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Understanding the eco-evolutionary dynamics of overlapping plant species’ ranges.

Department of Life Sciences

London United Kingdom Ecology Evolution Genetics Plant Biology

About the Project

Understanding how species’ ranges change and evolve is a long-standing problem in ecology and evolution. It is widely thought that lineages of species whose traits evolve more rapidly compete less with one-another and so are more likely to have overlapping ranges, but directly testing such hypotheses is challenging. This project will leverage two statistical frameworks recently developed in the lab (Pearse et al. 2019) to understand how lineages’ traits and ranges co-evolve. Making use of global plant distribution, trait, and phylogenetic data, this project will explore how the ecological rules that determine species’ ranges have evolved. These joint eco-evolutionary models will permit more accurate forecasts of species’ ranges by using evolutionary information to highlight commonalities across species. These insights will be used to inform ongoing conservation planning, which has highlighted uncertainty in the mode of evolution of species’ traits as a major source of error when spatially prioritising global conservation (Mazel et al. 2018).

The Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London has funding for a PhD studentship, to commence 3rd October 2020.

We wish to widen participation and therefore we strongly encourage applications from individuals who completed their bachelor's and/or master's degrees at non-Russell group Universities. We are particularly keen to get applications from underrepresented groups (e.g. BAME candidates).

For candidates with a non-Russell group background, we are offering an online workshop (29 April) and Q&A (6 May) sessions where we will provide both information on life as a PhD student at Imperial, and advice and support for application and interview process for a PhD position. Candidates can register their interest in attending these events here

For information on the specific advertised project please contact the relevant supervisor (Dr. Will Pearse; ). For additional information on the general support provided to PhD students at Imperial College and within the Department of Life Sciences contact Rozan Hamilton-Nixon ().

How to apply: Applications must be completed by submitting an online application form

Funding Notes

The studentships will cover UK tuition fees of £4,500pa and will provide an annual tax -free maintenance stipend of £17,609, in 12 monthly instalments. Studentships are expected to last for 36 months, subject to satisfactory progress. A BSc in biological, or related, sciences is required at Upper Second Class level or better and candidates with a Master's degree, in addition to the BSc, might be given preference. Candidates must be either UK or EU nationals with settled status, resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the commencement of the studentships. Non UK/EU nationals are not eligible.


Pearse WD, Legendre P, Neto PP & Davies TJ. The interaction of phylogeny and community structure: linking clades' ecological structures and trait evolution (2019). Global Ecology and Biogeography 28: 1499-1511.
Mazel F, Pennell M, Cadotte M, Diaz S, Dalla Riva G, Grenyer R, Leprieur F, Mooers A, Mouillot D, Tucker C & Pearse WD (2018). Prioritizing phylogenetic diversity captures functional diversity unreliably. Nature Communications 9(1): 2888.

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