The Arthropod Supertree of Life: An Online Interactive Resource for Testing Patterns in Arthropod Evolution and Biodiversity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Biology and Biochemistry

Abstract

Around 80% of all animal species are arthropods: the group that includes insects, crabs and spiders. From their rapid radiation over 550 million years ago, they evolved to fill almost every habitat and exploit most imaginable lifestyles. Today, arthropods underpin virtually all ecological communities and food webs. They are of immense economic and medical importance to humans: as sources of food, crop pests and vectors of disease.

In order to understand the biodiversity of arthropods, to investigate the mechanisms by which they evolved, and to plan for their conservation, it is vitally important that we have a clear picture of their evolutionary relationships. There are many thousands of published evolutionary trees for particular arthropod groups at a shallow level (e.g., species within families) as well as many that attempt to resolve the more ancient branching events. These published trees represent an enormously rich resource, but one that largely remains locked within the pages of journals. This project will digitise 5,000 or more trees from across the arthropods, and make them available to all researchers electronically online.

Unfortunately, there are serious difficulties when researchers try to compare published trees: partly because they are derived from many different types of data (anatomy, molecules, genomes and fossils) and partly because they are analysed in an even greater variety of ways. More problematically, they often imply contradictory patterns of evolution. How, then, can we bring all of this information together to yield the giant, all-inclusive trees that evolutionary biologists and conservationists need, and do so without cherry-picking the data? Supertree methods are presently the most tractable approach, resolving conflict and finding overlap between the source trees using objective and repeatable rules. Such approaches have yielded the largest trees ever published.

Unfortunately, again, the construction of supertrees is presently very time-consuming and labour-intensive. Moreover, once constructed, it is extremely difficult or impossible to add new trees, to sub-sample the data (e.g., molecules or morphology), or to generate supertrees using different methods. Another core objective of this project is therefore to develop a set of software tools that will largely automate the process, providing inexperienced users with the ability to construct a supertree for any arthropod group at any taxonomic level (e.g., species, genera, families, etc.), and using multiple filtering criteria (e.g., only the most robust or recent source trees). We will then embed these tools in the website containing our data.

Existing, fast supertree methods are not without their problems, and another key objective of the project will therefore be to realise and program novel approaches (new Quartet Joining, Maximum Likelihood, Conservative and Bayesian methods are all under development by members of the team and our collaborators). The properties of these new methods need characterisation, and our arthropod dataset will offer the perfect test case against which to benchmark their performance.

We will then use our supertrees to ask a range of important questions in the study of arthropod biodiversity. Which evolutionary relationships are well-understood, and which are most uncertain and in need of further research? Which arthropod groups have an evolutionary branching sequence that matches the order in which they appear as fossils (such groups are useful for calibrating 'molecular clocks')? Is there a relationship between the age of arthropod groups and their present day diversity? We will also explore the utility of supertrees for addressing conservation priorities. Species that are alone on isolated branches of the supertree have greater than average 'evolutionary distinctiveness'. Where these are also imminently endangered, a powerful case can be mounted to prioritise their preservation.

Technical Summary

1. We will construct the largest ever supertrees of arthropods by synthesising 5,000+ peer-reviewed cladograms from the literature. The Researcher Co-I and Data Clerk will archive these in Newick format along with rich metadata in XML (character type, analysis type, branch support measures and complete bibliographic information) that will add significant value. A SynTax-funded prototype and proof of principle for crabs is already online.

2. We will develop and implement new supertree algorithms, including quartet joining, conservative, maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods. These will be incorporated into new versions of the open-source Supertree Toolkit (STK) alongside MRP variants, making it the most versatile supertree software available. We will also include tools to test for adequate overlap; a necessary prerequisite for efficient analyses. We will additionally incorporate 'taxonomic awareness' enabling trees to be produced at various hierarchical levels with no recoding of the source trees. We will also explore and program measures of supertree support, of congruence/conflict between data partitions, and of congruence between our trees and stratigraphic data. The arthropod case-study will be used for benchmarking.

3. All data and tools will be embedded online, and linked to analytical software written in Python and released under GNU GPL. A user-friendly GUI will enable anyone to produce supertrees easily but rigorously from any sub-sample of the data, and by multiple methods. Users will also be able to upload their own trees and metadata, enabling our resource to grow organically.

