones. Sophisticated computer modelling reveals that these ancient bones represent an entirely new genus and species of gibbon, which the team has named Junzi imperialis. Historical records reveal that Junzi probably survived until less than 300 years ago.
Publication date: 25 June 2018
The new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the effects of climate change on ecological communities are predicted to match or exceed land use in its effects on vertebrate community diversity by 2070, and surpass the effects of historical land use.
The findings suggest that efforts to minimise human impact on global biodiversity should now take both land use and climate change into account instead of just focusing on one over the other, as the combined effects are expected to have significant negative effects on the global ecosystem.
Publication date: 21 June 2018
Professor Kate Jones discusses how some bats, dolphins and other animals emit sounds at high frequencies to explore their environments, rather than sight with Melvyn Bragg.
Publication date: 21 June 2018
Maintaining biodiversity’s contributions to people for sustainable development under a changing climate
Villahermosa, Mexico, August 27-30, 2018
Call for early career participants from UK, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile
Find out more
Publication date: 13 June 2018
Please join us in congratulating Dr Lara Meade who last week completed her PhD thesis “Fitness consequences of sex-ratio meiotic drive and female multiple mating in a stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni”.
Publication date: 30 May 2018
Dr Ben Collen was an internationally recognized conservation scientist whose work has provided new knowledge and understanding about recent trends in wildlife populations across the world. His research was at the forefront of developing science-based indicators to track the precipitous loss of biodiversity around the world and had a major impact on global conservation policies. He died on 19 May 2018 at the age of 40 following a bone cancer diagnosis just 15 months earlier. He tackled his illness with the same attitude that characterized his work, always being positive, open, creative and with great good humour. His untimely death has left a huge hole not only in UCL’s newly-established Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, of which he was a founder member, but also in the international conservation science community.
After graduating in 2001 with a degree in Biology at Imperial College, Ben spent a year working in Kenya undertaking field work on large mammals. The bug to work in conservation took hold and he studied for a Master’s degree at the University of York, undertaking his research project with a like-minded set of conservation biologists based at the Institute of Zoology in London. Ben stayed on to study for a PhD with Professor Georgina Mace and Professor Andy Purvis at Imperial College on understanding how to assess species extinctions. In 2005, with his PhD completed, Ben joined the Indicators and Assessments Unit at the Institute of Zoology working with Dr Jonathan Baillie. Ben was instrumental in the re-launch of the WWF Living Planet Index (LPI). Ben massively enhanced the underlying data and rigour of the analysis of the index that established it as the most widely used indicator of global wildlife population trends, an essential tool for understanding human impacts on our planet’s biodiversity. His work led to a wide range of international collaborations with academics, governments and conservation charities, making him a key contributor to the landmark assessment of the state of global biodiversity in 2010.
In 2013 he joined UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER) in the Genetics, Evolution and Environment Department, and was promoted to Reader in 2015. Ben played a critical role in defining CBER’s research agenda and developing it as an international centre of excellence for biodiversity research, now with over 40 research staff, post-docs and PhD students. Ben’s own research attracted a large group of research students and postdocs working on understanding how biodiversity is changing across the world, supported by several large research grants, most recently from the Leverhulme Trust, WWF UK and the Darwin Initiative. He made a major contribution to the re-establishment of an undergraduate field course at UCL’s unique field site at Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast, and will be remembered by a number of cohorts of Biological Science students for his lively encouragement of their first experience of field research.
We are all devastated by his untimely death, but his work and his style permeates CBER and his legacy will live on in his projects and his students. Our thoughts are with his wife Alanna, his daughter Ottilie and the rest of his family. Messages from around the world have paid tribute not only to his scientific contributions, but also his kindness, generosity of time and spirit, his mischievous sense of humour, and how he inspired so many to pursue careers in conservation. He was the very best of us, and he will be sorely missed by students, staff and friends alike.
Ben’s wife Alanna has set up a JustGiving page in his memory.
Publication date: 21 May 2018
For the study, published in PLOS Genetics, a team from UCL and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, investigated the evolution of TRPM8, a gene that codes for the only known receptor that enables a person to detect and respond to cool and cold temperatures. This receptor is also activated by menthol and is responsible for the refreshing feeling of mint-containing products.
Publication date: 14 May 2018
New research led by the Balloux lab tracks origins of the deadly fungus responsible for the decline in amphibian populations
The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is distributed around the world but to date it was not known where and when killer strains of the pathogen first emerged.
Now, new research published in Science indicates the killer fungus currently ravaging global amphibian populations originated in East Asia.
Read full article: Genome sequencing reveals origin of killer fungus behind the ‘amphibian plague’
Read full paper: Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines
Authors: Simon J. O’Hanlon, Adrien Rieux, Rhys A. Farrer, Gonçalo M. Rosa, Bruce Waldman, Arnaud Bataille, Tiffany A. Kosch, Kris A. Murray, Balázs Brankovics, Matteo Fumagalli, Michael D. Martin, Nathan Wales, Mario Alvarado-Rybak, Kieran A. Bates, Lee Berger, Susanne Böll, Lola Brookes, Frances Clare, Elodie A. Courtois, Andrew A. Cunningham, Thomas M. Doherty-Bone, Pria Ghosh, David J. Gower, William E. Hintz, Jacob Höglund, Thomas S. Jenkinson, Chun-Fu Lin, Anssi Laurila, Adeline Loyau, An Martel, Sara Meurling, Claude Miaud, Pete Minting, Frank Pasmans, Dirk S. Schmeller, Benedikt R. Schmidt, Jennifer M. G. Shelton, Lee F. Skerratt, Freya Smith, Claudio Soto-Azat, Matteo Spagnoletti, Giulia Tessa, Luís Felipe Toledo, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez, Ruhan Verster, Judit Vörös, Rebecca J. Webb, Claudia Wierzbicki, Emma Wombwell, Kelly R. Zamudio, David M. Aanensen, Timothy Y. James, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Ché Weldon, Jaime Bosch, François Balloux, Trenton W. J. Garner, Matthew C. Fisher.
