Emma Hughes

Email: echughes1@sheffield.ac.uk


I completed my MBiolSci in Zoology at the University of Sheffield, before joining the MacroBird research group as a research assistant in July 2014. Predominantly based at the Natural History Museum at Tring, my main roles were to build 3D models of bird bills from museum specimens and curate the associated bill morphology dataset. As a keen birder, having the opportunity to work with one of the biggest ornithological collections in the world was a real privilege. In October 2016, I moved back to Sheffield to start my PhD.

The title of my PhD thesis is “Global change and the future of avian diversity”.
Supervisors: Dr Gavin Thomas  and Dr David Edwards.
My PhD studentship is funded by the NERC as part of the ACCE (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment) DTP.

My PhD research aims to investigate the effects of global change on avian diversity. With limited resources, it can be challenging to identify how best to apply conservation efforts to maximise global biodiversity protection. Considering biodiversity in terms of species richness (the number of species in a given area) doesn’t take into account variation in the evolutionary heritage or ecological roles that different species represent. Therefore, my research will focus on two alternative measures of biodiversity, phylogenetic diversity (PD: the amount of evolutionary history present in a community) and functional diversity (FD: a quantitative measure of the functional roles species in a community fill). More specifically, I will i) investigate the relationship between PD and FD, ii) describe the macroecological patterns of PD and FD in birds, iii) test how projected climate and land-use change scenarios will affect global patterns of avian PD and FD.


Chira A.M., Cooney C.R., Bright J.A., Capp E.J.R, Hughes E.C., Moody C.J.A., Nouri, L.O., Varley, Z.K., Thomas G.H. 2018. Correlates of rate heterogeneity in avian ecomorphological traits. Ecology Letters. 21(10), 1505-1514. doi: 10.1111/ele.13131.

Cooney C.R.*, Bright J.A.*, Capp E.J.R, Chira A.M., Hughes E.C., Moody C.J.A., Nouri, L.O., Varley, Z.K., Thomas G.H. 2017. Mega-evolutionary dynamics of the adaptive radiation of birds. Nature. 542, 344-347. doi:10.1038/nature21074. *equal contributions


Green Sandpiper, Le Havre, France

As the majority of my PhD research is computational, I spend much of my free time outdoors – birding and bird ringing.  I hold a C-permit ringing licence, and thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to observe birds in the hand, learning how to score moult, age and sex different species. Another love of mine is exploring different countries and cultures, and I have experience birding in South-East Asia, West Africa, California, Australia and Europe.

Alongside my academic work, I also manage public engagement at the Alfred Denny Museum in Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield. You can visit the museum for a free guided tour on the first Saturday of every month. To book your place, please visit: http://www.shef.ac.uk/alfred-denny-museum/book-your-place.

Twitter: @EHughes27
Find me on LinkedIn.