4. We will conduct several pilot studies for several focal clades (crabs, crayfish, bumblebees, dung beetles and butterflies). Specifically, we will collaborate with conservationists (Ben Collen and Richard Grenyer) to identify EDGE species, and to investigate the relationship between measures of phylogenetic spread and biogeographical distribution.

Planned Impact

Academic Impact

This project stands as a proof of principle for managing, curating and maximising the impact of a much larger database of published trees than assembled hitherto, along with its associated metadata. The project entails the development and implementation of important new methods for supertree construction, with applications for evolutionary biology, ecology, behavioural science and conservation. It will create a lasting legacy for the wider academic community in the form of the revised Supertree Toolkit (STK) and its associated website. The latter will comprise data, software and in-built data processing capabilities, all of which will benefit the wider biological community in future projects.
All of the new quartet joining, conservative, Bayesian and likelihood algorithms within the updated Supertree Toolkit will be released under an open source license, enabling other theoreticians and programmers to build upon its functionality. The front-end of the Toolkit will be easy for any researcher to use, and we envisage a lasting legacy from its redeployment on other groups of organisms.

This project is keenly supported by researchers on all major arthropod clades, for whom our resources will offer a comprehensive synthesis of the state of published knowledge. It will also highlight where disparate sources of data concur, and where there is significant conflict necessitating further research. Collaborative links have already been established with: Jonathan Coddington, Smithsonian (Arachnida); Jason Dunlop, Museum für Naturkunde (Chelicerata); Bill Shear, Hampden-Sydney College VA (Chilopoda); Adam Slipinski, CSIRO (Coleoptera); Geoff Boxshall, NHM (Copepoda and all Crustacea); Keith Crandall, Brigham Young (Decapoda); Greg Edgecombe, NHM (Diplopoda); Rudolf Meier, University of Singapore (Diptera); Richard Brusca (Isopoda); Stefan Richter, University of Rostock (Malacostraca); John Trueman (Odonata); Darren Mann, Oxford (Scarabaeida).
This project wil generate robust supertrees for use in secondary analyses by conservationists, ecologists, ethologists and evolutionary biologists. More importantly, these workers will be able to produce their own trees using any desired data filtering and processing criteria, as well as using powerful new supertree methods. We have established links with Richard Grenyer (Geography, Oxford) and Ben Collen (Head of Indicators and Assessment Unit, ZSL) in order to design our resources with this objective in view.

Economic and Societal Impact

Conservative estimates of the economic costs of biodiversity loss are around £40 billion per annum, although these figures are not currently included in estimates of GDP. An equivalent loss of 7% of GDP is predicted by 2050 if current rates continue. Approaches to conservation that simply count species are crude; the additional information imparted by large phylogenies allows evolutionary distinctiveness to be factored into policy-making decisions. This project will hugely simplify the synthesis of existing phylogenetic information for all groups by providing new methods and tools. It will specifically and immediately enhance our understanding of arthropod biodiversity; a clade containing 80% of all animal species. If our resource helps to slow the decline by just one thousandth of one percent over the next ten years (a modest claim), it's value might conservatively be placed at £4 million.
Public interest in biodiversity loss is enormous. The scale of this project, and the sheer size and inclusiveness of the trees that we will generate will make our work of great public interest. By adding an accessible 'public front end' to our website (linked to 'ARKive' images and species notes), we will improve public understanding of phylogeny and evolution, and raise awareness of the importance of, and applications for, systematics in general. This is of vital importance at a time when teaching of the discipline is declining.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We are still analysing our data and working these up into publications. We anticipate many more key findings down the line. Thus far, we have developed our software, the Supertree Toolkit, and made this available from the project website (http://supertreetoolkit.org/). We have used this to produce a supertree of Achelata as proof of concept (10.1371/journal.pone.0140110) and have extended our protocol (10.3897/BDJ.2.e1053) to other major clades. We now have supertrees of Anomura, Brachyura, Caridea, Euphausiacea, Odonata and Blattodea, with datasets of Culicidae, Formicidae, Nymphalidae, Scarabaeidae, Ephemeroptera, Scolytinae, Phthiraptera, Euphausiacee, Araneae and Myriapoda still being analysed. We relate our supertree of Anomura to changes in climate through deep time, and have demonstrated that, unusually, falls in temperature were associated with increased rates of diversification (the reverse is usually observed). A paper has been published in Nature Communications. We are also relating our tree of Caridea to major habitat shifts. We are additionally synthesising the first supertree of all decapods. Mosquitoes are of great medical significance as vectors of deadly diseases. We show a strong correlation between climate change and mosquito speciation rates: the first time to our knowledge such an effect has been demonstrated for insects. This finding, taken in combination with projected rises in atmospheric CO2 from anthropogenic activity, has important implications for culicid vector distributions and abundance, and consequently for human health. We have also devised algorithms for producing the first complete supertrees, filling in the species coverage afforded in the literature and rigorously interpolating all known species into this structure. We have also developed new supertree methods, and we are currently working to integrate these with our software. We have also appraised our existing indices of stratigraphic congruence using a large corpus (600+) trees of arthropods and other taxa, and demonstrate how best to quantify the fit of cladograms to the fossil record. A paper has been published in Systematic Biology, and new/better indices are in development.
Exploitation Route Our software is widely used by systematists, and our website and resources offer a benchmark for curating and archiving phyloinformatic data (trees and associated metadata). Large, inclusive supertrees are needed for comparative evolutionary analyses, and for informing conservation priorities. Species can be given an EDGE score (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) score, but complete phylogenies are necessary to do this. We have work in progress for the true crabs (Brachyura). Our arthropod supertrees are among the first such phylogenies, and we anticipate numerous collaborations and applications of our work in the future.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education

