Sara Varela


*Update* follow Sara’s new (2021) ERC project MAPAS at the University of Vigo:

I started my research career as a field palaeontologist, working in mainly in Gran Dolina, Atapuerca, Spain, but also collaborating in other excavations, such as Pinilla del Valle (Late Pleistocene) and Maltravieso (Late Pleistocene) in Spain, El caño (Pleistocene) in Uruguay or Dmanisi (Plio-Pleistocene) in the Republic of Georgia.

I completed my PhD at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC) in Madrid, Spain, under the supervision of Jorge M. Lobo. We analyzed the spotted hyena extinction event in Europe, relating this extinction to the past glacial-interglacial cycles. After that, I worked as a postdoc at the University of Castilla La-Mancha, in Toledo, studying the effects that current global warming could cause on endangered plant species in Central Spain with Federico Fernández. Then I moved to Prague to continue my work on Pleistocene extinctions joining a European research project with David Storch. Currently, I am working at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Spain, together with Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, and collaborating with Faysal Bibi and Johannes Müller at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany.

I have 3 main research themes:

1) Analyze extinction events and faunal temporal turnover.

2) Improve the methods that we use to study spatial ecology (mainly ecological niche models).

3) Program new open tools to get data from internet open access databases.

You can find my publications here:

and my R scripts and R packages here:

I believe that teaching how to program is fundamental and that it is a key step for building the next generation of ecologists. Thus, I regularly teach R programming and spatial stats. I have more than 260 hours of teaching experience in different countries, like Spain, Venezuela, Czech Republic and Brazil. Please, do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in organizing an R course at your institution.