Jonathan Davies

Wall Scholar




Department of Botany





Geographic Location

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Jonathan Davies

Prof. Davies is a biodiversity scientist cross-appointed in the Departments of Botany and Forest & Conservation Sciences. His work explores how the evolutionary history of species—their phylogeny—can inform our understanding of their present day ecologies.  He is co-author of the book Phylogenies in Ecology. His research addresses the consequences of the massive rearrangement of biological diversity we are precipitating through profound human-driven changes to the natural environment. His research interests range from understanding patterns of extinction risk in plants and animals to the global drivers of pathogen transmission and disease emergence.

Prof. Davies was a coordinating lead author on the biodiversity section of the recent UNEP Global Environment Outlook report—GEO6: Healthy Planet, Healthy People, and is a member of the Biodiversity Research Centre and the Interdisciplinary Biodiversity Solutions cluster (IBioS) at UBC.  He is also an associate member of the African Centre for DNA Barcoding at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Primary Recipient Awards

Jonathan Davies – Wall Scholars – 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic came as a shock to most people, apart from researchers studying multi-host pathogens, who had been predicting increasing likelihood of zoonotic disease (diseases shared between people and wildlife) emergence for decades. Similar trends for increasing disease and pest outbreaks have been documented in wildlife and plants. As a Wall Scholar, Prof. Davies will address how anthropogenic global change will reshape the infectious disease landscape, and whether shifts in the composition of natural communities might tip biodiversity from being a buffer to disease emergence – the dilution effect – to being an aggravating factor – the amplification effect. Prof. Davies will work towards a first-principles model of disease emergence in multi-host pathogens. He will challenge this model with empirical data, and use statistical tools to identify the ecological drivers of emergence. Using projections of species extinctions and range shifts under global climate models, he will explore changes in the infectious disease landscape, and whether we are approaching a tipping point in the relationship between biodiversity and disease emergence.
This work aims to provide a new synthesis on biodiversity and infectious disease that builds upon first principle models, and that can be projected to explore future global change scenarios. Prof. Davies hopes that this work will inform debate on the benefits of biodiversity to people, and help to identify win-win solutions that enhance the protection of biodiversity and reduce the global disease burden.