URL http://supertreetoolkit.org
 
Description NERC GW4+ Studentship
Amount £70,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 02/2022
 
Title Supertree Toolikit Website: Data on Achelata 
Description Archived and curated trees within the Supertree Toolkit pertaining to the publication: Davis KE, Hesketh TW, Delmer C, Wills MA. 2015. Towards a supertree of Arthropoda: A species-level supertree of the spiny, slipper and coral lobsters (Decapoda: Achelata). PLoS ONE, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0140110 PLOS Published: October 13, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140110 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact A supertree of decapods will be submitted soon 
URL http://supertreetoolkit.org/?q=data
 
Title Supertree Toolikit Website: Data on Anomura 
Description Data from: Davis, K., Hill, J., Astrop, T. and Wills, M., 2016. Global cooling as a driver of diversification in a major marine clade. Nature Communications 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Paper in Nature Communications 
URL http://supertreetoolkit.org/?q=data
 
Title Supertree Toolikit Website: Data on Caridea 
Description Data from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-018-0018-6 doi:10.1038/s42003-018-0018-6 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Paper in 'Communications Biology' 
URL http://supertreetoolkit.org/?q=data
 
Description Collaboration with Chufei Tang and Professor Ding Yang from China Agricultural University 
Organisation China Agricultural University (CAU)
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are producing trees of Mycetophilidae, Asilidae and Culicidae, as well as undertaking analyses of partitioned data sets for Diptera as a whole.
Collaborator Contribution Chufei has come to the UK for 6 months to carry out this work, and is providing taxonomic expertise, inputting data and running analyses.
Impact We have two papers in preparation. Chufei was awarded a grant that paid for her travel to the UK.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Natalie Cooper 
Organisation Natural History Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution PhD studentship from GW4 Partnership - Thomas Trapman
Collaborator Contribution Supervision, facilities and training for the student (Thomas Trapman)
Impact None yet
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with Paul Barrett 
Organisation Natural History Museum
Department Earth Sciences Department
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution PhD Studentship with Paul Barrett - Rebecca Lakin
Collaborator Contribution Supervision, facilities and training
Impact None yet
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with Sammy de Grave, Oxford 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are producing supertrees of Caridea and all Decapoda. Katie Davis has generated trees.
Collaborator Contribution Sammy is providing taxonomic expertise and writing the paper with us.
Impact Papers are in preparation
Start Year 2016
 
