[Taxacom] Research Associate, Oxford

Elizabeth Cooke elizabeth.cooke at plants.ox.ac.uk
Tue Feb 7 06:24:45 CST 2012

Job advertisement for a research associate on the Ipomoea foundation monograph project at the University of Oxford.

Job description and selection criteria

Job title: Research Associate
Division: Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division (MPLS) 
Department: Plant Sciences 
Location: South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RB
Grade and salary: Grade 5: £22,971 - £27,428 p.a.
Hours: Full time (36.5 hours per week)
Contract type: Fixed term for 33 months
Reporting to: Dr Robert Scotland
Vacancy reference: 102029

Additional information

The University
The University of Oxford is a complex and stimulating organisation, which enjoys an international reputation as a world-class centre of excellence in research and teaching. It employs over 10,000 staff and has a student population of over 21,000.
Most staff are directly appointed and managed by one of the University’s 130 departments or other units within a highly devolved operational structure - this includes 5,900 ‘academic-related’ staff (postgraduate research, computing, senior library, and administrative staff) and 2,820 ‘support’ staff (including clerical, library, technical, and manual staff). There are also over 1,600 academic staff (professors, readers, lecturers), whose appointments are in the main overseen by a combination of broader divisional and local faculty board/departmental structures. Academics are generally all also employed by one of the 38 constituent colleges of the University as well as by the central University itself.
Our annual income in 2009/10 was £879.8m. Oxford is one of Europe's most innovative and entrepreneurial universities: income from external research contracts exceeds £367m p.a., and more than 60 spin-off companies have been created.
For more information please visit:  http://www.ox.ac.uk/
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division (MPLS)
The Mathematical, Physical, and Life Sciences Division (MPLS) is one of the four academic divisions of the University. Oxford is widely recognised as one of the world's leading science universities. In the 2008 UK Research Assessment Exercise over 70% of research activity in MPLS was judged to be world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*), and Oxford was ranked first in the UK across the mathematical sciences as a whole.
The MPLS division's ten departments and three interdisciplinary units span the full spectrum of the mathematical, computational, physical, engineering and life sciences, and undertake both fundamental research and cutting-edge applied work. We have over 6,000 students and research staff, and generate over half of our funding from external research grants. Our research addresses major societal and technological challenges and is increasingly interdisciplinary in nature. We collaborate closely with colleagues in Oxford across the medical sciences, social sciences and humanities, as well as with researchers from around the world.
For more information please visit: http://www.mpls.ox.ac.uk/ .
The Department of Plant Sciences
The Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford is devoted to teaching and research in plant science. The research interests range from systematics, forestry and ecology to cell, molecular biology and biochemistry (see www.plants.ox.ac.uk). It has 26 University lecturers and senior fellows, c.45 postdoctoral research workers and c.35 graduate research students, and is responsible jointly with the Department of Zoology for teaching some 300 undergraduate students reading the Honour School of Biological Sciences.
For more information please visit:  http://dps.plants.ox.ac.uk/plants/ .

Job description
Research topic: Foundation monograph for Ipomoea
Supervisor Robert Scotland
Project team  http://dps.plants.ox.ac.uk/plants/staff/RobertScotland.aspx
Project web site  www.plants.ox.ac.uk
Funding partner  Leverhulme Trust
Recent publications  Scotland, R.W. (2011) What is parallelism? Evolution and Development. 13 (2): pp 214-227.
Bebber, D.P, Carine, M.A, Wood, J.R.I, Wortley, A.H, Harris, D.J, Prance, G.T, Davidse, G, Paige, J, Pennington, T.D, Robson, N.K.B, Scotland, R.W. (2010) Herbaria are a major frontier for species discovery Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 107 (51): pp 22169-22171.
Huaylla, H, Scotland, R.W, Wood, J.R.I. (2010) Further notes on a rare species of selaginella (pteridophyta - Selaginellaceae) from the cerrados of eastern bolivia Edinburgh Journal of Botany. 67 (1): pp 69-73.
Scotland, R.W. (2010) Deep homology: A view from systematics BioEssays. 32 (5): pp 438-449.
Wood, J.R.I, Scotland, R.W. (2009) New and little-known species of Strobilanthes (Acanthaceae) from India and South East Asia Kew Bulletin. 64 (1): pp 3-47.
Technical skills High level of general education, experience of working in a research or teaching laboratory, computer skills