Publication date: 11 May 2018
Academics and researchers from GEE and the Natural History Museum escape the city heat for their biennial retreat to the countryside for a day and half of scientific talks. This year the retreat at Missenden Abbey in the Chiltern Hills, was held in conjunction with the Natural History Museum and provided the perfect backdrop for researchers to network and develop collaborations and links between the two institutions.
Publication date: 23 April 2018
GEE PIs celebrate recent grant application successes.
Publication date: 23 April 2018
Ageing human populations present a huge societal challenge, and provides motivation to find ways to improve health in old age. Dietary restriction (DR), is one way to improve late-life health of animals from worms to mammals, and perhaps humans. This effect was first observed over 80 years ago, but the underlying mechanism has proven elusive. In this study, gene expression was profiled in diverse tissues of flies subjected to DR, and from these results a role for proteins called GATA transcription factors was predicted. Reducing expression of GATA transcription factors altered the effect of diet on lifespan, and targeting this knockdown to specific tissues reduced side-effects commonly associated with longevity. Therefore this study predicts that targeting GATA transcription factors in specific tissues may promote the benefits, but not costs, of DR.
Publication date: 18 April 2018
The post-doc will work on a NERC-funded project investigating the global interactions between biodiversity change and agriculture.
Publication date: 11 April 2018
With sadness we note the passing of Professor R J (Sam) Berry, who was the Professor of Genetics at UCL (from 1974) and an active member of the Genetics, Evolution and Environment Department up to the present, and a massive figure in evolutionary and ecological genetics, biodiversity and conservation biology. He was also a leading Christian and wrote extensively on science and religion. We will miss him greatly.
The National Biodiversity Network
The John Ray Initiative
A Rocha International
Publication date: 5 April 2018
The study, published in Nature Communications, found that the mcr-1 gene, now present across the globe, can be tracked to a single event around 2005 when it moved from pigs into pathogens that affect humans.
Publication date: 29 March 2018
Women who carry a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For prevention it is important to know cancer risks at different ages.
Dr Karoline Kuchenbaecker (research profile) was involved in the first large study to estimate those risks based on data from women with BRCA mutation that were initially cancer-free.
Now an article in the Washington Post demonstrates what this means for women with a BRCA mutation.
Publication date: 28 March 2018
3 PhD positions at UCL-CBER and ZSL-IoZ fully funded by the Marie Curie European Training Network INSPIRE4NATURE
Project 1: This project will investigate the changes in taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of terrestrial vertebrates under future scenarios of global change. Based at University College London (London, UK) with secondments to the Zoological Society of London (London, UK; 10.8 months)
Publication date: 23 March 2018
New report by Evgeniy Galimov and colleagues describes the occurrence of rigor mortis during the early stages of organismal death in C. elegans
Ageing does not cause death by itself but rather drives mortal pathologies. The nature of organismal death and how it is triggered by old age is relatively poorly studied in mammals and barely at all in C. elegans. The study from David Gems' lab, published in Cell Reports, describes a new death-related phenomenon in C. elegans – a wave of muscle hyper-contraction similar to mammalian rigor mortis. Unlike humans C. elegans lack a cardiovascular system, so rigor mortis in worms is an early step during the process of organismal death, likely caused by depletion of ATP. Rigor mortis precedes the blue fluorescent wave of intestinal necrosis, a previously discovered death phenomenon in C. elegans, and is closely coupled with it. Rigor mortis and intestinal necrosis are propagated in an anterior-to-posterior wave by calcium release, and long-lived daf-2 mutants appear resistant to organismal death. This study provides insights into Ca2+-mediated death mechanisms that are conserved from yeast to mammals, and is an interesting model for necrosis-driven neurodegenerative diseases. It defines another link in the chain of events from the development of senescent pathologies to death from old age.
Publication date: 20 March 2018
Join a unique training programme at the interface between academic excellence and the world of international biodiversity conservation organisations!
Publication date: 16 March 2018
A recent publication in Nature looked into how female fellows fared in the world’s oldest scientific academy.
We are pleased to report that Professors Mace and Partridge’s contribution to raising gender equality in the Royal Society were recognised by the article authors.
Publication date: 16 March 2018
A new study co-authored by GEE's Seirian Sumner investigates an overlooked reason for widespread cooperation amongst animals
Animals living in volatile habitats can gain major evolutionary benefits by shielding their families from the changing environment, suggests research from UCL, the University of Bristol and University of Exeter.