Title Supertree Toolkit 2 
Description Building large supertrees involves the collection, storage, and processing of thousands of individual phylogenies to create large phylogenies with thousands to tens of thousands of taxa. Such large phylogenies are useful for macroevolutionary studies, comparative biology and in conservation and biodiversity. No easy to use and fully integrated software package currently exists to carry out this task. Here, we present a new Python-based software package that uses well defined XML schema to manage both data and metadata. It builds on previous versions by 1) including new processing steps, such as Safe Taxonomic Reduction, 2) using a user-friendly GUI that guides the user to complete at least the minimum information required and includes context-sensitive documentation, and 3) a revised storage format that integrates both tree- and meta-data into a single file. These data can then be manipulated according to a well-defined, but flexible, processing pipeline using either the GUI or a command-line based tool. Processingsteps include standardising names, deleting or replacing taxa, ensuring adequate taxonomic overlap, ensuring data independence, and safe taxonomic reduction. This software has been successfully used to store and process data consisting of over 1000 trees ready for analyses using standard supertree methods. This software makes large supertree creation a much easier task and provides far greater flexibility for further work. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The software is new, but has already been used by 10 final year undergraduates in their projects. 
URL http://supertreetoolkit.org/
 
Description "Speciation, extinction and climate change: Inferences from the geological record" - Crossing the Palaeontological-Ecological Gap at University of Leeds. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A conference to bring together ecologists and palaeoecologists to discuss our shared research interests such as mass extinctions, biogeography, evolutionary ecology and environmental changes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.palass.org/meetings-events/future-meetings/crossing-palaeontology-ecology-gap
 
Description Bath Festival of Nature 2018 (June 2nd) - Fossil Roadshow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact https://www.bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature/bath-festival-nature-2/

Bath Festival of Nature. Public outreach event. Attracted young people and children to bring their own fossils, identify them and chat to members of staff about evolution and their own research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature/bath-festival-nature-2/
 
Description Blog on Caridean diversity paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release planned for next week
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/users/85098-katie-davis/posts/30571-unravelling-the-secrets...
 
Description Broadcasts on Radio Somerset and Radio Bristol - 18th September 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview on my evolutionary research to coincide with the Inaugural Conference of the Milner Centre for Evolution
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description ContentMine tools: mining images and texts for phylogenetic and species-related information 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation at Workshop:

Tools and methods for constructing the Tree of Life
University of York, 19th and 20th December, 2016

Evolutionary history, or phylogeny, is the backbone of systematics and knowledge of phylogeny is essential in a variety of fields within evolutionary biology; such as macroevolution, palaeontology, evolutionary ecology, and conservation. Non-specialists are increasingly in need of large, inclusive phylogenies for which there are two main methods of construction: the supermatrix and the supertree. For both methods, the main issues are collecting, curating and processing the source data. The individual sources will have individual tips and character data that do not match other sources due to misspellings, synonyms, or use of higher-level taxa. How do you correct this for hundreds or thousands of data sources? How do you efficiently collate hundreds of data sources? Supertrees combine a number of these overlapping source trees (source data) to then create the "supertree". In contrast supermatrices take primary information from characters (including genes or morphological characters) and combine them into a single, large matrix. Both methods can be cumbersome and time-consuming when creating large phylogenies. And, less obviously but no less vital, how do you even begin to visualise your output of 1000s tips in any meaningful way?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://jonxhill.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/tools-and-methods-for-constructing-the-tree-of-life/
 
Description Extinction in a Macroevolutionary Context - Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Culture, Memory & Extinction

Recent months have seen an explosion of public, media and academic interest in the idea, threat and reality of extinction. This acknowledgement has contributed to debates over climate change and other, related, ways that humanity has altered environments and ecosystems in this epoch we have begun to call the Anthropocene. This one-day conference asks what role can culture play in widening the understanding, representation and, indeed, remembrance of this unfolding and catastrophic species loss. With this in mind, the event aims to foster dialogue between academics, journalists, museum curators, charities, writers, environmental groups, and the media to explore how societies engage with the complexities of the processes of extinction and remember the extinct. More specifically, the event examines how increased dialogue between these communities and constituencies contributes to the public re-evaluation and remembrance of life on our planet.

Speakers:

Dan Barnard & Rachel Briscoe. Lead Artists, fanSHEN Environmental Theatre Collective.
Fae Brauer. Professor of Art and Visual Culture, University of East London.
Sbastian Brooke. Director, MEMO (Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory).
Melanie Challenger. Author, On Extinction.
Cathy Dean. Director, Save the Rhino.
Sebastian Groes. English and Creative Writing, Roehampton University.
Steve Parker. Author, Extinction: Not the End of the World?.
Jules Pretty. Professor of Environment and Society, University of Essex.
Bernd Scherer. Director, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.
Matt Williams. Associate Director, A Focus on Nature.
Matthew Wills. Biodiversity Lab, University of Bath.

