Amy Shipley


I am a PGR based in the Earth Surface Science Institute (ESSI) in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. I am working with Dr Alex Dunhill investigating the trophic consequences of the loss of apex predators during a Pliocene marine megafaunal extinction event.

I previously completed an Undergraduate in Zoology at the University of Reading and a Masters in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol where I undertook research on the role of locomotion in extinction selectivity in early archosauromorphs. I also enjoy getting involved in scientific communication as well as camping, movies and scuba diving.


2019 – 2020: MSc in Palaeobiology from University of Bristol

2016 – 2019: BSc in Zoology from University of Reading

Research Interests

Macroevolution, particularly the impact of extinction events on ecosystem dynamics and structure.

Project Title

What were the trophic consequences of the extinction of the largest apex predator of all time?


  • Dr Alex Dunhill (Primary)
  • Dr Tracy Aze
  • Professor Andrew Beckerman
  • Professor Jennifer Dunne
  • Dr Catalina Pimiento


Panorama NERC DTP, 2021

Project outline

Apex predators play key roles in environments and ecosystem structure, however, like many species today several extant apex predators are under great threat of extinction. As the global extinction of a large apex predator has not been documented in recent human history it is not known how ecosystems will change in response to this loss. My PhD research aims to use palaeontology and look at past extinctions to help understand the trophic changes that may occur.

I will be focussing on a marine extinction event during the Pliocene where one of the largest apex predators of all time, Otodus megalodon, went extinct alongside many other megafauna. The primary goal will be to reconstruct marine food webs for the Pliocene and simulate extinction cascades which will then be compared with fossil data from the post-extinction period to identify which models fit best. Changes in food web dynamics will also be tracked through into the Pleistocene to understand the long-term impacts of the extinction event.

This research aims to address several questions including which trophic levels were initially most susceptible to extinction, how food web structure changed in response to losing apex predators and how quickly did these marine ecosystems recover. These findings can then consequently be used to gain an insight into what this means for conservation efforts today.