Plants on the move

Project Details

This is a CASE project with St Andrews Botanic Garden

Key Questions

Why do some plants naturalise, and when do they become invasive?


As our climate changes, plants are being pushed past viable physiological tipping points. As a consequence, species that are currently naturalising in new habitats may become better at exploiting niches. Understanding these behavioural and demographic changes is an area of active research. However, much of researchers’ attention is focused on species that are already widely established or grown. As such, a blind spot exists in locations with high species diversity and low numbers of replicates.

Botanic gardens are perfect examples of these situations and present high-risk scenarios for hybridisation and escape. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop robust methods for high throughput screening of species interactions with adjacent habitats under future climate scenarios, and in turn identify species of concern that can be integrated into policy and management programmes.

Aims of the Project

In this DPhil, the student will develop new tools to assess invasion debt, working closely with species whose behaviour has been observed in St Andrews Botanic Garden but do not yet feature in governmental or agency policy making.

Project Description

Building plant pedigrees, the researcher will use likelihood-based methods to build genetic pedigrees and integrate demographic and trait biomarker data to detect signals within the pedigrees. Collecting these data at the level of individuals will enable the researcher to untangle the effects of climate change and human management, and accurately predict causes of survival, dominance and emigration.

This DPhil presents excellent opportunities for quantitatively-minded researchers to develop and apply novel techniques to questions that need urgent resolution. In the process, the student will be involved in the early stages of establishing a long-term ecological research project and build international networks with policymakers, land managers and ecologists, providing scope for post-doctoral development and career progress.


Please contact Rob Salguero-Gómez on if you are interested in this project. The CASE supervisor will be Harry Watkins