We use genetic markers to study plant taxonomy, evolution and conservation.
The main research areas are:
DNA Barcoding: The development of high-throughput DNA sequenced based identification systems for plants. Visit our DNA barcoding web pages.
Taxonomic Complexity: In some groups of organisms, species limits are difficult to define. Our research explores the evolutionary mechanisms underlying such taxonomic complexity. We also work with conservation agencies to develop appropriate conservation approaches for taxonomically complex groups. Current study groups include Euphrasia and Geum. This is a collaboration with Dr Alex Twyford and Dr Richard Ennos from the University of Edinburgh
For more information see RA Ennos, GC French, PM Hollingsworth (2005) Conserving taxonomic complexity Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 164-168
Conservation Genetics: We are working on the development of frameworks to formalise approaches to the conservation of genetic biodiversity. We also use genetic markers as tools to study the taxonomy and reproductive biology of species of conservation concern. Current/recently completed projects include:
- Effects of habitat degradation on Araucaria species in New Caledonia.
- Assessing whether the native British bluebell is threatened by hybridisation with the introduced Spanish bluebell in the UK.
- Conservation of sub-arctic willow scrub in Scotland.
- Genetical flora of the British Isles database
- Using DNA to understand bamboo and the complexity of giant panda diet
We also host the web pages of a working group aimed at improving dialogue and information exchange between plant conservation agencies and academics in the UK.
Phylogeography: We use genetic markers to study how plant populations move over historical time, with a particular interest in species with fragmented ranges. Current projects include:
- Phylogeography of Araucaria species on New Caledonia.
- Phylogeographic history of disjunct populations, including Koenigia islandica (circumboreal distribution, disjunct to Tierra del Fuego) and Anastrophyllum species (disjunct between NW Europe and the Himalaya).