Jon Fjeldså

Jon Fjeldså

Professor, emeritus

Current research

Evolution of passerine birds (perching birds, Passeriformes). This group comprises c. 6000 species or nearly two thirds of all birds, and therefore is a suitable model group for global scale studies of diversification processes (biogeography in relation to plate tectonics and climate, patterns and rates of speciation, drivers, notably whether radiations are triggered by by earth history events or by innovations in specific lineages). The analytic work is done in close collaboration with other research groups in Swedish Natural History Museum, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Department of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley, and Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, as my own contribution mainly is over all visions, coordination and linking together molecular phylogenies and distributional data. The project works closely together with Center of Macroecology (Carsten Rahbek) at the Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen. 

Detailed studies of historical population structure and speciation of African vertebrates is conducted in close collaboration with Hans Siegismund (Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen) and Rauri Bowie (University of California, Berkeley).  

Primary fields of research

Field of expertease broad, comprising evolution, biogeography and taxonomy of birds. Current research has focus on the tropical Andes region of South America and eastern Africa, and global evolution of passerine birds, which comprise more than half of all birds. Mode of speciation and historical and ecological factors affecting the regional patterns of endemism and species richness. This is developed through traditional biogeographical methods supplemented with DNA-based studies of species-rich groups (in collaboration with other institutes) and comprehensive distributional databases (with external collaboration concerning GIS and remotely sensed environmental parameters). Conservation priority analysis (with links to institutions studying human use of natural resources). The broader field of interest includes art and illustration of books in the fields of ornithology and conservation.


Curatorial responsibility for the Zoological Museum's collections of Aves. Half time curatorial assistant/taxidermist (Jan Bolding Kristensen). In the later years large efforts to build up tissue collections for DNA studies of tropical avifaunas (ca. 3,000 species). Formal responsibility for the collections of Amphibia and Reptilia (assisted by Peter Gravlund, Mogens Andersen and Abdi Hedayat).

Other duties

Head of Vertebrate Department and member of the institution?s Research and DNA Committees. Administration of research grants and research enhancement project (under Danida), and member of the steering group of All Birds Barcode Initiative, where ca. 50 research groups try to provide complete genetic identification tools for all birds. Regularly serves on academic committees in Denmark and abroad, and as referee, especially for scientific journals. Member of an advisory committee of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Danish representative on the International Ornithological Committee. Honorary Member of American Ornithologists Union.


Regularly participates in teaching at Biological Institute (Copenhagen University) and elsewhere, but is presently not responsible for specific courses. Supervises Bachelor, Masters and Ph.D. projects. Current students at Copenhagen University: Rasmus Bisschop-Larsen (MSc), Katja Wolfhechel Christensen, Søren Egelund, Thomas Lerche (MSc); Knud Andreas Jønsson (PhD).

Students at University of Copenhagen

- Knud A. Jønsson (PhD)

Other students

A long-term research enhancement programme for training in biodiversity research (together with Professor Ib Friis and Nikolaj Scharff) with University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda (funding from Danida, The Danish Foreign Ministry). Currently external supervisor for PhD students Herbert Tushabe and Harold Greeney.

Miscellaneous (info)

Chairman of Nordic Foundation for Development and Ecology. Board Member of BirdLife Denmark (and 1994-1999 board member of BirdLife International) and chairman of its International Committee.

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