Publication date: 13 March 2018
Face of first Brit revealed thanks to GEE's Professor Mark Thomas, Dr Yoan Diekmann and Natural History Museum researchers
Congratulations to Professor Mark Thomas and Dr Yoan Diekmann (both UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) who analysed Cheddar Man’s DNA sequences to establish aspects of his appearance. Following the Natural History Museum and Channel 4 press briefing held on 6 Febraury the story has been picked up by a number of national and international newspapers and boradcasters including the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, BBC, ITV, Sky to name but a few.
Publication date: 8 February 2018
When did flowers originate? - a new study by GEE's Professor Ziheng Yang, Dr Jose Barba-Montoya and colleagues
The study, published recently in New Phytologist by researchers from the UK and China, shows that flowering plants are neither as old as suggested by previous molecular studies, nor as young as a literal interpretation of their fossil record.
Read full article: When did flowers originate?
Read full paper: Constraining uncertainty in the timescale of angiosperm evolution and the veracity of a Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution
Publication date: 8 February 2018
A new study co-authored by GEE's Professor Tim Blackburn and Dr Ellie Dyer reveals that new alien species invasions are still rising globally
Up to 16% of all species on Earth could qualify as potential alien species and if they invade new regions, impacts will be difficult to predict, according to new research involving UCL.
Publication date: 8 February 2018
"Latin Americans show wide-spread Converso ancestry and the imprint of local Native ancestry on physical appearance" - new preprint from UGI's Juan Camilo Chacón-Duque, Garrett Hellenthal, Kaustubh Adhikari, Macarena Fuentes-Guajardo, Javier Mendoza Revilla and colleagues
Abstract: Historical records and genetic analyses indicate that Latin Americans trace their ancestry mainly to the admixture of Native Americans, Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans. Using novel haplotype-based methods here we infer the sub-populations involved in admixture for over 6,500 Latin Americans and evaluate the impact of sub-continental ancestry on the physical appearance of these individuals. We find that pre-Columbian Native genetic structure is mirrored in Latin Americans and that sources of non-Native ancestry, and admixture timings, match documented migratory flows. We also detect South/East Mediterranean ancestry across Latin America, probably stemming from the clandestine colonial migration of Christian converts of non-European origin (Conversos). Furthermore, we find that Central Andean ancestry impacts on variation of facial features in Latin Americans, particularly nose morphology, possibly relating to environmental adaptation during the evolution of Native Americans.
Publication date: 31 January 2018
Professor Georgina Mace appointed to the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change
Names of the two new Adaptation Sub-Committee appointees were announced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on 18 January. Professor Georgina Mace's and Professor Michael Davies’ appointments will run from 31 January 2018 until 1 February 2021. Congratulations!
Publication date: 19 January 2018
We are proud to announce that CBER's bat project at the Olympic Park was featured in the UCL 2034 progress review film. The short video presents highlights of the work UCL has done in the past year towards achieving the goals of our 20-year strategy: UCL 2034.
Publication date: 5 January 2018
Professor Kate Jones, has been recently interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s Curious Cases programme, to help explain how bats echolocate.
Publication date: 20 December 2017
BBSRC will fund project to uncover proteins and cellular processes important for ageing in fission yeast
Ageing is highly complex and affected by diverse proteins and processes. Modern biological assays can simultaneously measure properties and interactions of thousands of proteins or genes, but it is challenging to make sense of such large datasets. Advances in computational data-analysis methods, called ‘machine learning’, provide exciting opportunities to get the most from large biological datasets and thus increase our understanding of complex processes like ageing. This interdisciplinary project involving three UCL Departments, led by Jürg Bähler in collaboration with Christine Orengo and John Shawe-Taylor, will use fission yeast as a genetic model organism, together with multi-step machine learning, to comprehensively identify biological processes with fundamental importance for ageing.
Publication date: 20 December 2017
GEE's Dr Johnathan Labbadia publishes paper in Cell Reports suggesting that low levels of mitochondrial stress can have beneficial effects on protein folding and ageing
The ability to react to, and counter, the deleterious effects of protein folding stress is crucial for cells to function optimally. As cells age, the capacity to prevent protein misfolding and aggregation declines, driving cell dysfunction and tissue degeneration in adulthood. At present, little is known about the factors that regulate this phenomenon. Therefore, identifying pathways that promote or suppress protein aggregation with age could help identify new ways to maintain tissue function later in life. Using the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, Labbadia and colleagues have found that low levels of mitochondrial stress early in life can suppress age-related protein misfolding in the cytosol, thereby enhancing cell robustness, and preserving tissue function with age. These effects are dependent on the conserved transcription factor HSF-1, suggesting that during times of adversity, mitochondria can communicate with the cytosolic protein quality control machinery to boost protein folding capacity and promote long-term health.
Publication date: 20 December 2017
The Darwin Common Room Christmas tree Xmas Bauble competition fired the imagination of some of our more creative researchers and there were some great entries to decorate our tree with this year.
Publication date: 12 December 2017
The origin of eukaryotes is tied to outstanding questions about how mitochondrial endosymbionts became integrated within them. A new study by researchers from UCL and universities in Canada, USA and Russia, describes a novel flagellated microbe (Ancoracysta), which represents its own lineage in the eukaryotic tree and provides original insights into mitochondrial evolution. Ancoracysta possesses one of the most gene-rich mitochondrial genome ever found and, uniquely, two indepedent systems for mitochondrial cytochrome c biogenesis. Analysing these characteristics across the eukaryotic domain refines scenarios for rooting the tree of eukaryotes and suggests that gene transfer from mitochondria has been highly parallel and exponentially decreasing in nature.
