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PhD: Plant Ecology/Palaeobotany (functional ecology, leaf traits, extinction, palaeobotany)

Project Title

Plant Ecology/Palaeobotany (functional ecology, leaf traits, extinction, palaeobotany)


Institution National University of Ireland, Galway

Supervisors and Institutions

Dr Karen Bacon (National University of Ireland, Galway), Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)

Funding Status

Funding is in place for this project

Project Description

The Department of Botany & Plant Sciences, NUI Galway, is seeking a highly qualified and ambitious candidate to undertake a PhD in Dr Karen Bacon’s Plant Ecology lab focused on investigating relationships between leaf functional traits and extinction risk in plants in both a modern and palao context. It is often said that plants do not experience mass extinction in the same way as animals; however, today it is estimated that over 20% of known plant species are at risk of extinction. This project will attempt to disentangle this by investigating plant leaf traits and whether plants at risk of extinction today may represent plant functional types that are less likely to be preserved in the fossil record. The candidate will address extinction risk questions that will test broad scale patterns in areas such as plant ecology, palaeobotany and conservation. The precise project is flexible and will be tailored to fit the candidate’s strengths to one of the above areas.

The PhD will be co-supervised by Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The successful candidate will be supported to apply for funding opportunities to spend time at the Kew herbarium during the course of the project.

The position will involve experimental work (focused on leaf taphonomy), field collections and working with herbarium collections both in NUIG and Kew, as well as possibly working with fossil plant collections.

The PhD position is suitable for biology or plant science graduates looking to move into plant ecology, palaeoecology and conservation.

The award includes:

  • Fees for a Ph.D in Science are fully covered at the EU rate which is approximately €5,750 p.a. (EU) for all 4 years. Non-EU students may apply but they may have to supplement the difference between the EU and non-EU rate themselves (
  • Annual tax-free stipend: €12,000 for 4 years
  • All applicants will be supported to apply for government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarships ( to which they can transfer to during the scholarship.

Start date is expected to be January 2020, but is flexible.

Essential attributes

  • A II-1 or I class honours degree (or equivalent) in plant sciences, botany, ecology or conservation science.
  • You must be willing and able to work independently and as part of a team.
  • A good understanding of plant ecology.

Desirable attributes

  • Evidence of a strong understanding of plant ecology and a clear interest in working across both modern ecology and palaeoecology.
  • Evidence of a strong understanding of experimental design and statistics is desirable.
  • Experience working with plant leaf traits, palaeobotany or herbarium collections.
  • A masters qualification in a suitable discipline would be advantageous but is not essential.

Please send applications to Dr Karen Bacon with “Plant ecology PhD application 2020” in the subject line of the email. The deadline is the 1st of November 2019.

Applications: Please attach a single PDF document that contains:

  • A cover letter of 1 to 2 pages: Your letter should clearly set out your suitability and motivation for this PhD with reference to your past relevant experience and achievements. You should make the case for why a PhD in plant ecology fits your previous experience and your career aspirations. Font size should not be below 12 points in Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or similar font.
  • A CV that includes your relevant experience, undergraduate results, postgraduate results (if applicable), any relevant publications (if applicable) and contact information for 2 academic referees.

Candidates will then be short listed and interviewed in person either via Skype or on campus within two weeks of the closing date, with the successful candidate informed shortly afterwards.

Contact Name

Dr Karen Bacon

Contact Email

Link to More Information

Closing Date

Friday, November 1, 2019

Expiry Date

Saturday, November 2, 2019
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