Overview of the role
This project addresses the problem of how to overhaul the taxonomy of large genera in a short time.  Any attempt to monograph a large genus faces a number of serious problems relating to generic circumscription, the sheer number of species and their distribution worldwide, the number of specimens and their dispersal in numerous herbaria, the volume of bibliographic references, the quantity of unknown or wrongly named material and the level of synonymy.
The 'Foundation Monograph', will deal with these difficulties by prioritising the delimitation of species focussing on the diagnostic characters needed to distinguish them. In this approach no attempt will be made to cover areas such as anatomy, chromosomes, pollen and similar areas which form part of the traditional monograph although findings from some of these areas may be made use of where available.
We are producing a Foundation Monograph for Ipomoea.  This is the largest genus in Convolvulaceae with in excess of 600 species distributed in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide although with major centres of diversity in Africa and the Americas. Several taxa are cultivated as ornamentals and the genus includes the important food crops. The monophyly of Ipomoea has been questioned, with molecular phylogenetic data indicating that several segregate genera, notably Argyreia with about 100 species and at least eight smaller genera, should be included within a more broadly circumscribed genus. As with many large genera, the last global treatment dates from the 19th century and there are clearly many undescribed species, particularly in tropical America.
We identify three overlapping elements in the preparation of a Foundation Monograph that are essential elements within the overall framework being developed. These include examination of specimens, studies of the relevant literature and limited amounts of field work. As well as preparing descriptions and keys as in traditional monographs, we aim to make use of electronic resources to manage data and results making full use of digital imagery and carrying out DNA barcoding. We are also interested in evaluating the process with a view not only to producing a monograph of Ipomoea but also to developing a methodology which will simplify and speed up the traditional botanical monographic approach.
We are looking for a research associate to work with the project from April 2012 or soon as possible after for 33 months. Our ideal candidate will have a track record in one or more of the key elements in the project outlined above and availability until the end of 2014. Specific skills in plant taxonomy, computer applications, photography etc. are very welcome but the most important qualities we are looking for are enthusiasm, strong self-motivation, adaptability, ability to work in a team and meet deadlines. The post-holder will be based in Oxford but the project is collaborative and involves the Natural History Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh so some travel within the U.K. and to other countries should be expected.

1. Participation in detailed planning of project work.
2. Joint responsibility for everyday project administration: search for literature and literary references including online references, cataloguing and storing literature and data, selection of specimens for loan, correspondence, acquisition of images etc.
3. Species delimitation including specimen sorting, analysis, dissection etc.
4. Preparation of descriptions and keys.
5. Review and revision of manuscripts.
6. Generating DNA barcodes for Ipomoea species.
7. Liaison with botanists in other countries including possible work in the field.
Selection criteria
1.  Excellent organisation skills and attention to detail.
2.  Able to work on own initiative and also effectively as part of a team.
3.  Ability to organise and prioritise own work to meet tight deadlines.
4.  Excellent interpersonal skills and a willingness to support students.
5.  Computer skills.
6.  Experience in plant taxonomy.
7.  Willingness to travel.
1. Good working knowledge of a range of office software (excel, word processing, etc).
2. Molecular systematic experience ideally in the use of DNA barcodes in plants.
3. Databasing and imaging of specimens.
4. Skills equivalent to those derived from a degree.
Working at the University of Oxford
For further information about working at Oxford, please see:
http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/jobs/research/ .
How to apply
If you consider that you meet the selection criteria, click on the Apply Now button on the ‘Job Details’ page and follow the on-screen instructions to register as a user. You will then be required to complete a number of screens with your application details, relating to your skills and experience. When prompted, please provide details of two referees and indicate whether we can contact them at this stage. You will also be required to upload a curriculum vitae and supporting statement. The supporting statement should describe what you have been doing over at least the last 10 years.  This may have been employment, education, or you may have taken time away from these activities in order to raise a family, care for a dependant, or travel for example.  Your application will be judged solely on the basis of how you demonstrate that that you meet the selection criteria outlined above and we are happy to consider evidence of transferable skills or experience which you may have gained outside the context of paid employment or education. Informal enquiries should be directed to Robert Scotland at robert.scotland at plants.ox.ac.uk .
Please save all uploaded documents to show your name and the document type.
All applications must be received by noon on Friday 24th February 2012 as stated in the online advertisement.
Should you experience any difficulties using the online application system, please email recruitment.support at admin.ox.ac.uk .
To return to the online application at any stage, please click on the following link www.recruit.ox.ac.uk .
Please note that you will be notified of the progress of your application by automatic e-mails from our e-recruitment system. Please check your spam/junk mail regularly to ensure that you receive all e-mails.

Elizabeth Cooke
Postgraduate student,
Department of Plant Sciences,
South Parks Road,
University of Oxford,

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