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Functional Plant Ecology

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We are offering opportunities for Bachelor and Master thesis in our working group. Please contact us!

Šuspa and collaborators are offering a number of interesting projects with the topics for Bachelor and Master theses in his working subgroup, only in Czech.

The list of topics for Bachelor and Master thesis with Francesco and Lars are found below (under the picture of us discussing new projects).

If you are considering starting a PhD in our group please drop us a few lines by email and we can discuss topics and financing options.

We often host visiting students from other groups worldwide, for exchange periods and co-supervisions. Please drop us a few lines by email so that we can discuss about possible visits.

At the moment we cannot offer any post-doc contract, but at the end of November 2018 we might be able to advertise some new positions. Please follow our news section or contact us by then.

Bachelor and Master thesis with Francesco and Lars

Differentiation and evolution in the genus Carex (ostřice)

Principal investigators: Francesco de Bello and Lars Götzenberger; PhD student responsible: Hana Dvořaková.

Introduction: The genus Carex is abundant in South Bohemia, and in the whole Czech Republic. In Ohrazeni, Šuspa long term experiment site, give site, up to 12 species coexist together. The question here is understanding how different species have evolved to coexist together in a given habitat and why some species have evolved to prefer different habitats. We plan to study these questions by considering variation in key functional traits (leaf type, root type, biomass allocation, clonal ability, reproductive output, phenology etc.) combined with genetic analyses and pot experiments. We have already collected clones of 7 species from Ohrazeni, which can be propagated and grown in pots under different environmental conditions and planting different species together. This approach can be further expanded by sampling more species but also assessing existing databases (Czech National Phytosociological Database covering up to 100.000 vegetation plots across the whole Czech Republic; combined with existing trait databases and resolved phylogenetic information) to test coexistence within and across habitats of the whole genus Carex in the country (~80 species).

Theses available: (1) Master and bachelor students could be running experiments with the material of the 7 Carex species already collected to run pot experiments within monocultures and mixtures of these species. Alternatively (2) they can help running genetic analyses (mainly AFLP and MS-AFLP) to determine genetic differentiation between and within species, compared to variation in functional traits. Finally, if the students are interested in analyzing big databases, and achieving advanced skills in using statistical software (R), (3) they can work on the Czech Phyto National Database and assess trait and phylogentic diversity within and between habitats of the Czech Republic.

Coexistence of species depending on their functional and phylogenetic dissimilarity

Principal investigators: Francesco de Bello and Lars Götzenberger; PhD student responsible: Thomas Galland

Introduction: A field experiment was established in Benesov, 1h from Budejovice (see pictures in the galleries and news). We are interested in assessing the consequence of species coexistence depending on the functional and phylogenetic dissimilarity between coexisting species and to assess these effects independently. From a pool of 19 species from Czech wet meadows with known trait values, we assembled in 2015 “artificial” communities of six species with combinations of communities with low/high functional diversity and low/high phylogenetic diversity, following and adapting the framework we proposed in Dias et al. (2013 Journal of Ecology). Data is available for explorations. Additionally the same species can be grown in the greenhouse, with pot experiments to complement the field data, i.e. creating a gradient of species diversity where species which more vs. less functionally and phylogenetic similarity will be grown together under a range of environmental conditions (fertilization, water availability, cutting regimes).

Theses available: Master and bachelor students could be running experiments with the seed material from the 19 species grown already in the field, but this time in the greenhouse. The student would then study, for instance, (1) how the different combinations of species lead to different biomass production, and if there are “synergetic” effects when growing different species together, and/or (2) if effects of biodiversity on biomass production is comparable from field and greenhouse experiments.

Floral traits in community assembly

Principal investigators: Lars Götzenberger and Francesco de Bello; PhD student responsible: Anna Vojtko

Introduction: Trait based community assembly studies usually rely on the use of established functional traits such as specific leaf area (SLA) or plant height. Floral and reproductive traits are less commonly studies, although they should in theory contribute to the process of community assembly. We are conducting a number of studies that make use of a large set of vegetation plot data (from the Czech National Phytosociological Database) and information on floral traits from the BiolFlor trait data base (currently the only data base that contains floral traits for a large number of central European species). Additionally, we also attempt to collect more such data, either from published literature or by taking measurements in the field.

Theses available: Master and bachelor students could study different aspects of floral traits: (1) One possible project is to identify how much the similarity of floral traits among species is dependent on their phylogenetic relatedness. The student would analyze the available floral traits data in combination with available phylogenetic trees to determine the phylogenetic signal of the traits. (2) A second possible project would deal with the question how floral traits are related to other (non-floral) traits, and how much floral traits contribute to the ecological differentiation between the species. For this the floral traits would be combined with data on other plant traits and analyzed with multivariate statistics.

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