• Fellow and Director of Studies (Biology), Peterhouse, Cambridge
  • Affiliated researcher, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge
  • Academic Associate, Pembroke College, Cambridge
  • Senior Member (Teaching), Robinson College, Cambridge
  • Chair, IUCN/SSC Terrestrial and Freshwater Invertebrate Red List Authority

    Species discovery, conservation and teaching

    I am a university teacher with independent research interests, which are summarised below. My teaching is focussed on two key aspects: the vital importance of biology in our future, and the need for good science writing. For more than 25 years I have taught undergraduates at Cambridge University, covering whole organism biology courses (including those relevant to evolution, physiology, behaviour and ecology).Over the years I have developed a special focus on bringing students up to the highest standards of science writing. My aim is to ensure that they are the best possible communicators and that their writing is based on both the classic works and the very latest information. From our very first supervision I direct my students to the most recent papers relevant to their courses. Other pages on this website provide advice to new students and to potential applicants.

    Research and Conservation Interests

    My research interests can be summarised as discovery and conservation of species, and their evolution.In 2017 I surveyed the surviving populations and am now investigating the impacts of introduced predators, especially the flatworm menace and the impacts of tree snail extinction on forest health.My research on taxonomy, ecology, evolution and conservation has been particularly focussed on islands and has covered fungi, plants and animals, especially molluscs, reptiles and bats. I have particular interests in Madagascar, Seychelles and French Polynesia, and in snails and amazing tortoises that hunt birds!

    I have been evaluating the status of the world's invertebrates through my role as Chair of the IUCN/SSC Terrestrial and Freshwater Invertebrate Red List Authority.I have also had an interest in climate change, studying several affected species and founding the Climate Change Working Group of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. In 2013 I became active in Partula snail conservation after a gap of 20 years. These snails are emblematic of the biodiversity crisis, with 51 of the French Polynesian species being driven to extinction within two decades. 12 species may survive in the wild and a further 11 survive only in captivity. In 2021 I was involved in the discovery that a population of giant tortoises actually hunt birds, again this has brought me back to studying a group of animals I worked on for many years (see below).

    Other conservation projects have included breeding giant tortoises, recovery of the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat and establishment of the Silhouette Island National Park.

    With Sir David Attenborough, patron of the Giant Tortoise Conservation Project

    Of my published research, the one that has had the most attention is:
    Giant tortoises hunt and consume birds. Current Biology 2021 13(16): PR989-990

    My work has been cited 7,425 times, with the most widely cited papers being:
    Global biodiversity conservation priorities. Science 2006 313(5783): 58-61 [2410 citations]
    The impact of conservation on the status of the world's vertebrates. Science 2010 1194442: 863 [1634 citations]
    The conservation status of the world's reptiles. Biological Conservation 2013 157: 372-385 [923 citations]
    Terrestrial invertebrates as bioindicators: an overview of available taxonomic groups. Journal of insect conservation 2013 17(4): 831-850 [441 citations]

    and the most frequently downloaded (24,000 times, 126 citations):
    International scientists formulate a roadmap for insect conservation and recovery. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2020 4: 174-176

    1991MA Zoology - Class I (Wadham College, Oxford)
    1994DPhil "The Ecology of the Carnivorous Snail Euglandina rosea". Department of Zoology, Oxford University. Funded by the Christopher Welch Scholarship

    Awards, appointments and fellowships:
    1990Pacific Land Snail Group  member- international conservation co-ordination group
    1991Royal Geographic Society fellow 
    Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles council member
    1999Affiliated Researcher - University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge
    IUCN Species Survival Commission member:
  • Madagascar & Mascarene Reptile Amphibian Specialist Group (1999-2005)
  • Heron Specialist Group (from 2000)
  • Southern African Invertebrate Specialist Group (2001-2005)
  • Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (from 2002)
  • Invertebrate Conservation Subcommittee (from 2005)
  • Indian Ocean Plant Specialist Group (2007-2009)
  • Amphibian Specialist Group (from 2007)
  • Mollusc Specialist Group (from 2008)
  • Terrestrial and Freshwater Red List Authority chair (from 2010)
  • Conservation Planning Subcommittee (2011-2015)
  • 2000Kay Gray Memorial Award for contributions to Chelonian conservation,British Chelonia Group
    2009-Academic Associate - Pembroke College, Cambridge
    2013-Senior Member (Teaching) - Robinson College, Cambridge
    2016-9College Lecturer and Director of Studies (Biology) - Peterhouse, Cambridge
    2019-22Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies (Biology) - Peterhouse, Cambridge
    2022-Fellow and Director of Studies (Biology) - Peterhouse, Cambridge
  • Contact

    Justin Gerlach by e-mail