Alex Twyford

Email: Alex Twyford

Hybridisation and species barriers

I am interested in using molecular, cytological and morphological techniques to study speciation and hybridisation in large tropical genera. My PhD is focused on reproductive barriers in Begonia, addressing the factors preventing hybrid formation in the wild. The core of my research involves assessing the degree of introgression (gene flow) that occurs in hybrid zones in the recently speciated Central American Begonia section Gireoudia. This involves collaborative fieldwork in Mexico and Costa Rica (scheduled for March 2010), and is supported by experimental crosses using the living collection at RBGE. I am also involved in the Begonia genetic map project, using quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis to look for the complexity in the genetic control of hybrid fertility. My research is part of the Kidner Lab (supervisors: Catherine Kidner and Richard Ennos), and is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Historical Biogeography

Previously at RBGE I worked on Rhododendron subgenus Vireya with James Richardson. The RBGE has the largest living collection of Rhododendrons in the world, with South East Asian Vireyas being particularly well represented. This work formed my undergraduate thesis, and used a molecular dating approach to place major diversification events into a historical context. The project also aimed to shed light on the origin and diversification of Rhododendron, and assess the genus's diversification in a global perspective.

Science communication

I am heavily involved in science communication, to the general public and to biology students. I was regional wildcard at the NESTA Famelab competition, and have recently completed a Researchers in Residence placement at Trinity Academy, where I developed new biology advance higher projects. My work as student representative at the Botanical Society of Scotland has included organising a student symposium, attended by students from across the UK. I lecture in polyploidy and hybridisation as part of the Plant Science Honours Course at the University of Edinburgh, and demonstrate on the Plant Science Field Course (3rd year undergraduate), Evolution and Ecology of Plants (3rd year), and Origin and Diversity of Life (1st year).

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