Chris D Thomas

Chris D Thomas, FRS


Former affiliations

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

PhD research projects (self/overseas funded projects)

1. Anthropocene evolution: causes, rates and consequences.

How will species survive the Anthropocene, the period of Earth’s history when humans are becoming a dominant force? Will animals, plants and microbes be able to evolve fast enough to adjust to the new conditions? This PhD project aims to provide the first synthesis of Anthropocene evolution.

The aim is to provide a novel synthesis, using a new analytical approach, informing scientists and policy makers about the likelihood that populations and species will survive through evolutionary change, as opposed to becoming extinct.

2. The accumulation of species in novel Anthropocene habitats.

The project will examine the diversity of species associated with new habitat types that have been created by humans. The student will develop a model for species accumulation, dependent on the isolation of derived habitats from potential sources of colonists and the time over which the derived habitat has been available for colonisation. The model will be tested by comparing the predicted patterns of diversity with those observed, using a combination of existing data sources and new data collected by the student.

3. The roles of geographic history, phylogeny and functional traits on the impacts of biological invasions on diversity changes of invaded communities and regions.

We know that some biological communities are easier to invade than others, and that some types of organism are more effective invaders than others. However, there is little information available on understanding why some invasions increase and others decrease local and regional diversity. This project will use data from the literature to analyse diversity changes in relation to the attributes of the 'invaded communities', relative the the types of communities from which the invading species arose.

Personal profile


Chris Thomas is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, interested in the dynamics of biological change in the Anthropocene. He is Director of the transdisciplinary Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity.

Chris is interested in understanding the both the positive and negative drivers of biological change in the Anthropocene, with a view to developing environmental strategies appropriate for a period of rapid change. This interest in the success of biodiversity in the Anthropocene is exemplified by his popular science book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction, which was designated among The Times, Economist & Guardian Books of the Year for 2017.  

In addition to his scientific publications, Chris has been a co-editor of nine scientific journals and his work has been quoted in the media in most countries in the world. His research has influenced the development of policy in the areas of climate change and conservation.

Chris received the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London in 1998, the President’s Medal of the British Ecological Society in 2001, the Marsh Award for Conservation Biology in 2004, and the Marsh Award for Climate Change Research in 2011. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012, and awarded an honorary Doctorate from the University of Helsinki in 2014, and is President of the Royal Entomological society 2018-2020.

Current projects

Research in the group focuses on the ecological and evolutionary impacts of human activities on biological systems as a means to tackle both theoretical questions in ecology and issues relevant to the management of biodiversity.  Chris is particularly interested in developing projects that identify the ecological and evolutionary characteristics of species that are successful in the Anthropocene, and identifying the processes underlying biodiversity gain during a period of rapid environmental change.

Chris and members of his research group belong to the Ecology and Evolution research focus within the Department of Biology, and also to the inter-departmental York Environmental Sustainability Institute.  Current research interests, project and fellowship opportunities can be seen by visiting the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity web pages.

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or