ESR2: Taxon identification and multispecies coalescent plant biodiversity assessments


PhD fellow María Ariza

Host University of Oslo

Supervisor Hugo de Boer

Co-supervisors Inger Greve Alsos, Bengt Oxelman

In short

How many plant species can you find in your backyard? 10? 30? How many plant species are in the Amazon? 1000? 1 million? Do you need to call a plant expert to help you identify them? And, what about hidden biodiversity? Luckily, in my PhD project, I will investigate and develop new tools to help you answer these questions. I will use cutting-edge DNA techniques and models to identify plant species accurately and remove bias and low reliability in current methods in order to improve biodiversity assessments and support conservation efforts.

Project description

Biodiversity assessments using high-throughput sequencing provide a cost-effective alternative that can save taxonomic experts valuable time from lengthy fieldwork. High-throughput sequencing approaches to biodiversity assessments using barcoding and amplicon metabarcoding have shown feasibility and cost-effectiveness, but are limited in accurate taxon assignment. Multispecies coalescent (MSC) analyses (i.e., "gene trees in species trees") provide a platform of high-quality data and confident taxon identification. The availability of skimming and plastome data for all Norwegian plant species through NorBOL makes it possible to pioneer MSC approaches for plant biodiversity assessments. In this project, the ESR will work with plant nuclear and organelle skimming data as reference data to develop identification approaches for plant biodiversity, using plant material, sedimentary DNA, and artificial mixtures.

Objective: Biodiversity assessments with confidence for overall accuracy and species-specific confidence levels.