Publication date: 12 December 2017
Different species are defined as groups that do not exchange genes. Even when viable hybrids can form, gene flow between species may nevertheless be prevented if genes from different species are incompatible, preventing hybrids from reproducing. The Leverhulme Trust has funded a project led by Duncan Greig (research profile) to identify such “speciation genes” causing sexual sterility in yeast hybrids. The project will use genetic manipulation to generate recombinant hybrid genomes with compatible and incompatible combinations of two species genes. Sequencing many recombinant hybrid genomes will reveal the locations and identities of yeast speciation genes.
Publication date: 12 December 2017
We are proud to announce that Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment and School of Pharmacy exceeded the Russell group average for “academic support” in the most recent NSS Survey. Similarly, Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology excelled in “teaching”.
Publication date: 6 December 2017
Inhibiting RNA polymerase III prolongs lifespan in flies and worms, and survival in budding yeast, report Danny Filer and colleagues from the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing in a recent Nature publication.
Publication date: 30 November 2017
November 2nd 2017 was the official launch of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origins and Evolution.
Publication date: 20 November 2017
UCL Genetics Institute is delighted to welcome Dr Maria Secrier, the new Lecturer in Computational Biology.
Publication date: 17 November 2017
Mammals switched to daytime activity after dinosaur extinction - a new study led by CBER and Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History
Mammals only started being active in the daytime after non-avian
dinosaurs were wiped out about 66 million years ago (mya), finds a new
study led by UCL and Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural
Publication date: 10 November 2017
The relentless rise of migration in Europe over last 10,000 years - a new study led by researchers from GEE, University of Cambridge and King’s College London
Three major pulses of increased mobility in Europe over the last 10,000 years and a general upward trend in migration have been uncovered in a new study led by researchers from UCL, University of Cambridge and King’s College London.
The new method, published in PNAS, allows, for the first time, to directly quantify changes in prehistoric migration rates using ancient genetic data over the last 30,000 years.
Publication date: 6 November 2017
Please join us in congratulating Helen who has passed her PhD viva. Helen, who is part of Max Telford’s lab, successfully defended her thesis entitled ‘Molecular approaches for studying the evolution of the Xenacoelomorpha’.
Publication date: 2 November 2017
A UCL and Canterbury Christ Church University-led project ‘Museums on Prescription’ has won two prestigious Royal Society of Public Health Awards for ‘Health & Wellbeing’ and ‘Arts and Health’, with a special commendation for ‘Sustainable Development’.
Publication date: 1 November 2017
Study involving Dr David Redding shows how billions of dollars of financial investment in global conservation has significantly reduced biodiversity loss.
Publication date: 27 October 2017
David Gems’s research group is delighted to announce the receipt of a philanthropic donation from the entrepreneur and writer Jim Mellon, chairman of Burnbrae. This donation (~£100K) will allow the purchase of a new structured illumination microscope system (Zeiss Apotome) which will be used in studies of ageing in animal models, particularly the development of senescent pathologies. This lovely instrument with its technical innovations will significantly enhance the capacity of research at the Institute of Healthy Ageing to understand the causes of ageing.
Publication date: 23 October 2017
CBER’s Rory Gibb and Ella Browning (under Kate Jones’ guidance) wrote and provided guidelines for the World Wildlife Fund on best practice on using the audio and camera trap data. This information is crucial for new researchers or external companies who are investing in such technology or using it to make informed decisions with nature at the forefront. Please visit WWF's website for further information.
WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation organisation.
Publication date: 12 October 2017
The Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (CBER) is looking to appoint two Postdoctoral Research Associates, as part of the Sustainable & Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) project funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Publication date: 10 October 2017
The aim of the Biome Health Research Project is to develop a field-based study system that provides new evidence on how biodiversity responds to human pressures and how conservation interventions can be utilised to reduce the impacts of these pressures.
Publication date: 10 October 2017
UCL Genetics Institute is pleased to welcome Dr Aida Andres, the new Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Genetics.
Publication date: 2 October 2017
Elvira who is a Teaching Fellow in GEE and a Program Tutor for the MSc Genetics of Human Disease was awarded the UCL Arena Fellowship and a Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. The certificate was presented on 18th September at the UCL Arena Awards celebration event by UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur.
UCL Arena is a continuing professional development scheme, accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), which focuses on advancing research-based education for all students. It gives lecturers and teaching fellows the chance to gain both a UCL Arena Fellowship and the corresponding HEA Fellowship.
Publication date: 22 September 2017
We are delighted to welcome Professor Chris Thompson, who is the first appointment to the Centre for Life Origins and Evolution (CLOE) in GEE.
Publication date: 19 September 2017
This week CBER scientist Dr Seirian Sumner launched The Big Wasp Survey, with Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucestershire. Their mission is to harness the power of the public’s dislike of social wasps, in order to sample the populations across the UK. They aim to use the data to answer questions about the distribution and abundance of social wasps across the UK.
Publication date: 13 September 2017
We are pleased to announce Dr Richard Pearson (GEE/CBER) has been awarded British Ecological Society’s 2017 Marsh Award for Climate Change Research. The prize is awarded for an outstanding contribution to climate change research and is open to ecologists from anywhere in the world.
