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Anne Dubéarnès


After a BSc in Biology, Physiology and Cell Biology and an MSc in Plant Biology and Ecology from the University of Strasbourg, I entered the world of taxonomy through an internship at the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. I am currently undertaking a PhD project in the Botany Department at Trinity College Dublin. I have a strong interest in botany and systematics, with a special inclination towards tropical botany, a field in which I have gathered experience through my studies, my internship at RBG Kew and my current research (including some fieldwork in Thailand). I endeavour to connect plant taxonomy to other fields of natural sciences that can inform each other and provide a better understanding of the greater picture; my research interests therefore also include biodiversity and evolution, conservation, ecology, biogeography and ethnobotany.

PhD project: Systematics of the genus Embelia Burm.f. (Primulaceae – Myrsinoideae)

Within the Primulaceae (Primrose family), the Myrsinoideae form a highly variable group of woody plants, characterised by the presence of dark glandular dots on the leaves and fruits. This subfamily contains over 1300 species, divided into approximately 40 genera. Many of these genera are in need of taxonomic revision, as their limits are poorly defined and sometimes rely on ambiguous characters. Among them is Embelia, a genus of tropical climbing shrubs that displays extensive morphological variation but is only distinguished from other Myrsinoideae by its climbing habit. There is very little molecular data on this genus at the moment, and its relationship with similar genera has not been critically evaluated yet. I am using morphological and molecular data to investigate the phylogeny of Embelia with three main objectives in mind: assess the monophyly of Embelia, determine its place in the Myrsinoideae and revise the structure and limits of its subgenera.

Another aspect of my research is the study of sexual dimorphism: Embelia is dioecious and male and female individuals of the same species differ from one another in certain morphological characteristics. This dimorphism has often been overlooked but it could have a great impact on the validity of the characters used to describe and distinguish between species. I believe it may be the origin of several problematic synonymies. Assessing the extent and significance of this phenomenon has therefore become an important part of my project; I am conducting morphological studies on herbarium specimens to answer this question.

By completing this project, I hope to provide a clearer definition of the structure and limits of the genus Embelia. This will help the production of more accurate conservation assessments for this threatened plant group, almost exclusively distributed in biodiversity hotspots.


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  • David Webb Scholarship (September 2013)
  • Trinity Studentship Award (September 2017)
  • SYNTHESYS Call 1 (2013) & Call 4 (2017)
  • Trinity Postgraduate Travel Grants (June 2016 & June 2017)
  • Emily Holmes Memorial Scholarship (March 2018)
  • Bentham-Moxon Trust grant (December 2018)

Selected publications

  • Dubéarnès, A., Julius, A. & Utteridge, T.M.A. (2015). A synopsis of the genus Embelia in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Studies in Malaysian Myrsinaceae III. Kew Bulletin 70(2): 25.
  • Zhao, D., Parnell, J. A., & Dubéarnès, A. (2016). Requests for binding decisions on the descriptive statements associated with Thea dormoyana and T. piquetiana. Taxon 65(5): 1183.