Starting October 2014, PhD project (BOF PhD grant)

Worldwide at least 20% of all plant species are threatened with extinction. Taking into account the impact of climate change and loss of habitats because of anthropogenic causes, the rate of plant extinctions is expected to increase rapidly. This research includes (critically) endangered tree species, occurring in the Central American biodiversity hotspot of the Caribbean Islands, and of which the diversity and evolution has not yet been studied using molecular approaches.

The proposed PhD project will assess the genetic diversity of the Caribbean Magnolia species at species and population level throughout their distribution area. This knowledge will be used to study the evolutionary history of these species, including the evolutionary relationships between the Caribbean Magnolia species and other Magnolias. This will enable us to reveal evolutionary patterns that led to the present-day diversity and distribution. With the use of fossil data, times of origin and radiation can be estimated and aligned with the known geologic and climatologic history in the area.

The scientific knowledge concerning the genetic diversity and the evolutionary history of the Caribbean Magnolia species generated during this PhD project will not only help to understand general patterns of evolution in Magnolia but will also be of great value towards in situ and ex situ conservation of these species in the Caribbean, as we expect to be able to recommend specific conservation actions based on our results.
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Relevant publications:
Veltjen E, et al. (in preparation) SSR marker development for the Caribbean Magnoliaceae...

Drs. Emily Veltjen

Laboratory technicians:
Pieter Asselman
Viki Vandomme

Prof. Dr. Paul Goetghebeur
Prof. Dr. Isabel Larridon
Prof. Dr. Marie-Stéphanie Samain

Doctoral advisory committee:
Prof. Dr. Luc Lens - Terrestrial Ecology Unit
Dr. Koen Camelbeke - Arboretum Wespelaar

Instituto de Ecología (INECOL), Mexico

Arboretum Wespelaar, Belgium

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), UK

Botanic Gardens Conservation International US (BGCI US), USA
Magnolia Society International (MSI), USA

Universidad de la Habana, Cuba
Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, Cuba

BOF (Special Research Fund) PhD research grant (n° BOF 01D24114)

Research Foundation Flanders (international mobility grant - Hispaniola & Puerto Rico, the Antilles, & Puerto Rico)

King Léopold III Foundation for the Exploration and Protection of Nature (international mobility - Hispaniola & Puerto Rico)

Ghent University
Department of Biology
Research Group Spermatophytes
Ghent University Botanical Garden