MSc Plant Diversity - Jobs

Here are  examples of some jobs our past students now have.

Emma Jardine (2011-2013)

biosci-Jardine2013aI took the MSc Plant Diversity as a part time option over two years.  This allowed me to balance my work needs with my study needs.  My MSc project was to investigate Phylogenetic Patterns of  Medicinally Used Poaceae (the grasses) for which I combined literature and data analysis. 

 My PhD project at the University of Sheffield will investigate how the evolutionary history of grasses influences their modern distribution and will focus on the interaction between defence traits, herbivores and environment.

I will be undertaking phylogenetic analysis, measuring traits from herbarium specimens and undertaking experiments with live plants. I also hope to collaborate with workers in South Africa next year.

Lucy Wenger (2011-2012)


The MSc Plant Diversity provides a fantastic grounding in many disciplines as well as the opportunity to work with, and learn from, some of the best botanists around, not only at Reading University and RHS, Wisley but RBG, Kew, the Natural History Museum, RSK and East Malling Research Centre. An intense year of hard work, it provides a tremendous skills-set with which to move forward. Staff involved are not only incredibly knowledgeable but extremely passionate about their subjects.

After finishing my RHS sponsored MSc with Reading University, I moved straight into a job at the Eden Project, a Skilled Horticulturalist in the Rainforest Biome. Working throughout the Rainforest Biome, I am primarily responsible for the West Africa exhibit; selecting and sourcing species appropriate to the exhibit, propagating, planting, maintaining, researching and participating in the exhibit interpretation. In this photograph I am in a cherrypicker, attaching epiphytes (bromeliads) to a tree in the Rainforest Biome (Photo by Tom Trinkle, Eden Project).

My time at Reading equipped me with many of the skills I now use every day, such as identifying plant family characteristics, use of collections databases, critically analysing papers and picking out key points, knowing the best websites (and most trustworthy) to collect information from, giving talks/tours and networking with specialists across many fields.

Molly Marquand (2010-2011)

biosci-mollym-msc-plantdivMolly moved to the Catskill Mountain region of New York State after graduating from Reading in 2011. She currently works for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation managing the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership. The partnership is comprised of local and state agencies and organizations that work on a gamut of invasive species issues, from Japanese knotweed, to Chinese wisteria to Eurasian boar. She recently co-founded the Catskill Native Plant Society, which has members from institutions such as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, in order to fully satisfy all her botanizing needs!

Charles Campbell (2009-2010)

Ibiosci-Charlie224 am currently a graduate consultant at RSK Carter Ecological consultancy based in Banbury, Oxfordshire. My day to day tasks include writing ecological reports and carrying out fieldwork. The MSc in Plant Diversity at Reading put me in a good position for this job as it helped me develop the necessary identification and survey skills required. The job itself provides a good mix of field and office work making it varied and interesting. The nature of the work is such that I travel to many different sites throughout the country and am involved in surveying a range of taxa. Whilst I had held positions in a variety of ecological organisations before these had all been short fixed term contracts. It is precisely the training and experiences garnered during the MSc that has enabled me to take the next step in my career.

Pantaree Kanjanawattanawong (2008-2009)

biosci-pantaree300I am a researcher in the Genebank Research and Development Group, Department of Agriculture. This "Genebank" is the largest seed bank in Thailand, and aims to conserve plant genetic resources of both economically important lines and locally useful species. As my first degree is botany and my chosen stream for MSc at Reading was Biodiversity Assessment and Conservation, working at the genebank where seed technology is main theme was initially totally unfamiliar to me. However, transferable skills in research which were built during MSc helped me survive at the beginning of my career life. Now, I am a main member of local plant germplasm collecting team, my responsibilities include surveying, collecting and indentifying species of new collection, databasing and research on germplasm conservation techniques. I am also involved in other department's mission such as international co-operation projects and agricultural biosafety subcommittee.

Alice Fenton (2006-2008)

biosci-FentonAliceI became involved with the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre when I approached them for a project for the MSc course at Reading. When the role of Berkshire Biodiversity Data Officer became available I got the job and they allowed me to work part time until I had finished the MSc and then I went full time.

The work involves surveying Local Wildlife Sites in Berkshire in the Spring and Summer (so outside during the best time of the year) and then writing the survey reports in the winter. I have been trained to use Recorder and to do digital mapping using GIS. Through TVERC I have also become involved with the Berkshire Flora Group and now co-ordinate that, organising events etc.

Basically the job was a direct result of the MSc as I had hardly any survey experience previously, and doing the VSA stream prepared me specifically for this role.


