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Royal Society honours York scientist

Posted on 20 April 2012

A biologist at the University of York, who specialises in research into the impacts of human activities on wild animal species, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, one of the world's top scientific honours.

Professor Chris Thomas, of the University’s Department of Biology, is among 44 new Fellows announced by the Royal Society today.

I have been very lucky to have such excellent colleagues and students over the past 30 years, and I see this as recognition for their contributions as much as for myself

Professor Chris Thomas

Election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society is recognised worldwide as a sign of the highest regard in science. Candidates must be proposed by at least two existing Fellows and are assessed by Sectional Committees in each major field of science

Professor Thomas has developed a scientific basis to understand how species respond to the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats and he is a world leader in research on the ecological impacts of climate change.  He and his collaborators have demonstrated that the world’s wildlife is moving rapidly towards the poles and to higher altitudes, in response to global warming.  He has determined that climate change is likely to endanger many species, and he has pioneered approaches to the conservation of biodiversity under climate change.

He said: "I'm thrilled to have been elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.  I have been very lucky to have such excellent colleagues and students over the past 30 years, and I see this as recognition for their contributions as much as for myself."

The Head of Biology at York, Professor Debbie Smith, said: “This is a hugely deserved honour for Chris Thomas. His work is in the vanguard of global research into the ecological consequences of climate change and highlights York's commitment to studying the impact of human activities on biological systems.”

Chris Thomas has published over 200 scientific journal articles and reports, and his work is among the most highly cited by any ecologist in the world. He has received four prestigious scientific awards and medals for his research on ecology and conservation, he has been on the editorial boards of nine international scientific journals, his work has been reported in thousands of media articles around the world, and he has contributed to national and international conservation and climate change policy assessments and reviews.

He was an undergraduate at Cambridge, gained his PhD at the University of Texas, before working as a researcher in New Zealand and at Imperial College.  He joined the University of Birmingham as a Lecturer in 1992, moving to the University of Leeds in 1995, where he became a Professor in 1999. Professor Thomas moved to York in 2004.

Outside work, Chris spends as much time as possible encouraging wildlife in his garden and field; abandoning the house to his wife, three daughters and son.

Notes to editors:

  • The Royal Society’s citation reads: Chris Thomas' research has placed spatial scale in a central position in modern ecology. He has been one of the prime movers in the study of metapopulations, and his work has changed the way ecologists view populations as well as having substantial impacts on the application of ecology to biological conservation. He has combined that framework with an evolutionary approach to the impacts of climate change on species' distributions, and has made the first quantitative estimates of the global impact of climate change on extinction. He successfully moves between leading-edge fundamental science and its application to practice and policy. 
  • The Royal Society is the UK’s national academy of science. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as a provider of independent scientific advice, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. Its expertise is embodied in the Fellowship, which is made up of the finest scientists from the UK and beyond.  For further information please visit
  • Follow the Royal Society on Twitter at or on Facebook at
  • Professor Thomas’ home page is at:
  • A list of Chris Thomas’ publications, and the number of times each has been cited, is available at:
  • More about the Department of Biology at the University of York at

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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