Dr Elizabeth Steell

MSci (UCL), PhD (Cantab)

Phyllis and Eileen Gibbs Travelling Research Fellow 2023/24


Email: ems207@cam.ac.uk


Dr Lizzy Steell is an evolutionary biologist who specialises in birds and their fossil record.

She studied Zoology at University College London where she was awarded several prizes for her Bachelor’s and Master’s work, including the Alex Comfort Prize for Biological Sciences and the Francis Perch Bedford Prize for Zoology. Lizzy moved to the Christ’s College in the University of Cambridge where she began her PhD in Vertebrate Palaeobiology, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council. Lizzy studied under the supervision of Prof. Daniel Field in the Department of Earth Sciences, where she focussed on the anatomy and evolution of birds. Lizzy was awarded the Newnham College Phyllis and Eileen Gibbs Travelling Research Fellowship for 2023-24, which enables her to undertake palaeontological fieldwork in New Zealand. Currently, Lizzy is a Teaching Lecturer in Palaeobiology at University College London.

Research Interests

Dr Lizzy Steell is an expert in bird skeletal anatomy, specifically passerine birds, which was the focus of her doctoral studies. Part of her thesis was published in 2023 in Journal of Anatomy, titled “Comparative anatomy of the passerine carpometacarpus helps illuminate the early fossil record of crown Passeriformes”. She uses this knowledge in her current research to study the passerine fossil record to help clarify evolutionary patterns among birds. Lizzy also develops new computational methods to study evolutionary processes, using birds as a model system.

Dr Lizzy Steell was awarded two additional research grants during her doctorate, from the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Ornithological Society, in addition to the Phyllis and Eileen Gibbs Fellowship. With the Gibbs Fellowship, Lizzy will be leading the research on a fieldwork campaign in New Zealand to excavate bird fossils from a fossil locality on the South Island, in collaboration with Te Papa Museum. At present, Lizzy teaches vertebrate palaeontology to second- and third-year undergraduates in University College London in addition to her on-going research on passerine birds.