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Jo Baker

Portrait of Joanna Baker

Areas of interest


  • Development and application of cutting-edge phylogenetic statistical software packages including: BayesTraits, BEAST, R
  • Bioinformatics processing of large sequences including downloading and alignment plus post-processing in other software such as PAML, HyPhy etc.
  • Programming languages for biological analysis including R, Python, Perl
  • Statistical analyses  

Research projects

A unifying theme of all my research is the development, application and integration of contemporary phylogenetic statistical approaches to answering key evolutionary questions. My interests are primarily involved in macro-evolutionary biology, particularly involving large-scale evolutionary trends and patterns. I am also interested in looking at the effects of incorporating extinct and extant diversity into studies of evolutionary biology and ecology.


I completed my MSc at the University of Hull where I focused on understanding the characteristics that are likely to have driven the success of mammalian biological invaders such as the grey squirrel. I then moved to the University of Reading where I completed my PhD studying macro-evolutionary biology, including the evolution of mammalian body size. I then completed (as of August 2020) an Early Career Fellowship funded by the Leverhulme Trust at the University of Reading which sought to detect genotype-phenotype links across evolutionary scales. This led me to investigate the factors - both ecological and genetic - that have driven brain size, testes size, and eye shape evolution across all vertebrates. In September 2020 I will be starting on a new project seeking to understand the history of extinct hominins such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, hoping to cast a light on the evolutionary path leading to our own species.

Awards and honours

In 2016, I was the Environment theme PhD student researcher of the year at the University of Reading. I have been invited to teach workshops on phylogenetic comparative methods at all levels, from undergraduate to academics. Organised (along with co-organizers from the University of Cambridge) a symposium at ESEB in Turku, Finland titled "Gene-Phenotype associations across evolutionary scales".

Selected publications

  • Bruno C Genevcius, Joanna Baker & Filipe M Bianchi. "Female-driven intersexual coevolution in beetle genitalia" Accepted for publication in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology
  • Joanna Baker and Chris Venditti. "Rapid change in mammalian eye shape is explained by activity pattern." Current Biology. (Available Online) doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.017 [journal]
  • Joanna Baker, Stuart Humphries, Henry Ferguson-Gow, Andrew Meade, and Chris Venditti. "Rapid decreases in relative testes mass among monogamous birds but not in other vertebrates." Accepted in Ecology Letters. [journal] [Times Article: paywall] [Daily Mail Article] [inews Article]
  • Joanna Baker, Andrew Meade, Mark Pagel, and Chris Venditti. "Positive phenotypic selection inferred from phylogenies." Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 18, no. 1 (2016): 95-115. [journal]
  • Richard M. Sibly, Joanna Baker, John M. Grady, Susan M. Luna, Astrid Kodric-Brown, Chris Venditti, and James H. Brown. "Fundamental insights into ontogenetic growth from theory and fish." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.45 (2015): 13934-13939. [journal]
  • Isabella Capellini, Joanna Baker, William L. Allen, Sally E. Street, and Chris Venditti. "The role of life history traits in mammalian invasion success." Ecology letters 18, no. 10 (2015): 1099-1107. [journal]
  • Joanna Baker, Andrew Meade, Mark Pagel, and Chris Venditti. "Adaptive evolution toward larger size in mammals." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 16 (2015): 5093-5098 [journal] [atlas of science summary]


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