Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences

Research Postgraduate







Sir Alexander Fleming BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





PhD candidate on the NERC Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial college. Based at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Research Project: The evolutionary history and diversity of the Mickey Mouse plants (The genus Ochna, Ochnaceae)

Supervised by: Dr. Iain Darbyshire (RBG, Kew), Prof. Isabel Larridon (RBG, Kew) and Prof. Vincent Savolainen.

Project Summary:
The study will explore the mainly African genus Ochna L. which has widely speciated throughout continental Africa, Madagacar and Asia with about ca. 86 species. The genus is of great ecological importance because they constitute a large portion of woody vegetation and provide a valuable food source for birds and other fauna due to their striking red and black fruits. Although many Ochna species occur in woodland and rocky hillslopes, the genus has also widely speciated in tropical dry forests particularly in East Africa. This is critical conservation concern due to the combination of high species turnover and continuous growing threat of habitat destruction and other anthropogenic pressures. Despite its importance, the genus remains understudied from and taxonomic and evolutionary perspective. For example, the Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA) account for the genus lists 49 taxa, 13 of which are not formally described due to insufficient material and knowledge available. 

The study will integrate data from multiple sources to improve our knowledge of the evolutionary history and current diversity of Ochna. A well resolved, dated phylogenetic hypothesis will be produced using molecular data generated through high-throughput sequencing (Hyb-Seq). The phylogenomic results will allow us to test the accuracy of the current morphologically-derived classification. Trait analysis based on herbarium material and targeted field collections from East Africa will be used to reconstruct ancestral character states and ranges. Species occurrence data will be captured for biogeographical analyses. Integrating the phylogenomic. morphological, ecological and biogeographical data will allow us to investigate drivers behind speciation, the impact of specialised buzz-pollination traits and ultimately deliver conservation management suggestions. 


  • 2011-2014 BSc Environment & Sustainabilty - Keele University
  • 2014-2016 MSc Plant Diversity - University of Reading
  • 2016-2018 Curator-Botanist - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • 2018-2022 PhD Candidate SSCP DTP - Imperial College