Publication date: 1 September 2017
We are delighted to announce Professor Mark Thomas has won a Top Teacher award for Year 2 (Genetics, Development & Cancer).
Throughout the academic year UCL medical students are able to nominate teachers who have been particularly helpful or inspiring to them during their studies for a Top Teacher award. At the end of the academic year, the QAU counts the number of nominations for each teacher and the ones with the most nominations receive an award.
Publication date: 18 August 2017
Ecoacoustic monitoring uses the sounds emitted by wildlife as a proxy measure for biodiversity. Massive volumes of ecoacoustic data can now be generated using passive acoustic recorders, but extracting useful information about the biodiversity sounds recorded in this data is unfeasible without automated methods. Acoustic indices (AIs) are algorithms which generate community-level measures of biodiversity, such as activity, diversity and disturbance, from audio data. However, the suitability of ecoacoustics for monitoring urban biodiversity, and the performance of AIs on the noisy audio data typically generated in cities, is unknown.
Publication date: 17 August 2017
Congratulations to this year's promotions and re-banded Professors for their huge contributions to the Department and UCL.
Publication date: 16 August 2017
Text and photos by Guilherme B. Ferreira
As an ecologist I’m familiar with the term ‘secondary forest’, but ‘secondary savanna’ is a much more obscure concept. So, how should we name an area of Cerrado – the Brazilian savanna – that has regenerated after clearcut? And more importantly, what’s the biodiversity relevance of these areas of regenerated Cerrado?
The answer to the first question, according to a recent review, is that the secondary concept (as well as the old growth one) should be equally applied to forests, savannas and grasslands. Answering the second question is much trickier, though. The regeneration and succession in Cerrado vegetation has been studied at some locations; in general it follows a path from open to dense vegetation, with an increase in tree and shrub density and a decrease in the herbaceous cover. However, while we have an idea of the differences in vegetation composition and structure between old growth and secondary savanna vegetation in the Cerrado, there is virtually no study comparing the fauna that lives in these two different environments.
To start filling this gap in knowledge we conducted a camera trap survey in a Cerrado protected area harbouring large areas of secondary as well as old growth savanna. Our study area is a perfect site to investigate the effects of secondary savanna on biodiversity because more than 1/3 of its 310 km2 have naturally regenerated after clearcut, while large portions of the state park have been kept in its natural state with little human interference.
Publication date: 21 July 2017
Full shortlist details can be found on the Royal Society for Public Health website.
Publication date: 30 June 2017
The activity of urban bats in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London is being monitored in real-time using new, automated smart detectors that have been developed and installed by UCL and Intel scientists in collaboration with Arup, the Bat Conservation Trust and the London Wildlife Trust.
The story is also featured on BBC News website and BBC Radio.
Publication date: 29 June 2017
Please join us in congratulating Dr Nick Lane who has been promoted to a Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry in the latest round of Senior Academic promotions effective from 1st October 2017.
Publication date: 23 June 2017
Please join us in congratulating Max Reuter (GEE) as well as his co-PIs Jürg Bähler (GEE), Doug Speed (UGI) and Dan Jeffares (York) who have been awarded a 3-year BBSRC Responsive Mode award. The project will use yeast to look at the interaction between the genetics underlying environmental responses and the capacity to adapt to abrupt changes in growth conditions (‘evolutionary rescue’). The findings will help us to better understand the capacity of populations to deal with climate change, but also serve as a model to design optimal treatment strategies for antibiotics or pesticides.
Publication date: 19 June 2017
'Selection for Mitochondrial Quality Drives Evolution of the Germline' in top 50 most downloaded PLOS Biology articles in 2016
Last year PLOS articles received nearly 30 million downloads. Out of all 2016 PLOS Biology articles, 'Selection for Mitochondrial Quality Drives Evolution of the Germline' was in the top 50 most downloaded.
Publication date: 26 May 2017
Scientists are closer to understanding the genetic causes of type 2 diabetes by identifying 111 new chromosome locations (‘loci’) on the human genome that indicate susceptibility to the disease, according to a UCL-led study in collaboration with Imperial College London.
Publication date: 5 May 2017
UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing director Professor Dame Linda Partridge was recently invited to appear on the BBC4 programme ’The Big Think – How to Live Longer’.
Publication date: 28 April 2017
It is sad to report that Conrad King who was a Senior Lecturer in Zoology in the Department of Biology died in his sleep (23rd March), in Venice where he was living with his partner Wendy Rees. Conrad had an extremely wide circle of friends & colleagues in UCL and in the international scientific community. Anyone wishing to share their memories, please contact Hugh White (email@example.com).
Publication date: 31 March 2017
Anna successfully defended her thesis entitled 'Towards a gene regulatory network for the regeneration of the adult skeleton in the brittle star Amphiura filiformis’ Many congratulations Dr Czarkwiani!
Publication date: 28 March 2017
Bumblebees are among the most popular and widely recognised insect pollinators. Remarkably, we lack an understanding of some of the basic and fundamental aspects of bumblebee ecology and so our ability to manage the landscape to help reverse declines in the populations is limited.
A team led by scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, working with researchers from the University of East Anglia, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), University of Bristol and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, UCL, combined genetic analyses with land scape ecology and modelling to to reveal some of the previously hidden details of the ecology and genetic structure of queen and worker bumblebees, and their relationships with habitat variables, such as the availability of flowers. The genetics component of the work was led by Dr Seirian Sumner, in CBER, GEE.
