Map of Life staff

The Map of Life project team is based at the University of Cambridge. The project is coordinated by Professor Simon Conway Morris, who also writes content, oversees updates and is responsible for the development of the project as a whole. Best known for his studies of the Burgess Shale, he is keen to raise the profile of convergent evolution in the thinking of today’s researchers.

The Map of Life website and its social media presence is managed by evolutionary biologist Dr Chloë Cyrus-Kent. She is responsible for producing up to date content and news blogs as well as posting facebook and twitter updates. Chloë’s research background is in molecular developmental biology and she is widely interested in evolution, from palaeontology to genetics.

Dr Verena Dietrich-Bischoff is a behavioural ecologist who has made a significant contribution to the Map of Life’s Topics. She has also written descriptions for many of the Categories into which these Topics are grouped.

The Map of Life website itself was created by Francis Rowland, who has many years’ experience working on websites which deliver scientific information and data, and encourage interaction from both the public and the scientific community. Recent technical updates to the Map of Life have been made possible with assistance from creative design company The District and Jun Aizawa at the Department of Earth Sciences.

Key contributions to the Map of Life project have also been made by administrator Vivien Brown and volunteers Holly Barden and Tom Barton Owen.

Simon Conway Morris photoProf. Simon Conway Morris FRS

Simon Conway Morris is Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on the constraints on evolution, and the historical processes that lead to the emergence of complexity, especially with respect to the construction of the major animal bodyplans in the Cambrian explosion. He is a former student of Harry Blackmore Whittington, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990, and is widely renowned for his work on Cambrian metazoans and insights into early animal evolution. He was awarded the Walcott Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1987, and the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society of London in
1998. His recent research contributions have concerned early deuterostome and lophotrochozoan evolution, based on remarkable Cambrian material from China, North America and Greenland. Simon is also interested in the antecedents of the Cambrian explosion, notably in spectacularly well-preserved material from the Ediacaran of Namibia.

Simon Conway Morris’s work on evolutionary palaeobiology is of great interest to biologists and bioastronomers, as well as the wider scientific and public community. He is well known as an effective communicator of science, including delivery of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1996 and publication of The Crucible of Creation (Oxford University Press) in 1998, a popular account of the Burgess Shale and its significance for our understanding of animal evolution. In 2003 he published Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge University Press), which discusses the broad topic of evolutionary convergence and casts doubt on a number of fashionable presuppositions in evolution. His latest views on convergence were given in the University of Edinburgh’s 2007 Gifford Lectures, as a series entitled Darwin’s Compass: How Evolution Discovers the Song of Creation. Simon’s most extensive synthesis of convergent evolutio
n is his 2015 book The Runes of Evolution: How the Universe Became Self-Aware (Templeton Press). The Runes of Evolution explores the nature and ubiquity of convergence and approaches some of the most challenging questions in the field of evolution, aiming to revitalize the study of this critical area of science.

Chlo� Cyrus Kent photoDr Chloë Cyrus Kent

Chloë Cyrus-Kent is a post-doctoral research associate based at the Department of Earth Sciences. She has worked on the Map of Life since 2008, researching, writing, editing and managing the website. She has developed a Map of Life blog and also runs the Map of Life facebook page and twitter feed, integrating and sharing the rich content available on the Map of Life website itself. Chloë is trained in both Biological and Earth Sciences; she studied Natural Sciences as an undergraduate in Durham and did her PhD in evolutionary developmental biology at the Department of Zoology in Cambridge, where she was an active member of the Department from 2001 to 2007. Chloë is particularly interested in the evolution of animal body plans, an area that encompasses a range of biologi
cal disciplines, from palaeontology to molecular biology.


Dr Verena Dietrich-Bischoff

Map of Life flower logo Verena Dietrich-Bischoff contributed to the Map of Life as a post-doctoral research associate, researching and writing for the website from 2009 to 2012. She studied Biology at the TU Braunschweig in Germany, where she also did her PhD on reproductive strategies in birds, in cooperation with the University of Bonn and the Institute of Avian Research Vogelwarte Helgoland. Verena’s main focus of interest lies in the evolution of behaviour, particularly in vertebrates. Prior to joining the Map of Life Verena produced several research publications and taught undergraduates at the Department of Zoology and Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. She currently works as a teaching fellow in the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews.

Francis Rowland photoFrancis Rowland

Francis Rowland was responsible for the development, design and management of the Map of Life website. Based at the Department of Earth Sciences from August 2006 until August 2009, Francis previously spent several years working on a range of species recording and biodiversity-related websites at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. His background is in environmental science, which he studied at the University of Wales, Bangor. He is now a web developer and UX designer at the European Bioinformatics Institute.

Vivien Brown

Map of Life flower logoVivien Brown works in the Department of Earth Sciences and has played a key role in the project. Early in the development of the Map of Life she used a custom-built content management system to upload text for many Topics. Vivien is also responsible for managing many of the references that are the foundation of the Map of Life.

Supporting contributors

Map of Life flower logoHolly Barden and Tom Barton Owen both carried out very valuable work on a volunteer basis, scouring the web for images that could be used on the Map of Life website. It wouldn’t look the same without all the effort they put in!

Jun Aizawa is the chief computer officer at the Department of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, where the Map of Life project is based. He has provided invaluable technical assistance from the outset and kept the complex data systems underlying the Map of Life running smoothly for many years.

The District is a creative design agency in Cambridge that provides technical support as the Map of Life develops and grows.

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