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Ciara O'Donovan

Portrait of Ciara O'Donovan


Areas of interest

 I have always loved animals and been interested in their reproduction, evolution, diversity and conservation. During my academic training and career thus far I have focused on trying to characterise and understand the evolutionary processes that have acted over hundreds of millions of years to produce the astounding diversity of organisms we see alive today and those we have evidence of through the fossil record. My work seeks to explain elements of the natural world as varied as how a single dinosaur species resulted in hundreds of species that conquered the globe and how vertebrate body size came to range over four orders of magnitude. Much of the information my work uncovers can fill the gaps in fossil records and enables a view into deep time that would otherwise be impossible. This view in turn helps gain an understanding of how the world around us has been shaped and how it may react to changing times ahead.

Research Areas

  • Macroevolution
  • Macroecology
  • Phylogenetic trees
  • Biogeography through deep time
  • Vertebrate evolution
  • Rates of evolution

Research projects

  • Phylogenetic comparative methods
  • Ancestral state reconstruction
  • Evolutionary modelling
  • Biogeographic modelling
  • Processing and analysing data in the statistical package R

Academic qualifications

  • BSc (Hons) Zoology 2010 - 2013 from University of Reading
  • PhD in Evolutionary biology 2014 - 2018 entitled 'The evolutionary paths to diversity' from University of Reading

Awards and honours

  • 2018 PhD Researcher of the Year in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • School of Biological Sciences Postgraduate Symposium, University of Reading - prize for the best Ecology and Evolutionary Biology presentation in 2017 and 2015
  • Young Systematists' Forum, Natural History Museum London 3rd prize for presentation in 2015

Selected publications

  • Pagel, M., O’Donovan, C. and Meade, A. (2022). General statistical model shows that macroevolutionary patterns and processes are consistent with Darwinian gradualism. Nature Communications. 13, 1113
  • O'Donovan, C., Meade, A. and Venditti, C. (2018). Dinosaurs reveal the geographical signature of an evolutionary radiation. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 2, 452 - 458


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