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Miss Rachael E. Graham MSc, BA

Postgraduate Research Student in Biological Sciences

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Rachael Graham is a postgraduate research student working for Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton and the Natural History Museum. She has specialised in plants throughout her academic studies and her research focuses on evolution and systematics, particularly of island floras. Her MSc research project investigating the systematics of the genus Dyerophytum (Plumbaginaceae) with a focus on the evolution of endemic taxa from the island of Socotra, was awarded the RBGE best thesis prize. Rachael has carried out fieldwork in several countries including Belize and Honduras, and most recently travelled to Madeira and the Canary Islands to collect plants as part of her PhD research.

Academic qualifications

2015-present: PhD Biological Sciences. The Natural History Museum, London & University of Southampton, UK.
2013-2014: MSc Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh & University of Edinburgh, UK.
2010-2013: BA Biological Sciences. University of Oxford, UK.

Research interests

My research interests include plant evolution, adaptation genomics, molecular phylogenetics and island biogeography.

My PhD research is investigating the evolution of the plant genus Echium in Macaronesia, with a particular focus on the sub-alpine endemic taxa of the Canary Islands.

The 29 species of Echium endemic to Macaronesia display diverse morphology and ecology, making this plant radiation a great model system for studying island evolution and ecological adaptation. Three Echium species are restricted to the sub-alpine zones on Tenerife and La Palma. Their contrasting morphologies suggest multiple independent shifts to the sub-alpine zone have occurred, however relationships in the group are unclear as previous phylogenies have suffered from incongruence and poor resolution.

The project aims to address the question: how was the sub-alpine zone colonized by Echium? To investigate this, next-generation sequencing is being used to establish phylogenetic relationships with which to infer geographic and temporal patterns of evolution. Transcriptomic data will be used to identify loci with signatures of divergent selection and expression between sister species with temperature-divergent niches. Comparison of these species pairs will reveal whether similar genetic mechanisms are involved in independent shifts to the sub-alpine zone.

Supervisor: Mark Chapman (University of Southampton), Mark Carine (Natural History Museum), Marc Rius (National Oceanography Centre Southampton)
PhD Research: The genomics of parallel adaptation in Macaronesian Echium (Boraginaceae).
Funding: SPIFIRE DTP (NERC funded).

Mark Chapman's Lab at the University of Southampton.

Research group

Environmental Biosciences

Research project(s)

The genomics of parallel adaptation to temperature-divergent niches


BIOL1004 Patterns of Life


Membership of External Organisations

Linnean Society
Systematics Association
Natural History Museum Student Association Committee


Miss Rachael E. Graham
School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

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