Free tickets: register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/culture-memory-and-extinction-tickets-19379987063
Website: https://naturalhistoryofmemory.wordpress.com/london-2015/
Email: memoryandextinction@gmail.com

Organised by The Natural History of Memory: Dr Lucy Bond (Westminster), Dr Rick Crownshaw (Goldsmiths), Dr Jessica Rapson (King's College London); Research assistant: Ifor Duncan (Goldsmiths).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://instituteformodern.co.uk/2015/culture-memory-extinction
 
Description Festival of Nature - Activities for Children and Adults. Victoria Park, Bath, 25th June 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Wildlife-lovers of all ages are invited to discover and enjoy the natural world through a programme bursting with curiosities, imagination and inspiration.

11th - 12th June: Bristol Harbourside goes wild with a host of interactive exhibits and activities from the giants of the natural history world including the BBC Natural History Unit, National Trust, Bristol Zoo and RSPB.

19th June: For the first time the Festival will be visiting Keynsham to dip, dive, create, investigate and marvel at the wonders of the Avon.

25th June: The Festival will end its voyage in the city of Bath for an incredible finale, including an inspirational showcase of hands on activities, innovative arts, events and entertainment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Bath/Royal-Victoria-Park/Festival-of-Nature-2016/12665991/
 
Description Fossil Roadshow @ Bath Festival of Nature (June 25th, 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Join experts from Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath and BRLSI for Festival of Nature's first ever Jurassic Road Show!

Families from across Bath are invited to empty their closets and lofts and bring along their favourite fossils at Bath Festival of Nature in Parade Gardens, which is a free event from 11:00 - 18:00 on Sunday, June 25th. Whether it has been found on the beach or bought as a gift, our experts will attempt to identify them, say interesting things about them, and place them on a timeline stretching back millions of years across time.

There will also be plenty of showcase fossils on-site to explore, including some beautiful fossil ferns found in Radstock, some Mosasaur teeth (see below for images), and specimens from a favourite Bath venue, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bnhc.org.uk/whats-my-fossil/
 
Description Homoplasy and clade support across higher taxa and through research time - Systematics Biennial Meeting, Oxford, August 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Homoplasy and clade support across higher taxa and through research
time
Ross Mounce1, Graeme Lloyd2, Mark Wilkinson3 & Matthew Wills1
1. Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
2. Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
3. Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
E-mail: rcpm20@bath.ac.uk; m.a.wills@bath.ac.uk; graeme.lloyd@mq.edu.au; m.wilkinson@nhm.ac.uk
We quantify the levels of homoplasy in over 1,200 morphological character matrices
of animals using parsimony, and investigate its distribution across taxa and
throughout research time. No index of homoplasy is entirely satisfactory, and we explore
the empirical relationship between the ensemble consistency index (CI), the ensemble
retention index (strictly an index of retained synapomorphy), and the
homoplasy excess ratio (HER). We propose a refinement to the latter; specifically controlling
for the distribution of missing entries. We also investigate whether levels of homoplasy
predict levels of tree support; specifically mean non-parametric bootstrap
support, total support index (TSI) and proportional support index (PSI). Surprisingly, the
relationship is not especially strong. Lastly, we model the extent to which all homoplasy
and support indices are biased by data matrix dimensions, complementing the theoretical
work of Hoyal-Cuthill and colleagues. We find the expected inverse relationship
between the number of taxa and the CI, but also between the number of characters
and CI. The CI is therefore a poor measure of homoplasy between data sets. The RI
and modified HER are much less biased by dataset parameters, and yield similar results,
although we prefer the scaling of the latter. We demonstrate a significant decline
in the CI inferred for data sets over the last 30 years of research time, but this is
largely attributable to an increase in data set dimensions over the same period. Residual
CI and modified HER show no such trends. There are also significant differences
in homoplasy and branch support between higher taxa, which remain after modeling
out data set dimensions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.systass.org/biennial2015/SystematicsAssociationBiennialConferenceProgramme2015v2.pdf
 
