Simon Evans

Link to Research Group page (Dr. Erik Postma)

Research Interests

My previous work used plumage coloration as a route to understanding the eco-evolutionary forces governing ornament expression. This research was based on long-term study populations of great tits (Oxford, UK) and collared flycatchers (Gotland, Sweden). All individuals in these nestbox-breeding populations are uniquely marked, allowing individuals to be monitored throughout their lives and pedigrees to be constructed that describe the relatedness structure within each population. By combining phenotypic and relatedness information, it is possible to estimate quantitative genetic parameters (e.g., heritability).

My current research makes use of archived church records for the Swiss canton of Glarus that were collated by Dr Erik Postma. These records describe births, weddings and deaths, allowing us to reconstruct both individual life-histories and a population pedigree. Based on this information, we can apply quantitative genetic analyses to quantify the variation in reproductive success and lifespan within a human population, examine how this can be partitioned into genetic and various environmental sources, and describe how this composition has changed over recent centuries.

Of course, it's often said that humans are no longer evolving. Yet numerous molecular genetic studies have shown that—at least for specific loci—evolution in contemporary human populations is occurring. Our project explores whether the considerable environmental changes human society has experienced over recent centuries (e.g., the demographic transition, and the shift to market economies) have resulted in the evolution of traits closely allied to Darwinian fitness.



2015 - present Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Switzerland
2013 - 2015 Forskare (~ Researcher), Department of Animal Ecology, Uppsala University, Sweden
2011 - 2013 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Department of Animal Ecology, Uppsala University, Sweden
2007 - 2011 Ph.D., Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
2005 - 2006 M.Sc., Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK
2002 - 2005 B.Sc., University of Cambridge, UK

Recent Publications

  • Evans SR. (2016). Gauging the purported costs of public data archiving for long-term population studies. PLoS Biology, 14: e1002432 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002432
  • Evans SR. (2015). Sports doping vastly underestimated. Nature, 519: 33 DOI: 10.1038/519033b
  • Evans SR., Sheldon BC. (2015). Colour in a new light: a spectral perspective on the quantitative genetics of carotenoid coloration. Functional Ecology, 29: 96-103. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12297
  • Evans SR., Schielzeth H., Forstmeier W., Sheldon BC. ,Husby A. (2014). Nonautosomal genetic variation in carotenoid coloration. The American Naturalist, 184: 374-383 DOI: 10.1086/677397
  • Evans SR., Sheldon BC. (2013). Pigments versus structure: examining the mechanism of age-dependent change in a carotenoid-based colour. Journal of Animal Ecology, 82, 418-428 DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12008
  • Evans SR., Summers AGR., Sheldon BC. (2012). Seasonality of carotenoid-based plumage coloration: modelling wavelength-specific change through spectral reconstruction. Journal of Avian Biology, 43: 234-243. DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2012.05654.x
  • Evans SR., Sheldon BC. (2012). Quantitative genetics of a carotenoid-based color: heritability and persistent natal environmental effects in the great tit. The American Naturalist, 179: 79-94 DOI: 10.1086/663198
  • Evans SR., Gustafsson L., Sheldon BC. (2011). Divergent patterns of age-dependence in ornamental and reproductive traits in the collared flycatcher. Evolution, 65: 1623-1636 DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01253.x