May 2, 2017

Undergraduate research experience placement in inter-specific and environmental variability in woody functional traits of tropical trees at CEH, Edinburgh

Summer Placement Opportunity

Supervisor: Dr Lindsay F Banin, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Edinburgh

Relatively little is known about variability in woody traits of tropical trees, when compared with foliar traits, apart from simple measures such as wood density. However, these traits could reveal important insight into how trees function, how forest communities are structured and why different species are more or less competitive in particular environmental settings.

The core aim of the research placement is to examine variability in branch wood traits of tropical trees, across soil environments and across species. The project will make use of existing data and unprocessed samples from 10 field sites across northern Borneo. Data are already available for the soil and climatic conditions of the sites, foliar traits and branch wood density. The practical element of the project will be to prepare samples and analyse them for wood anatomy using microscope photography and image analysis using freely available image analysis software. The student will then collate the newly acquired wood trait data with other existing data (environment, species, other traits), design specific research questions and conduct relevant statistical analyses on the dataset and write a report to detail project findings.

The project will afford the student an insight into a variety of analytical techniques and the opportunity to create and work with a novel dataset on a subject at the frontier of ecological research. The student will also have the opportunity to experience two research environments outside the university setting, giving a new perspective on possible career options.


The successful candidate will undertake the research project for 10 weeks during the summer (likely 26th June 2017 to 1st September 2017 although there may be some flexibility of precise start and end dates). The project will be undertaken at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Penicuik, Edinburgh with laboratory work at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, under the supervision of Dr Lindsay Banin (CEH), Sandra Anders-Blongin (University of Edinburgh) and Frieda Christie (RBGE). A stipend of up to £200 per week will be available to the successful candidate to cover travel and accommodation costs for the duration of the 10-week project.

Application and criteria

We are seeking an enthusiastic, highly motivated individual with an interest in applying their quantitative skills to ecology and plant science. The applicant should be able to demonstrate an ability to work independently as well as a strong academic record. Relevant experience in photography, image analysis, data management and R programming for statistics are also desirable. The following eligibility criteria also apply. Students must:

  • be studying for an undergraduate degree in a quantitative discipline outside of NERC’s scientific remit (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering, physics)
  • be applying for a placement in a different department to their undergraduate degree,
  • be undertaking their first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters),
  • be expected to obtain a first or upper second class UK honours degree,
  • be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (i.e. UK, EU or right to remain in the UK).

To apply for the placement please send your application via email to Lindsay Banin ( by 26th May 2017. The application should consist of your CV and a covering letter (max. 2 A4 pages) outlining (i) why you wish to undertake a research placement and why this specific project, (ii) your skills and attributes relevant to the placement and (iii) the name, address and email address of a referee. Please also state the dates you will be available.