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Academic History

BSc (Hons) Biology from Cardiff University (2010)

MRes (DIC) Molecular Plant Biology & Biotechnology Imperial College London (2011)

Comprised of two 6-month research projects:

Understanding evolution in the New Caledonian flora: new insights from the Pandanacae family.
Supervised by Dr Felix Forest & Dr Sven Buerki

New Caledonia is an island found in the South-West Pacific off the coast of Australia, it has long been identified as a biodiversity 'hotspot' with a huge number of endemic flora. One of the most prolific families present on the island is Pandanacae. Pandanacae are a family of ancient dioecious monocotyldeons dating from the early cretaceous era. The family comprisesw four genera Sararanga, Freycinetia, Martellidendron and Pandanus, and are found throughout the Palaeotropics. A phylogenetic analysis has been completed using five plastid DNA region (trnL-intron, trnL-F spacer, matK, rpl32-trnL, trnQ-rps16), with a particular focus on those species from New Caledonia. Maximum likelihood and maximum parsimony analyses were carried out along with dating using fossils as a time constraint. The results indicate that Pandanus from New Caledonia froms a clear gradient with one dispersal event leading to Pandanus distribution throughout the Palaeotropics. Martellidendron, Freycinetia and Sararanga are all identified as separate clades, although Martellidendron appreas to be more closely related to Pandanus. New Caledonia underwent a number of distinguishing geological events, with the emergence of the island and arrival of Pandanus on the island coinciding. The geography and geology of the species indicates that Pandanus may have an exaptation to ultramafic soil. This ecological filter may be key to the diversification of this genus throughout the sub-tropics.

Buerki S, Callmander M W, Devey D, Chappell L, Gallaher T, Munzinger J, Haevermans T & Forest F (2012). Straightening out the screw-pines: A first step in understanding phylogenetic relationship within Pandanacae. Taxon (61) pp. 1010-1020.

Second generation biofuels: the potential role of tension wood and alkali pretreatments.
Supervised by Dr Richard Murphy

The development of second generation biofuels has led to a focus towards he development of innovative lignocellulosic feedstocks. Within the UK short rotation coppice Willow and Poplar has been optimized for bioethanol production. One feature of angiosperms such as these is the presence of reaction wood; the presence of tension and opposite wood within stems. Tension wood has been found to have a high cellulosic content indicating it may be suitable for use as a lignocellulosic feedstock. Through the investigation of sacchharification and pretreatment of Poplar Euroamerican clones with the morphological analysis of tension wood induced Salix samples the viability of reaction wood as a feedstock has been examined.

Tension wood therefore shows promising results as a potential lignocellulosic feedstock, and the application of dilute sodium hydroxide pretreatment on opposite wood presented a feasible technique for further interest.