PhD studentship - re -sent to include the address for applications

Nigel Blackstock Blackstn at STAFF.EHCHE.AC.UK
Thu Apr 15 13:47:50 CDT 1999

Job description for the post of
RESEARCH STUDENTSHIP- Department of Natural and Applied Sciences,
Edge Hill, St. Helens Rd, Ormskirk, Lancashire, L39 4QP, UK

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

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

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 evolutionary 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.

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 salt-marsh group and the sedge group
(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 Carex.

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
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 arrive not later than
18/5/99.Potential 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 @; Stephen Harris is on 01865 275112 or
Stephen.Harris at


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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