Benedikt Kuhnhäuser

Academic Profile

Academic Education

10/2017 – present  NERC Doctoral Training Partnership
University of Oxford and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom
Research focus: Phylogenetic relationships of rattan palms (Calamus spp.)

10/2014 – 07/2017  Master in Botany (final grade: 1.0 / with distinction)
University of Vienna, Austria
Thesis: "Analysis of phytohormones in the flower development of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)"

12/2010 – 08/2014  Bachelor in Horticulture (final grade: 1.0 / with distinction)
University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Freising, Germany

10/2010 – 12/2010  Bachelor in Mathematics (discontinued)
Technical University Munich, Germany

06/2008  A-Levels (final grade: 1.3 / with distinction)
Kaethe Kollwitz Grammar School, Munich, Germany


10/2017 - present  Clarendon scholarship for academic excellence
University of Oxford, United Kingdom

10/2017 – present  Senior Germaine Scholarship
Brasenose College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

03/2016 – 09/2017  Scholarship for exceptional academic performance
Pro Scientia, Vienna, Austria

10/2011 – 06/2017  Scholarship for exceptional academic performance
German National Academic Foundation, Bonn, Germany


01/2016  Merit-based scholarship award (Ranked as best student out of 92)
University of Vienna, Austria

07/2015  Award for best Bachelor's degree at university level of the year 2014
University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Freising, Germany

11/2014  Award for excellent academic achievements
University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Freising, Germany

Scientific Skills

Biodiversity research    DNA sequencing and molecular phylogenetics
Field biology (botanical excursions to the Alps, Costa Rica and Siberia)

Molecular Biology Phytohormone analysis (Ion chromatography – Quadrupole-mass spectrometry)
Metabolomics (Gas chromatography – TOF mass spectrometry)

Structural Botany    Micro Computed Tomography (Micro-CT)
Microscopy (SEM, TEM, light and fluorescence microscopy)

Genetics        Chromosome analysis (chromosome extraction, FISH)

Statistics        Uni- and multivariate statistics (t-test, ANOVA, PCA)

Programming        Python, R

Professional Experience

04 – 08/2013  Work experience as a horticulturist
Maintained collections of tropical ferns and of the flora of the Canary islands
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, United Kingdom

09/2008 – 07/2010  Professional training as a horticulturist
Specialisation: perennial herbaceous plants
Weihenstephan Gardens, Freising, Germany

Current Research

Unravelling tropical rainforest diversity
Tropical rainforests are the world’s most diverse terrestrial ecosystems, potentially allowing deep insights into evolutionary diversification processes. Why are they so diverse? What are the drivers of species richness? Which roles play genetic disposition, morphological characteristics and evolutionary histories? How is diversity shaped by earth history, geographical characteristics of a region, climate and biological interactions? Are there common patterns for all tropical rainforests of the world?

Palms are an ideal model group to answer these questions: They are almost completely confined to tropical ecosystems, with more than 2500 species very diverse but still manageable, well-known and have a long-spanning fossil record. Rattans, climbing palms of the genus Calamus, are with more than 500 species the most diverse group of palms. Their evolutionary history is a key point for the understanding of palms and tropical rainforest diversity as a whole. Prior efforts to resolve this question have, however, remained unsatisfactory due to technological limitations. The recent emergence of high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies now opens up the possibility to overcome these hindrances.

Making use of these technologies and in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I aim to produce a completely resolved rattan tree-of-life. This will then render the palm family fully suitable as a model group for the understanding of tropical rainforest diversity and allow the exploration of the causes and drivers of tropical rainforest diversity.


Publications will be coming soon