Potential study items for students at the Botanic Garden Meise

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1 Potential study items for students at the Botanic Garden Meise 1. Visualizing plant biodiversity. Vast amounts of plant biodiversity data are available in global repositories such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. However, making sense of it all is difficult, particularly as those data are not collected randomly in time and space. Visualizations such as maps, graphs and networks are key tools for simplifying these data, hypothesis building and communication. We would like a student to work with us on creating informative visualizations of global and Belgian plants to make interesting visualizations that both attract and inform. Bachelor 2nd & 3rd years and master student. Used techniques Depending on where the project takes us we may use various systems including programming in languages such as Python, databases, spreadsheets and various XML and web service technologies. This project would need about four weeks work, either working full time or spread over a longer period. Quentin Groom,

2 2. We are looking for an computer science student for Data Mining The Botanic Garden maintains large databases to manage its collections. We also maintain other digital resources, such as the online flora of Central Africa and a guide to the alien plants of Belgium. We know that these databases could be used to discover many interesting things about plants, their biogeography and the history of science. We would like to find a student interested in mining these databases for useful information. An example of a project would be to mine our collections database for collector itineraries, mapping their routes as they travelled around the Congo basin at the beginning of the 20th century. The student would need to have some aptitude and enthusiasm for informatics, but the techniques used are not complicated. Bachelor 2nd & 3rd years and master students. Used techniques SQL, database design, Mapping with GIS systems, scripting (PERL, Python) and simple statistics. This project could range from 15 to 30 days work, either working full time or spread out over a longer period. Quentin Groom,

3 3. Looking for clues to historic biogeography Oxalis corniculata and its close relatives are common weeds that have managed to spread with mankind to every continent except Antarctica. Nevertheless, the details of their dispersal and current distribution is not well known. We would like to find a student who would be interested in researching old books and modern floras to try and piece together the origins and spread of these species. It would require online, herbarium and library based research. Trying to gather clues to its early origins and its spread. A lot of information exists but it is scattered and needs to be searched for carefully. A student would need to be good at languages and like to follow the clues in this historic research. This research would contribute to a project to understand the genetics of this global species and its relationship with mankind. Bachelor 2nd & 3rd years and master students. Used techniques Library research, internet research and simple statistics. This project could range from 15 to 30 days work, either working full time or spread out over a longer period. Quentin Groom,

4 4. Collecting information on Central African plant families with ethnobotanical intrest. We are developing a checklist of the flora of Rwanda, Burundi and The D.R. Congo. The project would be to take a small plant family, preferably one with ethnobotanical interest, and develop the data we have on that group in the checklist. This would require a literature research and computer based work. The point would be to extend the information we can collect ourselves, particularly to collect information from diverse data sources. We are particularly interested in edible plants and medicines. Bachelor 2 nd & 3 rd years and master students. Used technics Literature and internet based research. The time of the project could be flexible depending on what is needed. The work could be conducted at the garden, but also remotely over the Internet. Quentin Groom,

5 5. Macromolecular phylogenetic research DNA isolation from plants or fungi collections. Subsequently, by means of a PCR method (polymerase chain reaction), a specific fragment is amplified and its sequence is determined. By means of statistical analysis the relationships between the examined collections are calculated. Bachelor 2 nd & 3 rd years and master students. Techniques Extraction methods depend on the collections to be analysed. PCRmethods depending on the fragment to be amplified. Preparation, such as post-treatment of the PCR products. Sequencing is outsourced. After checking the sequence results, statistical analyses using specialized computer programmes are undertaken. The interpretations and conclusions are drawn from the highest scoring phylogenetic tree. Minimum duration and suited period 4 weeks. Period fixed by mutual arrangement. Guidance and contact Wim Baert and Myriam de Haan (technical aspects), Olivier Raspe (theoretical framework). Contact:

6 6. Mapping lichen diversity as an indicator of environmental stress Worldwide lichens are used as indicators of environmental changes caused by air pollution, global warming and management practices. In the last decades several methods have been proposed for assessing environmental quality on the basis of lichen data. In 2002 investigators of several European countries developed a bio-indication method now worldwide used. The purpose of the practical training is to get acquainted with the different aspects of this method. Bachelor 2 nd & 3 rd years and master students. Used technics The work will be conducted at the Botanic Garden Meise. - Selection of sites and sampling of trees in a way that any element of subjectivity is avoided. - Measuring the ph of the tree bark to select trees with similar bark properties. - Recording of lichens within four sampling ladders at the cardinal points. - Identification of epiphytic lichens with a lichen key in the field. - Collection and identification of lichens using standard microscopic techniques and spot tests for their chemistry. - Statistical analysis and interpretation of the results (calculation of lichen diversity values, mapping of lichen diversity, multivariate analysis, data quality control). 2 weeks minimum. Period fixed by mutual arrangement. Dries Van den Broeck. Contact:

7 7. Revision of the genus Phaeocollybia in Belgium (and GD Luxembourg?) The genus Phaeocollybia (Fungi) has 4 or 5 species in Belgium, all of which are rare. Today, these different species are well known and quite easy to identify with the microscope. However, in the past the systematics of the genus has been much confused and different species names have been used with various interpretations. Therefore, misidentifications are probably frequent in herbarium specimens and it is sometimes difficult to interpret literature. The project would include a re-identification of the Belgian specimens, a compilation of the literature published on the systematics of the genus, a compilation of all available data concerning the distribution and ecology of the species in Belgium. The final output would be the publication of a revision of the genus for Belgium (and GD Luxemburg?), with key, illustrations and commented distribution maps (with the student as coauthor). : Bachelor 2nd & 3rd years and master students. Used technics Identification of herbarium specimens with the microscope, literature research. Duration : 2-4 (-6) weeks (full time). The project can be adapted to the availability of the student. Any work not done by the student will be done by A. Fraiture. Herbarium specimens and literature can be studied throughout the year. André Fraiture,

8 8. Inquiry based education to talk with us. Botanic gardens are ideal locations for learning outside the classroom. Here, teachers can demonstrate subjects like ecosystems, adaptations, pollination, evolution etc. School visits should match with the national curriculum. Students looking for an alternative internship or bachelor paper are welcome Teacher training students 2 weeks minimum. Koen Es. Contact: 9. Market research at the Botanic Garden Meise Tourism / marketing students It s been a while since our last market research of the visitors of the Botanic Garden. Discovering what people want, need or expect, how much time and money they spend etc. is useful to market the Botanic Garden as a product. Techniques Interviews and other data collection, interpreting and evaluating. 2 weeks minimum only in the touristic season (period between April and October) Koen Es. Contact:

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