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Dr Robert Thomas 

Photo of a small bird.

I did my first degree (MA, BA) in Zoology and Ecology at Cambridge University (graduating in 1993), and my D.Phil. at the University of Sussex (graduating in 1997). After a short period as assistant warden at A Rocha Bird Observatory in Southern Portugal, I moved to the Centre for Behavioural Biology at Bristol University in 1998 to take up a NERC-funded post-doctoral position. In 2002 I was awarded a NERC Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, which I brought to Cardiff School of Biosciences and I was appointed to a lectureship here in 2006.

Positions, Responsibilities & Other Activities

Photo of a robin.
  • Council Member of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB, 2009-present). Organiser of the 2009 ASAB Easter Conference at Cardiff University.
  • Education Secretary of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (2011-present). ASAB promotes the teaching of animal behaviour in schools, colleges and universities; some of our most popular teaching resources are available here.[ ]
  • Member of the Ethics Committee of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (2006-2013, acting Secretary 2007, 2009). I was involved in the revision (2012) of the ASAB Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Behavioural research and Teaching, which can be downloaded here [ ]
  • Member of the grant assessment panel EVO-3, of the Research Council of Norway (2013-present).
  • Invited speaker at leading universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol, Exeter, Liverpool, Glasgow, Bath, Birmingham, York, Institute of Zoology (London) & Trinity College Dublin …as well as Cardiff University.
  • Talks at international conferences including ISBE, ASAB & ESEB. Guest speaker at Earthwatch Institute/Royal Geographical Society (2006).
  • Contributor to BBC Radio 4 programmes (e.g. Nature, Material World, Planet Earth Under Threat) and many Radio Wales programmes.
  • Regular contributor to Cardiff University’s outreach activities in National Science Week, hosting school work-experience placements and regularly providing biology/ecology lessons in local schools.
  • Co-organiser of the annual “Storm Petrels in Portugal” expedition, at A Rocha Bird Observatory, Portugal. This long-running research project investigates the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems, using the smallest Atlantic seabird, the European Storm Petrel as a sensitive bio-indicator of environmental change. [ ]
  • Co-director with Dr Alex Pollard, of Eco-explore [ ], a research-led scientific education, engagement and publishing enterprise; a spin out from Cardiff School of Biosciences. Since its formation in 2009, Eco-explore has been involved in a wide range of activities, including:
    • Development of ecological education materials for use in schools
    • Grant-winning for community-based practical conservation work, including a major boardwalk development at Nelson Wern, north of Cardiff
    • Publication of a guidebook to Data Analysis with R Statistical Software
    • Provision of data analysis training courses, including a new course supported by a NERC Postgraduate and Professional Skills Development Award.
    • Guided tours of wildlife sites in South Wales
    • Our latest enterprise is the provision of overseas research experience expeditions for gap year and university students. These expeditions are linked to ongoing research programmes at Cardiff University; the first of these is an expedition to Djoudj National Park, Senegal, in January 2013.


MRes: Research techniques – climate change biology (1 lecture)


Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour (module leader)

Global Change Biology (1 lecture)

Final-year project supervision (7 fieldwork projects per year)

Professional Training Year (PTY): I provide a substantial contribution to Cardiff School of Biosciences work-placement programme for undergraduates, supervising 2-3 PTY students per year as Cardiff University academic supervisor, plus 1-3 placements per year as Eco-explore co-director.

2nd year: Animal Behaviour; an introduction (module leader)

Animal Diversity (3 lectures)

Animal Physiological Adaptations (2 lectures)

Research techniques tutorials (5 students per year)

Field course: Island Ecology (Skokhom Island, Wales)

1st year: Evolution (1 lecture)

Data analysis and statistics: I provide non-timetabled statistical support for students and staff across the School of Biosciences, including overall responsibility for statistics teaching of 1st and 2nd year undergraduates, provision of informal statistics courses to field course students, final-year undergraduates, staff and postgraduates, and I developed approximately 50% of the material used in the current MRes module in Data Analysis.

Zoology degree scheme coordinator (3 lectures and other duties)