Anne-Sophie Quatela


I often get the same skeptical question from non-botanists: why do you like plants?! And I always give the same laconic response: “Look beyond the plant and you will understand!”.

I accurately remember the moment when I realized that I wanted to study plant evolution. I was working on my Bachelor’s thesis at Grenoble Alpes University (2015), studying the evolutionary radiation of the Andean plant genus Espeletia. I must admit that when I applied for that project, I was highly motivated but not passionately yet. However, while reading papers about adaptive vs non-adaptive radiation, ecological speciation, ecological opportunities, species-richness and diversification, …, I realized how much this field fed my intellectual life in many aspects. Indeed, studying evolution is not just about science and biology: it’s about philosophy, sociology, anthropology, even politics. So, after so much scientific and intellectual stimulation (in particular by Jonathan Losos’ papers!), I decided to continue with the topic evolution during my Master’s thesis.

As mentioned, I graduated with a Bachelor degree in general Biology (2015) and a Master degree in Biology, Ecology, Environment from Grenoble Alpes University (France) in 2017. During my Master’s thesis at Stellenbosch University (South Africa), I was lucky enough to study the influence of plant height on species diversification using the model Alooideae, a subfamily of succulent plants from Southern Africa containing the well-known genera Aloe, Haworthia, and Gasteria. After studying macroevolutionary processes the previous year, I completed my skills by adding microevolutionary events to my theoretical background. These two experiences offered me the opportunity to discover fundamental research with fascinating people and to develop a true passion for evolution and plants!

This led to my enrolment in Plant.ID as ESR1, studying phylogenetic inferences of polyploids under the multispecies coalescent (MSC) at Gothenburg University (Sweden). My study model is Silene sect. Physolychnis, a group including polyploid species distributed in the panarctic region, North and South America, Central Asia and West Russia. The challenges of my PhD are to question the definitions of species and the concepts of species delimitation, by using a well-known mathematical model (MSC). I believe that the questions addressed by my project will bring philosophical and societal approaches into biology. Because my scientific interests also lie in macro and microevolution, I will study the evolutionary success of polyploid species. This project will provide long DNA reads of Physolychnis by using Nanopore sequencing (NGS).

I am going to proceed step by step and before sequencing polyploid Silene, I will collaborate closely with ESR14, Ntwai Moiloa, to study species delimitation in diploid Southern-African Silene.