Ryan Brewer

Ryan Brewer

I'm a PhD student interested in the patterns and processes underlying global plant biodiversity. My PhD addresses the mystery of why some plant lineages have radiated widely, whilst others have barely diversified at all. By studying both functional traits (plant and environmental traits) and phylogenetic relationships of several plant lineages on the Canary Islands, I investigate the role of these traits on speciation and extinction.


Biogeography, Phylogenetics, Island Evolution, Plant Diversification, Insular Woodiness

Ryan Brewer

PhD Student
Functional Traits




Islands have long been considered natural laboratories for understanding evolutionary patterns and processes; their smaller size relative to continents strips away some of the complexity underlying these patterns and processes.

Several plant traits have been shown to affect speciation rates – from seed and fruit morphology to evolution towards the woody growth form. My PhD research will utilise a combination of specimen collections, phylogenomics, and paleoclimatic modeling to reconstruct diversity-through-time and character evolution of several Canary Island lineages to assess the relative role of key traits on radiations. In collaboration with the University of Groningen, the generated data will be used to develop a novel trait-dependent diversification model specifically designed for islands.

Echium in the Canary Islands
Aeonium in the Canary Islands


A selection of the topics I am working on currently.


  • Nic Lughadha, E., … Brewer, R.F.A., … et al. (2020). Extinction Risk and Threats to Plants and Fungi. Plants, People, Planet, 2(5), pp.389-408. https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10146