Annabelle de Vries

University of Warwick


Oceanic island museomics: human impact and the natural laboratory paradigm


Prof. Robin Allaby and Dr. Mark Carine

PhD Summary

Oceanic islands have long been recognised as ‘natural laboratories’, ideally suited for in-situ studies of evolution. They provide some of the most striking, text book examples of adaptive radiations and have played – and continue to play – a major role in the development of key concepts in biology. At the same time, their biota, that are so rich in unique diversity, are also among the most globally endangered. For this study we focus on the genus Trochetiopsis, an endemic of St Helena, to test the assumptions of the natural laboratory paradigm. There are classic examples of evolutionary processes such as adaptive radiation; humans have had a profound impact on their biota and there is a history of botanical collecting spanning the last three hundred years, a period of profound change. This project aims to get a better understanding on how human induced chances impact island biodiversity patterns. Questioning how robust islands as model system for studying evolution are.

What inspires you?

Enjoying long walks in the woods and on the beach collecting interesting leaves, shells or shark teeth, and discussing these findings with experienced biologists. Watching nature documentaries and visiting Natural History Museums in London, Paris and Berlin made me curious for the natural world and inspired me to travel to the arctic and tropics during my study.

Previous Activity

I studied at Leiden University where I obtained my BSc Biology and MSc Biology: Evolution, Biodiversity and Conservation. For my final master’s research project, I did an internship at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London. After graduating from my masters, I continued to work on the same project as an assistant researcher for another 8 months.

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

During my studies my interest in botanical collections grew. There is a lot of information that can be obtained from collection material to answer questions about evolution and biodiversity. With this training I hope to improve my skills to question the knowledge about plant evolution. Then to answer these questions by looking at plant biodiversity in the field, in collections and on a molecular level.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

The CENTA studentship provides an interdisciplinary network and training to enhance academic skills for my career in research. It allows me to do this project in a collaboration between Warwick University and the Natural History Museum in London.

What are your future plans

This PhD project and the CENTA training allow me to enhance my academic skills and work at a well-known university and the Natural History Museum, providing me with a great network for my future academic career. After this PhD I would like to pursue a career in research by obtaining a post-doc position, working on plant evolution and teaching at a university.