What drives pollen longevity? (MSc, BSc, internship) hos Københavns Universitet

The close link between the environment and success of plant sexual reproduction has been known for many years. Yet, it has received increased interest only over last two decades, due to the potential negative consequences of climate change on seed crops, namely short-term crop failure and long-term reduction in seed yields. Numerous studies provide evidence that this climate change-induced variation in seed quality and quantity inevitably leads to alternations in plant biology, ecology and distribution.


When looking at the different stages of seed production, pollen has been shown to be the most temperature sensitive and thus the most limiting part of plant sexual reproduction. Under temperature stress, plants always tend to produce less pollen of lower quality, due to the direct exposure of small, haploid, unprotected male gametophytes to the hostile environment. In order to cope with this stress, plants have developed several strategies at different levels of their organization showing plasticity in their reproductive response to ensure fertilization. However, due to multiple knowledge gaps (e.g. strong dominance of biochemical and physiological studies, strong focus on crop and model plant species), we are still uncertain of how plastic the male gametophyte performance is in response to given thermal conditions and to what extent this plasticity allows plants to adjust seed production to a changing environment, especially in wild plants.


The main aim of the research project is to better understand drivers of pollen longevity, which vary from few minutes in some wind-pollinated graminoids to years(!) in gymnosperms and some woody Rosaceae. In the first part of the project you will test whether and to what extent species biological traits (e.g. flowering type and time, growth form, self-compatibility) and ecology (e.g. macro- and microecological niches) affect pollen longevity in both wild and cultivated species. In the second part, you will simulate different climate change scenarios and estimate their effects on pollen longevity in a group of selected species (you are welcome to suggest your favorite species!).


In terms of skills and competences, you will learn how to:

  • plan and execute an independent research project
  • make field observations (UCPH botanical gardens and (semi)natural habitats in and around Copenhagen) of plant biologic and ecological traits
  • conduct experimental studies (UCPH Frederiksberg campus) on pollen longevity
  • test formally biological/ecological hypotheses (data analysis with the help of R software)
  • report and present the results of your study according to international scientific standards


Both MSc and BSc projects are possible. The starting date(s) and project duration are flexible and adjustable, as there are always some flowering species outdoors and/or in the greenhouse. Previous lab experience is not a pre-requisite, but of an advantage. 


Contact Sergey Rosbakh for further details



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