MSc Plant Diversity - Modules

Plant Diversity Research Project

Each student undertakes a piece of original research from May until mid-September. Work is hypothesis-led and gives each student a chance to develop high quality skills in practical field, herbarium or laboratory research resulting in a final dissertation. Where possible students are encouraged to publish their projects with their supervisors in a suitable plant science journal.

Research Project Projects may be field-, laboratory- or herbarium-based on topics ranging from taxonomy, vegetation survey and analysis, ecology, conservation or ethnobotanical studies in the UK or overseas, and may include molecular phylogenetics and statistical modelling.

A list of projects is provided by staff though students may bring their own ideas for discussion. Project themes are guided by staff at University of Reading, our partner institutions and other relevant organisations. They are supervised by a member of staff, with additional external supervision where appropriate for projects in topics relevant to other organisations and institutions overseas, or with our partner institutions including the RHS, the Natural History Museum, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the Eden Project and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

In the Autumn and Spring terms preparatory sessions include project theme discussions alongside an introduction to research - asking questions and testing hypotheses, writing a literature review; research methods, data exploration and Health & Safety assessment for lab and fieldwork.

Research Project Practical project work usually starts in May. Students are then required to present their preliminary findings in July at the annual Plant Diversity research project seminar day to allow staff and students to reflect on project progress and to make suggestions for the final stages.

N.B. Part time students will register for the MSc Research Project in their second year. Completion of the research project provides you with a range of essential research, critical analysis and presentation skills (written and verbal) with potential to publish and/or progress towards further research via a PhD. The research project is 70 credits and preparatory sessions run in the Autumn and Spring terms and the project itself is carried out in the Summer period. This module is co-ordinated by Dr Alastair Culham and colleagues.

Recent projects include:

  • Ecological restoration potential of degraded wetland habitats in an area with rising groundwater levels
  • Hybridization in British native and garden Arum species (with Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley)
  • Stonehenge revisited, species-rich grassland restoration, progress or not?
  • Phylogenetic predictability and Chinese herbal medicine
  • Conservation assessment and Red Listing the Endemic Flora of the High Atlas Biodiversity Hotspot
  • Medicinal plant use among women in Mecca
  • Distribution and Conservation of four endemic species from the Chimanimani Mountains, Mozambique (with Royal Botanic Garden, Kew)
  • Back from the brink? The future of an Extinct in the Wild tropical timber rediscovered recently in Brazil (with Royal Botanic Garden, Kew) Taxonomy of the Asplenium tenerum complex (Aspleniaceae) with particular reference to Malesia (with the Natural History Museum).


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