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Meta-analyses of genetic diversity patterns

Meta-analyses of genetic diversity patterns in Dutch bryophytes and vascular plants

Supervisors
Michael Stech
Hans Kruijer

Contact
michael.stech@naturalis.nl
hans.kuijer@naturalis.nl

Period & duration
6-9 months

Study & level
Biology, MSc level

Background & context
As you know already from first year’s Tree of Life course, bryophytes and vascular plants share the same general life cycle, but differ fundamentally in many aspects (dominance of sporophyte vs. gametophyte, different modes of sexual and asexual reproduction, etc.). During the last years Naturalis has carried out large-scale projects to generate DNA sequences from the (almost) complete Dutch bryophyte and vascular plant flora. The DNA sequence data will become available in databases to facilitate the identification of unknown plants by molecular species identification (DNA barcoding). However, it remains to be investigated how well the DNA barcoding markers actually perform to distinguish bryophyte and vascular plant species at the level of a whole country. Furthermore, the DNA sequence data also provide a wealth of possibilities to analyse and compare patterns of molecular evolution and biological characteristics of bryophytes and vascular plants.

Objectives & goals 
Using the Dutch flora as a case study, the project will investigate patterns of genetic diversity in non-coding DNA markers between and within different lineages of bryophytes and vascular plants, to infer (i) the suitability of these markers for species identification at a large scale, (ii) whether bryophytes and vascular plants show distinct patterns of molecular evolution, and (iii) whether genetic diversity patterns correlate with reproductive strategies, life history traits, and speciation patterns.

Methods, tasks & approach
Comparative analyses of sequence variability (substitutions, length variation), molecular evolution and species discrimination capacities of the barcode markers; analysing possible correlations between genetic diversity, reproductive strategies and life history traits.

Requirements 
BSc degree in biology.