Description Inaugural Lecture open to the Public: Re-running the Tape of Life - Video also on Vimeo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Purpose: to explain my research programme to a broad audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://vimeo.com/219521162
 
Description Invited seminar at University of Auckland. "Environmental change and biodiversity: The past, the present and the future" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Katie Davis delivered an invited seminar at University of Auckland. "Environmental change and biodiversity: The past, the present and the future"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited seminar at University of Sydney. "Environmental change and biodiversity: The past, the present and the future" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Katie Davis delivered an invited seminar at University of Auckland. "Environmental change and biodiversity: The past, the present and the future"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited talk at GSA 2014 within session "T214. Unearthing the History of Life: The Application of Phylogenetic Methods to the Fossil Record" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact What can fossils really tell us about phylogeny. Showcasing supertree work and our preliminary ammonoid supertree.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2014AM/webprogram/Paper245976.html
 
Description Outreach activity day for local school children 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath celebrated its launch on the 21 September 2018 by inviting 120 local school children to come to the labs and learn more about evolution.

https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/gallery/32-pictures-opening-milner-centre-2035982
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkwIiB72itY&t=3s
 
Description Podcast as part of 42evolution.org 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Series of podcasts on evolutionary biology alongside those of various luminaries including Sir David Attenborough
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.42evolution.org/videos/researcher/professor-matthew-wills/
 
Description Poster: Davis KE, Hill J, Tovar J & Wills MA. 2012. Towards the arthropod supertree of life: a prototype online resource. The Palaeontological Association annual meeting 2012, Dublin. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster: Davis KE, Hill J, Tovar J & Wills MA. 2012. Towards the arthropod supertree of life: a prototype online resource. The Palaeontological Association annual meeting 2012, Dublin.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Poster: Davis KE, Wills, MA. 2015. Identifying conservation priorities in freshwater crabs (Brachyura). Evolution 2015, Guaruja, Brazil. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster: Davis KE, Wills, MA. 2015. Identifying conservation priorities in freshwater crabs (Brachyura). Evolution 2015, Guaruja, Brazil.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Poster: Hill, J., Davis, K.E., Tovar, J., Wills, MA. The Supertree Toolkit: data curation and processing for large supertrees. Evolution 2015, Guaruja, Brazil (poster) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster: Hill, J., Davis, K.E., Tovar, J., Wills, MA. The Supertree Toolkit: data curation and processing for large supertrees. Evolution 2015, Guaruja, Brazil (poster)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Press release for Anomura paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release that resulted in an article in 'The Guardian' newspaper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/news/2016/10/04/warming-marine-diversity/
 
Description School Visit - Clarendon Academy - November 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Excellent discussion and questions afterwards

Plan to return in future years. Helps to focus pupils on science as a career.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description School Visit - Kingswood School - November 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Excellent discussion with pupils and staff. Visits are now planned every other year in order to reach each sixth form.

Increased interest in evolutionary biology as a career
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description School Visit - Oldfield School - November 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Discussion of possible science careers with students after talk

I hope to invite pupils to visit the University in future years, and listen to a lecture on a similar theme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description School Visit - Sexey's School - April 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion with pupils, parents and staff from Sexey's and other schools.

Discussion with headmaster regarding the teaching of evolution
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://sexeyshead.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/head-masters-weekly-notes-25th-april.html
 
Description Talk at Bath Royal Scientific and Literary Institution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Re-running the Tape of Life. Is Evolution Predictable?
Is evolution an essentially open-ended process of unlimited potential, or is its outcome predictable? If we could re-run the Tape of Life would small perturbations to starting conditions yield radically different outcomes, or would the course of evolution follow a familiar path, differing only in details? Matthew Wills will explore how major animal groups have evolved according to a common template, seeking evidence for actively driven evolutionary trends in morphological complexity and possible rules governing mass extinctions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.brlsi.org/node/90082
 
Description Talk at Evolution 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hill, J., Tovar, J., Davis, K.E., Wills, MA. Automated processing of taxonomy, metadata, and source trees for supertree construction.
Evolution 2015, Guaruja, Brazil (talk)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Talk at GSA Seattle 2017 - Climate change and extinction risk in an important group of marine invertebrates (Decapoda): Inferences from the geological past 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at GSA. A promising new strategy in conservation biology is to use the geological record to inform present day intervention priorities. We illustrate three ways in which macroevolutionary data can be used to better understand biotic responses to current and ongoing environmental change.
We present a complete phylogeny of all 16,083 species of Decapoda; an order of crustaceans of great economic importance. We use this tree in combination with Species Distribution Models (SDMs) under three IPCC climate scenarios (A1B, B1 and A2) to highlight species most at risk of extinction due to climate change. We also investigate whether there is any link between Evolutionary Distinctiveness (ED) on our phylogeny and the likelihood of extinction under each IPCC scenario.

