Jim Willis Studentships

Jim Willis Studentships

The National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, invites applications for vacation studentships honouring the late Dr James Hamlyn Willis, distinguished former senior member of staff at the National Herbarium of Victoria. You will be in the third or fourth year of a Science degree, with interests in plant and/or fungal systematics. The studentship will allow you to participate, under supervision, in one of the research programs at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

There are two studentships available and each is awarded for an eight-week period during December to February. Remuneration is $1,673.63 gross per fortnight. Applications will be assessed on the merit of the applicant. The following projects are offered for 2014/2015:


Taxonomy of new species of mushrooms

There are numerous undescribed species of fungi. Many of them are already collected and represented in herbaria, but are not yet formally named. Cryptic phylogenetic species have already been identified in mushroom genera such as Laccaria and Cortinarius, utilising herbarium specimens, but most such species await formal publication. This project aims to publish taxonomic descriptions of one or more new species of mushrooms. Herbarium collections will be examined for microscopic characters (such as spores and tissue structure). Existing notes on field characters will be collated. Descriptions and illustrations will be prepared. Existing DNA sequences will be analysed by BLAST matching and phylogenetic analyses. A manuscript will be prepared for submission to the RBG Melbourne journal Muelleria.

Supervisor: Tom May (9252 2319, tom.may@rbg.vic.gov.au)

Capturing pollen diversity in the buckwheat family Polygonaceae

Polygonaceae are a diverse cosmopolitan family including ca. 1,200 species. Morphological pollen characters are useful for delimiting genera and sections (e.g. Polygonum and Duma vs. Muehlenbeckia) and are likely clade synapomorphies. However, this has not yet been formally analysed in a phylogenetic framework. The goal for the project is to score pollen characters for a combined molecular and morphological analysis of subfamily Polygonoideae. The molecular phylogeny is done and several pollen samples are already in hand.

The student will generate Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) images of Polygonaceae pollen at the microscopy facility at The University of Melbourne. The goal is to produce publication-quality images for two taxa per clade (ca. 50 images). The student collaborator will learn how to request herbarium loans and destructive sampling for pollen, collect pollen from fresh plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens, produce SEM images and prepare images, score pollen characters for the morphological character matrix, analyse the combined morphological and molecular data and contribute to preparation of a publication.

Supervisors: Dr Tanja Schuster (9252 2328, tanja.schuster@rbg.vic.gov.au) and Prof. David Cantrill (david.cantrill@rbg.vic.gov.au).

Enquiries and applications

For general enquiries on studentships contact Frank Udovicic (9252 2313, frank.udovicic@rbg.vic.gov.au).

Applications should include a curriculum vitae (including university transcript), two referees, and a brief covering letter explaining how the applicant would benefit from the Jim Willis Studentship, how they can contribute to research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, and their reasons for preference of a particular project. Hard copies of applications should be forwarded to Dr Frank Udovicic, Plant Sciences Manager, National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Private Bag 2000 South Yarra, Victoria 3141, by 14 October 2014.