Biogeography and Systematics of South American Vicia (Leguminosae)
I graduated as a Forest Engineer (Bachelor in Forestry) from Universidad Austral de Chile in 2001. In 2007 I completed an MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBG Edinburgh) and the University of Edinburgh, during which time I undertook a taxonomic revision of Chilean Ribes species. This is due to be published in one of the future volumes of the Flora of Chile. After finishing my MSc I had the opportunity to work in the herbarium of RBG Edinburgh with Latin American type species. Working alongside a large team of professional scientists provided an invaluable training, and as my research expanded I began to work with botanists at Kew. At the same time I was committed to compiling information on the endemic species of Chile due to be published as a book. This is a collaborative project between RBG Edinburgh and two botanical institutions in Chile.
I am currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Aberdeen, as an off-campus student in association with RBG Edinburgh and RBG Kew, on the Biogeography and Systematics of South American Vicia (Leguminosae). My main supervisor is Dr David Burlsem (School of Biological Science, University of Aberdeen) and my other supervisors are Dr Toby Pennington, Dr Gregory Kenicer (RBG Edinburgh) and Dr Gwilym Lewis (RBG Kew). The opportunity to work in both RBG Edinburgh and RBG Kew is greatly broadening my taxonomic abilities: giving me new tools and depth of knowledge to greatly enhance my study of Vicia, its biogeography and systematics to encompass all of South America.
My PhD research will be the most comprehensive investigation of Vicia on three levels: within South America, within the genus, and in the context of the tribe Fabeae.
Main objectives of the PhD:
- Clarify the taxonomy of South American species of Vicia.
- Produce a phylogeny of Vicia, allowing its complex relationship with Pisum, Lens and Lathyrus to be more clearly determined.
- Date the phylogeny to assess arrival time and radiation patterns of Vicia in South America.
- Produce phylogenetic sequence data for all South American Vicia species and to test its antitropical distribution.
BRIEF OUTLINE OF MY RESEARCH
Vicia is one of five genera in the tribe Fabeae, which contains some of humanity's oldest crop plants including peas and lentils. The genus contains around 160 species distributed throughout temperate regions of the northern hemisphere and in temperate South America. Its main centre of diversity is the Mediterranean, with smaller centres in North and South America. The South American species are least known taxonomically. The relationship of Vicia within the tribe Fabeae is still unclear. Molecular phylogenies have shown Lathyrus, Pisum and Lens nested inside Vicia, rendering Vicia paraphyletic. However, these studies did not adequately sample the taxonomic, geographic and morphological diversity of Vicia. Vicia and a number of other temperate plant genera also share an antitropical disjunct distribution.
I researched regional checklists and local floras to gather information on the number of native, endemic and introduced species of Vicia in South America. A preliminary list of 33 possible species for South America was developed. The morphological research is based at the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (K). At present 2846 neotropical herbarium specimens of Vicia have been received on loan at Kew. I am presently carrying out a comparative study of the flowers, through dissections and illustrations.
Five weeks fieldwork in Chile, Peru and Bolivia (February 2010), and four weeks in Argentina (November 2010) allowed me to collect specimens and undertake local herbarium research. This was fundamental to be able to fill knowledge gaps concerning native and poorly known endemic South American Vicia. This is essential baseline work for the construction of a complete taxonomic revision, and species-level molecular phylogeny of the genus for South America.
My PhD is being funded through the University’s Overseas Research Student Awards Scheme (ORSAS), and the Catherine Olver Scholarship of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, for which I am highly grateful.
I am now in my second year of research and am greatly enjoying my time spent in the Herbarium at Kew.
Hechenleitner, P., Richardson, J., Kenicer, G. & Gardner, M. Phylogenetic studies in Chilean Ribes (Grossulariaceae), with a revision of the species. Taxon (in preparation)
Alarcón, D., Smith-Ramírez, C., Hechenleitner, P., Ramírez de Arellano, P., Oliva M. & M. Pinto (2007). Nuevas poblaciones de Berberidopsis corallina Hook.f. (Berberidopsidales: Berberidopsidaceae) en la región del Biobio, Chile: ubicación y conservación de su hábitat. Gayana Bot. 64(2): 217-231.
Gardner, M.F. & Hechenleitner, P. 2005. Myrtles of Chile. The Plantsman. 4(3):152-158
Hechenleitner, P. (2005). A changing role for the Arboretum of the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh). Sibbaldia: An Occasional Series of Horticultural Notes from the RBGE. 3:7-16.
Gosling, P., Ives, L., Cunningham, V., Hechenleitner P., Brownless, P., Thomas, P., & Martinez, C. (2005). Preliminary advice on fruit handling, seed pretreatment and germination of embryos of Prumnopitys andina. Sibbaldia: An Occasional Series of Horticultural Notes from the RBGE. 3:41-50.
Hechenleitner, P. & Vera, A. (2005). Por la Conservación de las Plantas Chilenas. Chile Forestal 311:18-21.
Donoso, C. (ed.) (2006). Las especies arbóreas de los bosques templados de Chile y Argentina. Autoecología. Marisa Cuneo Ediciones. Valdivia, Chile. 678pp.
- Main author of 4 chapters (109-115; 197-200; 216-219; 256-260)
- Second author of 2 chapters (173-179; 325-332)
Gardner, M.F., Hechenleitner, P., Thomas, P. I., Echeverría, C., Escobar, B., Brownless, P., & Martínez, C. (2006). Threatened Plants of Central and South Chile. Distribution, Conservation and Propagation. First English edition. Universidad Austral de Chile and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. 188pp.
Hechenleitner, P., Gardner, M. F., Thomas, P. I., Echeverría, C., Escobar, B., Brownless, P. & Martínez, C. (2005). Plantas Amenazadas del Centro-Sur de Chile. Distribución, Conservación y Propagación. Primera Edición. Universidad Austral de Chile y Real Jardín Botánico de Edimburgo. 188 pp.
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