To further explore the value of this approach, we present macroevolutionary and macroecological data from two decapod infraorders: Anomura and Caridea. In Anomura (hermit crabs), habitat influences geohistorical speciation rates, with marine species under greater threat of extinction from global warming than freshwater species. In Caridea (shrimp), species that live in commensal or parasitic association with reef organisms (such as corals) experience lower speciation rates free living species. The risk of extinction in the former group may be elevated with the ongoing destruction of the fragile ecosystems they tend to inhabit. Although we do not suggest that these relationships are ubiquitous, they highlight the importance of macroecological and macroevolutianary perspectives for understanding the effects of current and ongoing climate change.

We give examples of three ways in which a macroevolutionary perspective can inform our understanding of the likely responses of extant species to current and projected environmental changes. 1) Phylogenies underpin valuable macroevolutionary indices, including measures of Evolutionary Distinctiveness. These can be used in conjunction with SDMs to infer proportions of biodiversity currently at risk of extinction. 2) The role of past climate change upon speciation rates can be modelled. 3) Some ecological traits may render species at greater risk of extinction. A future synthesis of these approaches may enable us to identify the Earth's most vulnerable species, and thereby to inform conservation strategies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2017AM/webprogram/Paper302970.html
 
Description Talk by Katie Davis at the University of Leeds (November): Climate change and extinction risk in an important group of marine invertebrates (Decapoda): Inferences from the geological past 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Departmental talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk on "Life in the Universe" to 20 students and 5 teachers from Villiers Park (April 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A talk on the origins of life and the probable appearance of aliens, delivered to 20 pupils between 14 and 15. Villiers Park are an educational trust that provide activities for a range of schools in their area. Therefore the students attending were from a mix of schools and were accompanied by a variety of staff and a school governor.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk on "Teeth" to children from Chapmanslade Primary School. 21st June 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk on "Teeth" to children from Chapmanslade Primary School
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk on the Evidence for Evolution to 50 Sixth Formers from Villiers Park. A Widening Participation Activity organised through the University. 4th April. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact An activity aimed at attracting students from less advantaged backgrounds into science at University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk on the religious beliefs of Charles Darwin give to Bath Naturalists - 5th February, 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Darwin's Other Dangerous Idea

Matthew Wills

Darwin's name is almost synonymous with biological evolution and a materialistic worldview in popular thinking, but his own journey to an uneasy atheism was a complex and interesting one. In this talk I will consider some of the milestones on that journey. Matthew Wills was a student and postdoc in Bristol, spent a year working with Doug Erwin at the Smithsonian, and was for two years an Assistant Curator at the Oxford University Museum. He moved to Bath in 2000, where he is now Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology and Deputy Director of the Milner Centre for Evolution. His interests include macroevolutionary patterns and trends, particularly the manner in which groups rapidly explore their morphological 'design' options.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.brlsi.org/events-proceedings/events/bath-nats-darwins-other-dangerous-idea
 
Description Talk to 90 Year 10 Students at Commonweal School, Swindon. "What Will Aliens Look Like?" 27th June 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk on "What Will Aliens Look Like?" to students at Commonweal School, Swindon.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk: Supertree Toolkit: fast and accurate supertree construction 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation at Workshop:

Tools and methods for constructing the Tree of Life
University of York, 19th and 20th December, 2016

