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UKRI fellowship enables further research on the origins and evolution of birds

last modified Sep 20, 2019 11:05 AM
Announced today, Dr Field, University Lecturer in Evolutionary Palaeobiology, has been named a recipient of a Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Dr Field is an expert on the origins and evolution of birds, and his award, entitled 'Modernisation, diversification, and domination: Macroevolutionary origins of living bird diversity', will fund his research for the next several years.

The explosive evolution of birds was one of the most spectacular events in the history of life. Today, there are over 11,000 species of birds—more than all living mammals or any other living group of tetrapods—and birds occupy virtually every corner of the modern world.

Understanding how, where and when birds became so successful is one of the most enduring and controversial puzzles in evolutionary biology, and Daniel’s UKRI-funded work aims to resolve these major outstanding questions by drawing on an interdisciplinary approach combining insights from multiple fields including palaeontology, molecular phylogenetics, and biomechanics.

The UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship provides an opportunity for early career scientists to pursue interdisciplinary research programmes which tackle significant and outstanding problems. Daniel Field is one of a select group of researchers who have been awarded a fellowship in the program’s first year of existence, and one of just two in the University of Cambridge. The Future Leaders programme is supported by a £900 million government investment in world-leading science and provides an opportunity for innovation in tackling large-scale research problems.

Says Dr Field, “This exciting project will provide research opportunities for many early career scientists, and will have a wide-ranging impact on outreach through teaching and museum exhibit development. Data from this project will stimulate a whole range of future studies on avian evolution, bringing us closer than ever to a more complete understanding of how and why Earth’s modern biodiversity has arisen.”