PhD studentship

Nigel Blackstock Blackstn at STAFF.EHCHE.AC.UK
Thu Apr 15 12:57:52 CDT 1999

 Job description for the post of=20
RESEARCH STUDENTSHIP- Department of Natural and Applied Sciences

Dr Paul Ashton and Dr. Stephen Harris (University of Oxford)

The Ecology and Evolution of Carex muricata L. aggregate (Spiked sedge)

Outline and Aims of the Project

The classification of the C. muricata group of sedges has long caused =
confusion among European botanists. The most recent treatment (David and =
Kelcey, 1985) considered there to be three species: C. spicata, C. =
muricata and C. divulsa with both C. muricata and C. divulsa being =
represented by two sub-species. However this treatment is based on classic =
taxonomic principles with species delimited only on the basis of the =
physical characters of herbarium specimens. This is a notoriously =
subjective methodology. Moreover classification is further confused in the =
group by the apparent intergradation of one species with another.

In the intervening fifteen years since the previous treatment, plant =
classification has undergone two major developments. Multiple physical =
measurements (morphometrics) coupled with appropriate statistical analysis =
has led to the utilisation of more objective classification methods. This =
has become possible due to the increasing power of computers. In addition =
the rise of molecular methods has allowed variation in proteins and DNA to =
be analysed. Such analysis clearly reveals evolutionary relationships and =
is also free of the subjectivity of the classical approach. Once evolutiona=
ry relationships are determined the ecology of the various species can =
then be more easily understood. Given that one of the species is extremely =
rare in Britain this is of particular importance.

It is therefore proposed to reexamine the relationships within the C. =
muricata group using both morphometric and molecular methods. This is an =
exciting and unusual approach and will allow the relative merits of the =
two new methods to be assessed, as both have been viewed by some workers =
as a sole panacea for the problems of plant classification. In addition, =
it will provide a much-needed objective review of the taxonomy of this =
group of plants. Moreover, the development of the project will provide an =
excellent training in plant identification, population ecology and =
systematics. Such skills are of increasing importance for the conservation =
of biodiversity. The project will also lead to a deeper understanding of =
evolutionary and ecological issues

The studentship is therefore an exciting opportunity for a committed, =
intelligent individual with considerable initiative to make a considerable =
contribution to the scientific knowledge of this group of plants and to =
the development of this area of research at Edge Hill.


Although this is a jointly supervised project between an Edge Hill based =
supervisor and an Oxford based supervisor, the student will be based at =
Edge Hill where the research will be undertaken. Dr. Stephen Harris will =
be available for informal consultation throughout the project. There would =
be a formal involvement when the six monthly review was submitted by the =
student with feedback given by both supervisors.=20

The Department

The Natural and Applied Sciences department (NAS) is a small but energetic =
and friendly department located in a fine new building and primarily =
delivering BSc. Hons. programmes in conservation (Field Biology and =
Habitat Management and Conservation Biology). It is likely that the =
successful candidate would be expected to act as a paid demonstrator on =
degree course modules when they feel sufficiently confident.

There are two main areas of research in the department which have recently =
developed; the =E6salt-marsh group=C6 and the =E6sedge group=C6 (supervised=
 by Paul Ashton). The successful applicant will become a valued member of =
this latter group, joining the three other students currently investigating=
 a variety of evolutionary and conservation genetic issues in the genus =

Avise, J. C. (1994) Molecular Markers, Natural History and Evolution =
Chapman and Hall New York
Briggs, D. and Walters, S. M. (1997) Plant Variation and Evolution =
Cambridge University Press Cambridge=20
Stace, C. A. (1989) Plant Taxonomy and Biosystematics 2nd ed. Edward =
Arnold London

C. muricata agg.
Chater, A. O. Carex. Flora Europaea vol 5 290-323 (ed. by Tutin, T. et. =
al.) Cambridge University Press Cambridge
David R. W. and Kelcey, J. G. (1985) Biological Flora of the British =
Isles; Carex muricata L. agg. J. Ecol 73 1021-1039
Jermy, A. C., Chater, A. O. and David, R. W. (1982) Sedges of the British =
Isles BSBI London
Sell, P. D. and Murrell, G. (1998) Flora of the British Isles vol 5 =
Cambridge University Press Cambridge

Ashton, P. A. and Abbott, R. J. (1992) Isozyme evidence and the origin of =
Senecio vulgaris Pl. Syst. Evol 179: 167-174
Crins, W. J. and Ball, P. W. (1989) Taxonomy of the Carex flava complex =
(Cyperaceae) in North America and northern Eurasia 1. Numerical taxonomy =
and character analysis Can. J. Bot. 67 1032-1047
Harris, S. A. (1995) Systematics and Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA in =
Leucena (Leguminosae) Pl. Syst. Evol. 197 195-208
Schmid, B. (1982) Karyology and hybridization in the Carex flava complex =
in Switzerland  Feddes Repertorium 93 25-59

Person Specification

Candidates will be short-listed based on the information provided by the =
applicant that they meet the criteria below. Please submit a letter of not =
more than 600 words with a copy of your curriculum vitae, together with =
the names of two academic referees to     to arrive not later than.=E0Poten=
tial applicants are welcome to contact the supervisors to discuss the =
project informally, prior to submitting their application (Paul Ashton can =
be contacted by phone, 01695 584260 or email, ashtonp =40
; Stephen Harris is on 01865 275112 or Stephen.Harris=40plant-sciences.oxfo=


1. A good honours degree

2. A broad biological background preferably with some evolutionary =
biology, taxonomy and ecology.

3. A willingness to undertake field and laboratory based research

4. Self-motivated and an ability to work independently

5. An ability to work easily with other individuals

6 The ability to think analytically and critically

7. Good mathematical and communication skills.


8. An interest in plant identification

9. Experience in the use and applications of IT

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