Mary Black (2006-2007)biosci-Kiwifruit_300

About a year after completing my Masters degree I moved to New Zealand with my partner and got accepted for a PhD. I am based at Plant and Food Research's Te Puke research orchard. Plant and Food research is a Crown Research Institute, carrying out research on a wide range of agricultural and horticultural crops. Te Puke is known as the kiwifruit capitol of the world and at the Te Puke site research is focussed on kiwifruit. My PhD topic is 'root physiology in kiwifruit vines'. I have been looking at how root function is affected by particular horticultural practices. I hadn't even seen a kiwifruit vine growing before I moved here, so the first year involved a lot of quick learning to gain an understanding of the vines' growth habit and the kiwifruit industry. A large part of my research has involved monitoring hydraulic function and I have just had my first paper published in Tree Physiology based on this work. I've also been looking at carbohydrate partitioning and had the opportunity to work with radioactive tracers. My PhD research is completely different to what I did during my Masters at Reading, but the research skills I developed, particularly in doing the thesis, have been really useful for my PhD research. The PhD has been a very challenging experience, in particular getting around technical issues, but getting the results together and getting my work published is highly rewarding. I'm now nearing three years of research and I am due to hand in my thesis in August 2011. I'm really enjoying living in the Bay of Plenty and enjoying my research so I hope to stay in the area once my PhD is finished. I am currently looking at Postdoctoral options that will enable me to stay at Plant and Food Research.

Tamer Khafaga (2006-2007) desert conservation

I'm working as a Conservation Officer in Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve; sponsored by Emirates Airlines (the Dubai based international airline). I have therefore succeeded in joining one of the most renowned companies, the "Emirates Group" which works in many fields; one of which is conservation of the Dubai Environment. Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve started 2003 with total area of 225 km², the biggest piece of land ever dedicated to a single project, with joint effort and sponsorship by Emirates Airlines and government of Dubai. The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is considered to be the first United Arab Emirates national park ( and aims to increase interest and support for the development of more conservation based projects. DDCR objectives are to protect endangered species and conservation of the desert habitat and its traditional heritage.

My role in the reserve includes the following proposed projects: Vegetation monitoring; assessing the reserve vegetation carrying capacity; initiating a Herbarium; proposing the establishment of the desert botanic garden; and choosing sites for vegetation enclosures.

Before getting the scholarship from Ford foundation to study at the University of Reading I was working as Environmental Researcher in the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, South Sinai – Egypt. Getting the degree of MSc in Plant Diversity allowed me to develop my career further and to get this new job opportunity. Studying the different techniques in Plant ecology and getting a global knowledge in the field of biodiversity and conservation along with the very interesting modules regarding the conservation and sustainable use of the medicinal plants broadened my vision of conservation and the associated impacts of the economy and humans.


Filipe de Sousa (2006-2007)

biosci-FilipeDeSI chose the MSc at Reading University because the program is specifically oriented towards the diversity of plants and offered training in plant identification, evolution, ecology and systematics, so everything one needs to become a botanist. My thesis was a revision of genus Apuleia (Leguminosae) from South America. I graduated in September 2007 and I immediately received a scholarship to work for six months at the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens, together with Emily Huang, who was also doing the MSc. Afterwards I got a position at the Tropical Research Institute in Lisbon, in a project on the herbarium collections from Angola. Currently, I am doing my PhD at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden. In my project I study the phylogeny of Medicago (Leguminosae) with an emphasis on the causes of phylogenetic incongruence. I am working with new sequencing methods and collecting molecular data from several loci and species. The objective is to identify possible hybridisation events in the evolutionary history of Medicago and to produce a new phylogeny of the genus. I can say that completing the MSc in Plant Diversity allowed me to pursue the career I wanted and to have unforgettable work and life experiences.

Jo Shipton (2005-2007)

Jo ShiptonI am now Biodiversity Project Officer for the Heritage Lottery funded Purbeck Keystone Project, employed by Purbeck District Council. My part of the project is concerned with chalk grasslands on the Purbeck Ridge and I will be setting up conservation herds and grazing networks largely for the environmental stewardship land. I have been lucky enough to get this job because of my farming and conservation grazing experience, and the MSc Plant Diversity qualification last year and particularly because my thesis was looking at the long term effects of grazing and other management on species of chalk grassland sites.

Clare O'Reilly (2004-2005)

biosci_ACFmeleagris400"This is one of only a handful of courses in the UK that emphasises the importance of plant identification within ecology. It also demonstrates your commitment to botany. The ecological sector in this country is crying out for good field botanists as these skills can not be learnt on the job - you need to build up your experience over several years and this course is one way to get started."

