All plants that inhabit the Northern Temperate zone need to have strategies for surviving winter. The jury is out on how easily plants adapt to life at high latitudes: on the one hand the idea of ‘niche conservatism’ uses the pattern of historical plant migrations to suggest that niche shifts are rare (and therefore assumed to be difficult), on the other hand some experimental work and invasive species suggest that climate tolerances can evolve relatively quickly. On Iceland there are soils, warmed by geothermal activity, that never freeze and remain on average 10 °C warmer than surrounding soils. This provides a rare opportunity for testing how quickly climate tolerances evolve. An ongoing study is testing whether plants from heated and non-heated soils differ in their winter survival ability. The aim of the Master’s project is to take the study to the genetic level and investigate any (epi-)genetic differences between plants from heated and non-heated soils. The project will involve fieldwork in Iceland and Sweden as well as molecular laboratory work.

Contact: Aelys Humphreys,

Length: 45 hp / 60 hp