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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Our undergraduates do real research!

Published: 4 March 2011

Thirty one undergraduates studying Biology, Zoology and Biomedical Sciences ventured out into the field during the last weekend in February to get involved in a research project funded by the European Union. They worked alongside postgraduates studying for their doctorate and senior postdoctoral scientists in a project being supervised by Professor Gail Taylor.

The research involved making measurements on more than 6,000 trees – black poplar trees that have been selected from all across Europe – that are currently being grown and coppiced for bioenergy in Hampshire.

“The trees are adapted to the environment in which they have been grown for many generations”, said PhD student Matthew Nelson, who organised the field campaign. “ So, for example, trees from Spain are small and branched but they can tolerate harsh droughted environments. With climate change approaching, these provide us with as source of natural genetic variation that we might be able to exploit to ensure better tree growth in future UK climates”.

The undergraduates got real hands-on experience of important research, gaining skills in field campaign organisation, team working, data collection and analysis. They also got a taste of what it might be like to do a Phd with your own research project. Plans are in hand to make this an annual event with our ‘Research in Action’ project taken forward for future undergraduates.

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