Ph.D. position at the Department of Botany, Charles University, Prague
Working group of Experimental and functional plant ecology
Functional traits across woody/herbaceous species divide: linking phylogenetic
and experimental approaches
Background: Functional differences between woody and herbaceous species are one of the deepest
within plant kingdom. It has been hypothesised that the key factor for evolution of herbs is response
to frost or escape from competition, but hard data on factors responsible for its evolution and
functioning are scarce. The aim of the project will be to test this hypothesis. In particular, it will
examine whether the key factor for evolution of herbaceous habit was frequent aboveground
disturbance that leaves belowground regenerative organs intact, giving herbaceous growth form an
advantage. This will be tested both using phylogenetic approaches of large data sets and
phylogenetically informed manipulative experiments involving pairs of woody-herbaceous species.
The task of the student will be
 to design, perform and analyse manipulative experiments that will provide comparative hard
data on functional responses of sets of species. These should be primarily testing (i)
response to aboveground (light quality and quantity) and belowground (nutrient availability)
cues, and (ii) response to experimental disturbance.
 perform phylogenetic analyses of either American and European global datasets to identify
change in functional traits associated with the woody-herb transitions along the phylogenetic
tree, and, if possible, to identify conditions under which the change took place.
We search independent and motivated students with background in plant ecology. Experience with
running ecological experiments and phylogenetic analyses is welcome, but not essential. Successful
applicants are expected to work in both tasks above, but depending on the choice of the student
(data analysis vs. experimental), it will be possible to concentrate primarily on one of them. The
candidate is expected, apart from the tasks listed, to contribute with his/her own ideas to the project:
good ideas from the candidate are always most welcome!
The position will be available from October 2016, application deadline is 29th February 2016.
Interested students are welcome to contact us as soon as possible.
Key people in the working group: Tomáš Herben (group leader), Irena Šímová (phylogenetic
analyses, trait-based comparative analyses of large data sets) , Martin Weiser (experimental ecology,
advanced data analysis), Tomáš Koubek (experimental ecology). All of them will be available to
help/advise on the project. Recently, we have been running projects on comparative research of
plant plastic response to various environmental signals and linking these to other plant traits and
species’ success in the landscape. We collaborate closely with the group of Jitka Klimešová at
Třeboň, which offers, i.a., a unique comparative knowledge of plant clonality and clonal traits. In
our group, we cherish collaborative and creative atmosphere of postdocs, Ph.D. students and Master
students and welcome new members with similar attitude.
Contact: Tomáš Herben ([email protected])
Programme website:

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