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PhD Studentship: Mobilisation of Plant Images and Data to Address the Taxonomic Impediment of the Syzygium, the World's Largest Tree Genus

Loughborough University - Computer Science

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Loughborough University, Loughborough
Funding for: EU Students, International Students, Self-funded Students, UK Students
Funding amount: Competition funded project worldwide
Hours: Full Time, Part Time
Placed On: 6th November 2023
Closes: 10th January 2024
Reference: CENTA24-UKCEH3/LU11
 

This project would aim to revise a section of the world's largest tree genus, Syzygium, through classical taxonomy, molecular systematics, testing deep learning algorithms for rapid auto-identification of herbarium specimens. Syzygium is a highly appropriate model group for such a study as it is considerably species rich, but hugely understudied and in need of thorough revisionary work. The greatest gap in Syzygium systematics is in Syzygium subgenus Syzygium, this subgenus has recently been divided into informal ‘sections’ including the lineage including the type of the genus, Syzygium sect. Syzygium.

The first year of the project would focus on determining which taxa are included in Syzygium sect. Syzygium. This will be achieved by systematic survey of all nomenclatural types of species in this section (c. 1000), first using existing machine learning algorithms for clustering followed by manual checking of resulting clusters. Year two of the project explores assembling trait data and other ‘priors’ (e.g. geography, phylogeny, habitat, habit, use) to test and develop auto-identification using machine learning. Year three of the project will utilize the outputs of the phylogenetic systematics, data digitally linked from the Auto-ID tool using e-taxonomy tools such as Echinopscis or Taxonworks, to compile a comprehensive checklist of Syzygium sect.

The successful candidate will uniquely study at both the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Loughborough University, with Kew serving as their primary base for the majority of the program.

Funding Details

This studentship which is partially funded by NERC, provides a tax-free stipend of £18,622 per annum (in 2023/24) and tuition fees at the UK rate for 3.5 years. It also provides a Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £8,000. Due to UKRI funding rules, no more than 30% of the studentships funded by this grant can be awarded to International candidates, but successful International candidates will have the difference between the UK and International tuition fees provided by the University.

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