Evolutionary history, or phylogeny, is the backbone of systematics and knowledge of phylogeny is essential in a variety of fields within evolutionary biology; such as macroevolution, palaeontology, evolutionary ecology, and conservation. Non-specialists are increasingly in need of large, inclusive phylogenies for which there are two main methods of construction: the supermatrix and the supertree. For both methods, the main issues are collecting, curating and processing the source data. The individual sources will have individual tips and character data that do not match other sources due to misspellings, synonyms, or use of higher-level taxa. How do you correct this for hundreds or thousands of data sources? How do you efficiently collate hundreds of data sources? Supertrees combine a number of these overlapping source trees (source data) to then create the "supertree". In contrast supermatrices take primary information from characters (including genes or morphological characters) and combine them into a single, large matrix. Both methods can be cumbersome and time-consuming when creating large phylogenies. And, less obviously but no less vital, how do you even begin to visualise your output of 1000s tips in any meaningful way?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://jonxhill.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/tools-and-methods-for-constructing-the-tree-of-life/
 
Description Twitter video on Charles Darwin 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact WATCH: @MilnerCentre's Matthew Wills discusses the legacy of Charles Darwin for #DarwinDay.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://twitter.com/UniofBath/status/1095349800495661061
 
Description Villiers Park masterclass talk. "What Will Aliens Look Like?" 19th April. 32 Year 10 Pupils. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Villiers Park masterclass talk. "What Will Aliens Look Like?" 19th April. 32 Year 10 Pupils.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Visit to Malmesbury School - talk open to members of the public (1st July) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk to approximately 60 members of the public and a small number of pupils. There were excellent discussions after my talk, and I have been in correspondence with two of the attendees since the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.malmesbury.wilts.sch.uk/assets/Attachments/Prof-Matthew-Wills-1st-July-2015.pdf
 
Description What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A popular science article that received over 500,000 reads on 'The Conversation' website and its subsidiaries. The PI is now the most widely read academic in Bath via 'The Conversation' platform.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://theconversation.com/what-do-aliens-look-like-the-clue-is-in-evolution-63899
 
Description What limits the morphological disparity of clades? - Talk at Systematics Association Biennial, Oxford, August 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact What limits the morphological disparity of clades?
Jack Oyston1, Martin Hughes2, Peter Wagner3, Sylvain Gerber4 & Matthew Wills1
1. Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
2. Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
3. Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20560-0121, USA.
4. Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2
3EQ, UK.
E-mail: jwo22@bath.ac.uk
Patterns of morphological and taxonomic diversity are often at odds. Specifically,
there is a tendency for groups to reach maximum levels of morphological disparity
relatively early in their evolutionary histories, even while species richness or
diversity is comparatively low. Early high disparity is evident not only in a diverse range
of animal clades but also major groups of vascular plants, suggesting it may represent
a universal evolutionary phenomenon. The shapes of disparity profiles through time
can be quantified in terms of their centre of gravity, with bottom heaviness (CG < 0.50)
being typical of extinct clades that do not terminate at a mass extinction. It is widely
supposed that increasing developmental constraints or ecological restrictions limit the
range of morphologies that can evolve within a clade; consistent with an observed
decrease in the rate of origination of novel bodyplans and higher taxa through time.
It has also been demonstrated that the rate of evolution of new character states decreases
through time, although the relationship between this 'character exhaustion'
and overall disparity has hitherto been untested. Here, we quantify the rate of character
exhaustion in 93 published phylogenies of extinct animal clades, and test for a
relationship with disparity profile centre of gravity. We find no significant correlation,
and conclude that patterns of early high disparity are not shaped by exhaustion of
the state space in any straightforward manner.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.systass.org/biennial2015/SystematicsAssociationBiennialConferenceProgramme2015v2.pdf
 
Description Widening Particiption Event - First School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Combe Down Yr 1. 'Dinosaur' visit 24/11/15
The year 1 curriculum is all about classification. The teachers have chosen dinosaurs (identification and common names) to illustrate structure, diet and environment. The curriculum extends this to include the structure of common animals including the human body, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

The talk will include dinosaurs and some features which give clues to their structure and function (eye sockets & teeth?) The lab activities will give an opportunity to look closely at skulls (spot the difference - eye sockets and dentition); diet of herbivores, omnivores and carnivores; eggs from fish, snails, manduca moths, locusts, chickens, quails; spiral timeline - colouring activity; skeletons; classification of mammals, amphibians, birds etc. There will be a 5 minute 'ask the expert' session at the end of the session. The children will depart the lab at 11:45.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Widening Particiption Event - First School (11th March 2015) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk to first school pupils about extinction with a free discussion afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015