By creating statistical models of the probability of year-on-year survival they demonstrated that survival of a bumblebee lineage from one year to the next was significantly related to the coverage of both spring and summer flower resources in the surroundings of the colony. These findings, published in Nature, suggest that agricultural landscapes must provide year-round resources if they are to be truly beneficial for their resident bumblebee populations.
These findings are applicable to anyone wishing to manage farmland, or indeed their own back gardens, in a bumblebee-friendly way. In particular, they offer effective management advice for conservation and show that conservation interventions that increase floral resources at a landscape scale and throughout the season have positive effects on wild pollinators in agricultural landscapes.
Read the story behind the publication
Image © L. Hulmes
Publication date: 27 March 2017
UCL celebrates its funding success during the ERC's 10th Anniversary Week and highlights several years of ULC achievements in attracting ERC funding including a case study of Professor Judith Mank, ERC recipient of both an ERC Starting grant and an ERC Consolidator grant. See UCL News for full story.
Publication date: 17 March 2017
BBSRC grant success for Ziheng Yang's group to study Phylogeographic inference using genomic sequence data under the multispecies coalescent model
Ziheng has been awarded a three-year BBSRC grant (£399K) to work on "Phylogeographic inference using genomic sequence data under the multispecies coalescent model". Dr Xiyun Jiao is hired as a postdoc on the grant. Xiyun finished a PhD in statistics from Imperial, working on smart MCMC algorithms. She will be joining Ziheng's group on 1 May 2017.
Also Dr Tomas Flouri will be joining Ziheng's group on the same day as a postdoc on another BBSRC grant. Tomas has a PhD in theoretical computer science, and has been working on RAxML and PLL (phylogenetic likelihood library) in Professor Alexis Stamatakis's group.
Publication date: 9 March 2017
The Bähler, Balloux, and Dessimoz labs have published a paper identifying structural variants in fission yeast and describing their effects on multiple quantitative traits—including winemaking, gene expression and intrinsic reproductive isolation.
Read the paper in Nature Communications and the story behind the paper in the Dessimoz Lab Blog post:
Publication date: 17 February 2017
Raising Horizons is a temporary photographic exhibition organised by TrowelBlazers in collaboration with photographer Leonora Saunders. It features contemporary female scientists photographed as their historical counterparts to draw attention to the diversity of women in science and the often underappreciated contributions of women to science.
Division of Biosciences is proud to announce Professor Anjali Goswami is one of the participants photographed dressed as turn-of-the-century Dorothea Bate, a mammalian palaeobiologist and the first female scientist employed by the NHM.
Date: 1-28 February 2017
Time: 9.30 - 5.30
Venue: the Geological Society Lower Library
Further exhibition details can be found on the Geological Society website: https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/Raising-Horizons
Publication date: 10 February 2017
Obituary E. B. Robson, PhD. Galton Professor of Human Genetics, University College London (1928- 2016) died July 18th 2016
Bette Robson was an important figure in the development of our understanding of human genetics and gene mapping for a period of more than 40 years. She retired from the Galton Chair in 1993.
After obtaining a 1st Class Hons BSc in Zoology, University of Durham her first research was done in the Galton Laboratory at University College London (UCL) in 1950-53. Lionel Penrose was Head of Department and she did a PhD on the knotty topic of human birth weight and stabilising selection, which is still a significant area of research. This was followed by a year with a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship in the USA, principally at Columbia University, NYC with Professors L. C. Dunn and T. Dobzhansky. After returning to the Galton laboratory She also learnt a great deal from the very wide circle of scientists, doctors and others who frequented ‘The Galton’ in those days. She moved from UCL to work with Harry Harris at the London Hospital Medical School in 1957, to broaden her experience and develop new techniques to identify human genes. This work was based on Oliver Smithies’ new invention of starch gel electrophoresis and genetic analysis of human haptoglobins.
This work was very successful and led directly to the formation of a new Medical Research Council Unit, in Kings College London, in 1962, with Harry Harris as Unit director. Bette introduced two-dimensional electrophoresis of human pseudo-cholinesterase (E1) and discovered a new polymorphism (Nature 1962, 196, 1296-1298). Within a few years she also had evidence of linkage between this enzyme (E1) and the transferrin (Tf) locus (Ann Hum Genet. 1966, 29, 325). Also with David Hopkinson, she set up a large international consortium to carry out linkage analysis (Am. J. Hum. Genet. 1965, 17,109) on the recently discovered red cell acid phosphatase polymorphism (Nature 1963. 163,199). Working directly with Harry Harris she carried out fundamental new work on the genetics of human placental alkaline phosphatase (Nature 1965. 207, 1257; Ann Hum. Genet. 1967. 30)
At about this time, Lionel Penrose retired and Harry Harris was appointed Galton Professor at UCL. A new Research building at UCL, Wolfson House, funded by the Wolfson Foundation, provided new homes for the Galton laboratory and the MRC Human Biochemical Research Unit in UCL.
Bette was delighted to move from Kings College London and was able to continue extensive gene assignment and gene mapping projects which involved widespread collaborations. She published one of the two first papers that mapped a gene to a human autosome in 1969, the assignment of the alpha locus of the human haptoglobin gene to chromosome 16 (Nature 1969. 223, 1163-5). There were also many new collaborations within UCL as other colleagues and collaborators moved in to share the excitement and the new laboratories.
