Dr Angela Chira


Current research

I completed my PhD in October 2018 at the University of Sheffield, in Gavin Thomas’ group. My research here focused on patterns and correlates of ecomorphological diversification in birds. There are over 10k Aves species, and their morphological diversity is bewildering. By using comparative phylogenetic methods, I aimed to understand the processes leading to the diversity in forms we see today in living birds, with specific focus on explaining the evolution of beak shape, size and body mass. I first used simulated and empirical data to test how variation in the rate (or speed) at which traits change affects the inferences and interpretation of phylogenetic models of trait evolution. I then looked into multiple hypotheses that explain variation in the rate of phenotypic evolution, focusing on candidate factors generally associated with variation in the rate of molecular evolution, as well asaspects of species’ ecologies. Lastly, I focused on the potential role of species interactions in driving macroevolution. I took an extensive survey of patterns of trait divergence consistent with the presence of biotic interactions across the radiation of birds. I further described the geographical distribution of competition signal in granivorous avian assemblages across the globe, and also looked into how the signature of competition associates with the process of morphological evolution. This project tied in perfectly my passion for natural biodiversity with my (curious) love for coding and modelling.

I have currently moved to Washington University in St. Louis, where I am using comparative methods to understand the evolution of human culture.

Previous research

I completed my MBiolSci in Zoology at the University of Sheffield (2010-2014). My Masters project investigated how individual personality (i.e. repeatable, consistent differences in behaviour between individuals) affects reproductive investment, re-nesting and helping decisions in a cooperative breeding species – the long tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus; project supervised by Prof Ben Hatchwell). I was lucky to use a remarkable dataset on long tailed tits collected from 1994 to present, while also enjoying the cheers of field work and nesting lotties for two beautiful Spring months.

About me

I enjoy exploring cultures, hearing people’s stories, listening to their music, exploring their landscapes, and tasting their local spirits. While at home, I treat myself with watching sports, baking, and reading.


Find me on Google Scholar.