Species discovery, conservation and teaching
I am a university teacher with independent research interests, which are summarised below. My teaching is focussed on two key aspects: the vital importance of biology in our future, and the need for good science writing. For more than 25 years I have taught undergraduates at Cambridge University, covering whole organism biology courses (including those relevant to evolution, physiology, behaviour and ecology). Over the years I have developed a special focus on bringing students up to the highest standards of science writing. My aim is to ensure that they are the best possible communicators and that their writing is based on both the classic works and the very latest information. From our very first supervision I direct my students to the most recent papers relevant to their courses. Other pages on this website provide advice to new students and to potential applicants.
My research interests can be summarised as discovery and conservation of species, and their evolution. In 2017 I surveyed the surviving populations and am now investigating the impacts of introduced predators, especially the flatworm menace and the impacts of tree snail extinction on forest health. My research on taxonomy, ecology, evolution and conservation has been particularly focussed on islands and has covered fungi, plants and animals, especially molluscs, reptiles and bats. I have particular interests in Madagascar, Seychelles and French Polynesia, and in snails and amazing tortoises that hunt birds!
I have been evaluating the status of the world's invertebrates through my role as Chair of the IUCN/SSC Terrestrial and Freshwater Invertebrate Red List Authority. I have also had an interest in climate change, studying several affected species and founding the Climate Change Working Group of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. In 2013 I became active in Partula snail conservation after a gap of 20 years. These snails are emblematic of the biodiversity crisis, with 51 of the French Polynesian species being driven to extinction within two decades. 12 species may survive in the wild and a further 11 survive only in captivity. In 2021 I was involved in the discovery that a population of giant tortoises actually hunt birds, again this has brought me back to studying a group of animals I worked on for many years (see below).
With Sir David Attenborough, patron of the Giant Tortoise Conservation Project
|Giant tortoises hunt and consume birds. Current Biology 2021 13(16): PR989-990|
|Global biodiversity conservation priorities. Science 2006 313(5783): 58-61 [2126 citations]|
|The impact of conservation on the status of the world's vertebrates. Science 2010 1194442: 863 [1445 citations]|
|The conservation status of the world's reptiles. Biological Conservation 2013 157: 372-385 [784 citations]|
|Terrestrial invertebrates as bioindicators: an overview of available taxonomic groups. Journal of insect conservation 2013 17(4): 831-850 [350 citations]|
|International scientists formulate a roadmap for insect conservation and recovery. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2020 4: 174-176|
|1991||MA Zoology - Class I (Wadham College, Oxford)|
|1994||DPhil "The Ecology of the Carnivorous Snail Euglandina rosea". Department of Zoology, Oxford University. Funded by the Christopher Welch Scholarship|
Awards, appointments and fellowships:
|1990||Pacific Land Snail Group member- international conservation co-ordination group|
|1991||Royal Geographic Society fellow|
|Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles council member|
|1999||Affiliated Researcher - University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge|
|IUCN Species Survival Commission member:
|2000||Kay Gray Memorial Award for contributions to Chelonian conservation,British Chelonia Group|
|2009-||Academic Associate - Pembroke College, Cambridge|
|2013-||Senior Member (Teaching) - Robinson College, Cambridge|
|2016-9||College Lecturer and Director of Studies (Biology) - Peterhouse, Cambridge|
|2019-||Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies (Biology) - Peterhouse, Cambridge|