For example, during this period Bette enjoyed extra help from Peter Cook with his ideas and expertise in Gene Mapping, Gerald Corney brought expertise on twins and family studies and the MRC Blood Group Unit (Directors Ruth Sanger & Patricia Tippet) moved in to Wolfson House with extra knowledge and resources. There were also many connections with ‘outside’ friends such as Walter Bodmer’s Unit at ICRF & Oxford, John Evans in Edinburgh and numerous other research groups in the UK and overseas, as gene mapping projects began to expand across the world.
Harry Harris remained in post till 1976 when he moved to Philadelphia and in 1978 Bette became Galton Professor. Over the years, Bette always supported the International Human Gene Mapping (HGM) workshops which brought together all the relevant information every 2 years from 1973 to 1991, by submitting data, chairing the overall summaries for many different chromosomes and robustly participating in the discussions. She also enjoyed the less formal social aspects of these remarkable gatherings. Apart from the exciting new science at the Los Angeles work shop in 1982 she was delighted to see so many lively young scientists attending. She encouraged her own post graduate students and young postdocs to go to these workshops and present their own data. Recent letters from former students have commented that her supervision was rigorous but in the end very supportive and enabling. Senior colleagues were many times guided by the clear critical thinking and sharp wit of her advice. In 1988 Bette became a member of the founding council of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) described at the time as ‘The UN of the Human Genome’ (Genomics 1989 5:385).
She also took on extra responsibilities at UCL for organising undergraduate and postgraduate teaching of Human Genetics in UCL and mentoring students. She enjoyed advising and helping these students and many of them stayed on in UCL and remained good friends for years. She also enjoyed cultural interests outside science and was happy to encourage this both in staff and students. She had a love for Italy and all things Italian with many Italian friends. She was an enthusiastic gardener at home and agreed to serve as one of the original Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew in October 1983, when the Board was first created, and served there for 8 years.
Publication date: 10 February 2017
Nick Lane receives the Michael Faraday Award 2016 and presents the Faraday Lecture "Why is Life the way it is?
The Faraday Medal is awarded in recognition of Nick's excellent work in communicating science to UK audiences and was presented following his Prize Lecture given at the Royal Society last night (1 Febraury 2017)
Publication date: 2 February 2017
Of all 504 primate species, the rarest and most vulnerable is found only on one tropical island at the southern tip of China. The majestic and enigmatic Hainan gibbon is confined to a single small patch of forest. Only around 25 remain.
Publication date: 20 January 2017
Congratulation to Dr Lucy Van Dorp on the successful defence of her thesis entitled 'Investigating processes driving genetic diversity in human populations using dense haplotypes'
Publication date: 19 January 2017
The global map of alien bird species has been produced for the first time by a UCL-led team of researchers. It shows that human activities are the main determinants of how many alien bird species live in an area but that alien species are most successful in areas already rich with native bird species.
Publication date: 19 January 2017
Flies with a history of eating a high sugar diet live shorter lives, even after their diet improves. This is because the unhealthy diet drives long-term reprogramming of gene expression, according to a UCL-led team of researchers
Full story on UCL News Site
Publication date: 11 January 2017
The paper, published in Nature Communications 2016 Mar 1; 7;10816 “A genome-wide association scan in admixed Latin Americans identifies loci influencing facial and scalp hair features” is the result of work carried by members of the Ruiz Linares group in GEE and collaborators.
Publication date: 22 December 2016
Professor E. B. Robson (1928-2016), former Galton Professor, died earlier this year (18 July 2016). We hope to publish an obituary in 2017 and would appreciate recollections from those who knew her. Please contact Professor Sue Povey on firstname.lastname@example.org
(Accompanying image is from Bette’s path-breaking paper with Harry Harris in 1965 (Nature 207, 1257-1259) using gel electrophoresis to uncover alleles of the human alkaline phosphatase gene).
Publication date: 21 December 2016
Congratulations to Dr Arunas Radzvilavicius on the successful completion of his PhD. Arunas, jointly supervised by Professor Andrew Pomiankowski and Dr Nick Lane, successfully defended his thesis "Evolutionary Dynamics of Mitochondrial Mutations in the Origin and Development of Eukaryotic Sex" subject to minor corrections. The examiners were Prof Richard Goldstein (UCL) and Professor Tom Richards (Exeter).
Publication date: 13 December 2016
Alex Stewart along with a scientific team University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Princeton and Indiana University has received an award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and validate reproducible methods for studying human social behavior.
DARPA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense that invests in breakthrough technologies to support national security. The award is part of DARPA’s new Next Generation Social Science program, or NGS2, which aims to revolutionize the speed, scale and rigor with which social science is performed.
The grant provides the multi-disciplinary team with $2.95 million for two years, with a possible additional $2.3 million for a subsequent one-and-a-half years, dependent on progress, to further the goals of the NGS2 program, a key one being to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that drive the emergence or collapse of collective identity in human populations.
Alexander Stewart, University College London.
Joshua B. Plotkin, University of Pennsylvania
Erol Akçay, University of Pennsylvania
David Rand, Yale University;
Simon Levin, Princeton University;
Johan Bollen, Indiana University
Publication date: 16 November 2016
Co-Developing a method for assessing the psychosocial impact of cultural interventions with displaced people: towards an integrated care framework
Global Challenge Research Fund project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2016-2018).