"There was a good mix of students on the course too. Some were changing career, combined with others who had come straight on to the course following studies for their first degree, as well as conservation professionals wanting to specialize in vegetation assessment."

"I was thinking about a career in taxonomy, having been an amateur botanist for many years, learning about plant identification and ecology by carrying out recording for the Botanical Society of the British Isles. However, I was head hunted by an ecologist, who knew I was about to complete the MSc course, and his boss offered me a job straight away. So I'd say to any budding ecologists out there: get plant identification skills; get a job!"

Clare and John O'Reilly run Ptyxis Ecology

Ben Kimpton (2003-2004)

"My first degree was in Environmental Geography and I started my career in landscape horticulture, whilst studying at agricultural college. I was then selected for an intensive training programme at the Eden Project. While at Eden, I worked on the Wild Cornwall and Cornish Heathland exhibits and became interested in native British plants in landscape planting.

I decided to do the MSc at Reading because I wanted to improve my field identification skills. After graduating I reinforced my studies with practical conservation work with BTCV and Butterfly Conservation before starting work with Ecology Consultancy Limited. My job now includes designing native planting schemes for habitat enhancement and restoration, drawing on my horticultural background, but also a range of other ecological work such as Phase 1 habitat survey and protected species assessments."

Ben is at Ecology Consultancy Limited, Lewes

Helen Pickering (2002-2003) Wild Plants of Oman Book Cover Copyright 2007-8 Botanical Research Institute of Texas

Since completing the MSc in 2003 I have published two photographic guides to wild flowers. The first, of the plants on a volcano in Nicaragua, Wild Flowers of Mombacho, and the second is the Field Guide to the Wild Plants of Oman. I am currently working on a similar book at the Victoria Falls in Zambia.

The photography for these books takes a year to cover all the seasons and about another six months finalising the text and layout. The crucial aspect is getting correct identifications for which the involvement of a local herbarium or taxonomist is imperative.

The MSc in Plant Diversity gave me essential background knowledge on techniques for plant identification and an understanding of plant communities and biodiversity. The staff of the Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics have continued to give me support and encouragement.

Di Clark (2001-2002)

Since completing my MSc in Plant Diversity in 2002, I have worked as an ecologist within several different consultancy companies of all shapes and sizes, as well as taking on a variety of paid and voluntary roles for a few years in New Zealand. These days I'm back in the UK, working as a Senior Ecologist at Baker Consultants in Matlock, Derbyshire, undertaking a huge range of survey work across the seasons for a very diverse client base.

biosci-DiClarkMScPD2002Whilst much of my project work is based around assessing potential impacts of development on protected species like bats, dormice, badgers, amphibians, birds and reptiles, the basis of any project work is to be able to deliver a comprehensive Extended Phase I Habitat survey right from the start, highlighting habitat types that may have potential to provide opportunities for such species. In order to complete a high-quality Phase 1 survey, a good knowledge of botany and habitat definitions (including those used within the National Vegetation Classification System) is an absolute must.

My background in botany - fine-tuned through completing my MSc at Reading - has been absolutely brilliant in giving me the edge over other job candidates who often lack basic plant species ID skills. Being able to highlight potential issues on a site right from the very start has meant that I can provide specialised, targeted advice to clients at the early stages of any given project, thus helping to ensure development projects are completed with high-quality ecological enhancements (such as appropriate species planting along a river corridor) incorporated within them. Whilst no-one wants to see the countryside concreted in its entirety, it is always nice to see developments that have been carefully thought-out and bring something positive to the world of nature conservation.

I would recommend any aspiring ecologist to develop their plant identification skills via courses such as the Plant Diversity MSc at Reading, it really does make you stand out from the crowd.

Andrew Doran 1996-98

biosci-DoranAlcatrazAndrew Doran has been the Assistant Director for Collections at the University and Jepson Herbaria, University of California, Berkeley for the last 8 years. The Herbaria number over 2.2 million specimens of plants, algae and fungi. Prior to moving to Berkeley, Andrew worked on the east coast as Scientific Collections Manager and Curator of Campus Arboretum at the University of Connecticut and as a Horticultural Taxonomist and Plant Records Manager at Denver Botanic Garden in Colorado. After completing the MSc in Plant Taxonomy at Reading, Andrew spent brief spells working on botanical database projects at Kew and for RHS Wisley. Andrew's main interests are cultivated plants and prior to Reading he spent 8 years in retail horticulture and historic gardens. Some of his projects at Berkeley, in addition to running the Herbaria, are digitizing the historic Charterhouse School Herbarium and preparing a flora of Brooks Island, an island in San Francisco Bay close to where he lives.

(Photo: Doran botanizing on Alcatraz Island in 2009)



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