Publication date: 4 November 2016
We are delighted to announce that Seirian Sumner, formally a Senior Lecturer at Bristol, has joined CBER (the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research) as a Reader in Behavioural Ecology. Seirian’s research seeks to to explore the interface between behavioural ecology, biodiversity and conservation.
Publication date: 28 October 2016
Evolutionary consequences of behavioral diversity - how access to more complex social interactions can cause a population to evolve less cooperative behaviours
Alex Stewart and collaborators Todd Parsons (Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris) and Joshua Plotkin (University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia) publish their findings in a paper to come out this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Publication date: 25 October 2016
Dr Newbold's research seeks to understand how habitat loss and climate change together impact the structure and diversity of ecological communities. Habitat loss and climate change are the biggest threats to biodiversity, but the extent to which they might interact in their impacts on biodiversity remains very poorly understood.
Publication date: 24 October 2016
The EMBO Young Investigator Programme provides support for researchers under forty years of age who have set up their first laboratories in the past four years
Christophe is one of 25 life scientists selected to join the programme this year who join a network of 74 current and 382 past Young Investigators and who represent some of the best young group leaders in the life sciences in Europe and beyond.
Publication date: 21 October 2016
The award will support a post-doc in Tim Blackburn’s group, Professor of Invasion Biology, CBER. The study will seek to untangle evolutionary and human historical contexts in the introduction and spread of alien bird species.
Publication date: 20 October 2016
UCL will receive £151,779 to take forward Phase 2 of the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing.
Publication date: 12 August 2016
Throughout the academic year UCL medical students are able to nominate teachers who have been particularly helpful or inspiring to them during their studies for a Top Teacher award. At the end of the academic year, the QAU counts the number of nominations for each teacher and the ones with the most nominations receive an award. This year, Prof Thomas receives a Top Teacher award for Year 2 Genetics, Development & Cancer.
Publication date: 3 August 2016
Congratulations to Nick Lane on being awarded the 2016 Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture in recognition of his excellent work in communicating science to UK audiences.
Nick will be presented with his medal as part of his prize lecture to be given at the Royal Society in February 2017.
Publication date: 19 July 2016
The results of a study carried out by an international team of researchers including GEE/UGI researchers from the Thomas and Hellenthal Groups, found that there were deep genetic differences in early farming populations, indicating very distinct ancestries.
- See more
Publication date: 18 July 2016
A study, published today in Science, led by researchers from UCL, the Natural History Museum and UNEP-WCMC, found that levels of biodiversity loss are so high that if left unchecked, they could undermine efforts towards long-term sustainable development."This is the first time we’ve quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail and we’ve found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists” explained lead researcher, Dr Tim Newbold from UCL-CBER and previously at UNEP-WCMC.
Publication date: 15 July 2016
GEE are delighted to announce the promotion of Anjali Goswami to Professor and Judith Mank to a band 2 Professorship.
Publication date: 22 June 2016
Congratulations to James Howie who successfully passed his PhD viva held on Thursday 19 May. His thesis is on "Female mate choice and male ornamentation in the stalk-eyed fly, Diasemopsis meigenii” and was supervised by Prof. Kevin Fowler and Prof. Andrew Pomiankowski.
Publication date: 25 May 2016
GEE scientists recognised by the Linnean Society for their outstanding contributions to the Natural Sciences
Bicentenary Medal for excellent work by a biologist under 40. Georgina Mace won the Linnean Medal in Zoology for services to science. Pictured here with their medals awarded at the Linnean Society anniversary meeting on May 24.
Publication date: 25 May 2016
The successful applications were chosen according to how well they fit the criteria: potential for the future, fit with the Global Engagement strategic plan, benefit to UCL and the Faculty and making a difference in some significant way to research, education or other aspects of life. Of the 7 successful applicants from across the Faculty two are in GEE.
Publication date: 25 May 2016
Georgina Mace will receive the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences for developing scientific criteria for the world’s most comprehensive list of threatened species and for establishing priorities for nature conservation. She made a major contribution to the notion that healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are natural capital that render important services to humans, which is now a central concept in the nature management debate.
Publication date: 13 May 2016
Nautilus caught up with Nick Lane in his laboratory in London and asked him about his ideas on aging, sex, and death.
Watch the video
Publication date: 6 May 2016
Here is Bill Gates' take on Nick's book "The Vital Question" (gatesnotes).
Publication date: 28 April 2016
Congratulations to Dr Lawrence Bellamy, GEE Teaching Fellow, on being recognised by UCL Students for his outstanding support for teaching
The awards are being presented at today's UCL Teaching and Learning Conference.
Publication date: 19 April 2016
CBER Director Prof Georgina Mace has been appointed by Environment Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, to the new Natural Capital Committee. Further details.
Publication date: 1 March 2016
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined on stage by comedian Shappi Khorsandi, science broadcaster Adam Rutherford and evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas.
Publication date: 29 January 2016
The €2M ERC Consolidator Grant will be used to fund research into why sex chromosomes evolve in poeciliid fish.
Publication date: 5 January 2016
Professor Georgina Mace's services to science recognised in the 2016 New Year's Honours. Congratulations Dame Georgina.
Congratulations Georgina Mace, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems and Director, Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, who has been honoured with an DBE in the 2016 New Year's Honours.
Publication date: 5 January 2016