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eFLOWER Summer School Down Under

Studying systematic biology and want to understand the evolution and diversification of flowers?

The eFLOWER Summer School is coming down under in 2020 and registrations are now open to 15 lucky botany and plant systematic students from across the world to apply.

For over 10 years, the eFLOWER project has looked at the key questions in the evolution of flowers in angiosperms (flowering plants) and helped to build a very large dataset of floral traits contributing to a paper presenting a new model for the ancestral flower of all angiosperms.

The eFLOWER Summer School Down Under will deliver high-quality training in the modern comparative methods used to study plant macroevolution, while at the same time offering the students the opportunity to contribute to future targets of the eFLOWER project.

While the methods are general and applicable to any group of organisms, all of our empirical datasets will be drawn from our recent work on flowering plants.

A unique feature of this School will be that the students themselves will participate in the creation of the datasets (floral traits and fossil calibrations) in our collaborative database PROTEUS, allowing students to gain hands-on experience of the problems and questions associated with compiling data and building real-life datasets for comparative analyses.

In doing so, we hope to further promote the rapidly evolving field of macroevolution among graduate students in plant sciences, while also conveying our experience in building high-quality datasets.

Delivered in Vienna Austria, Virginia USA and now coming to Sydney Australia in April 2020, the Summer School is coordinated by leading scientists from the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the University of Vienna, Austria, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico, and the University of New South Wales.

eFLOWER Down Under Summer School is funded by the Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Garden and the New Phytologist Trust.

Confirmed guest speakers during the summer school include:


The eFLOWER project is a long-term international initiative to answer key questions in the evolution of flowers in angiosperms (flowering plants), led by Hervé Sauquet (Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Australia), Jürg Schönenberger and Maria von Balthazar (University of Vienna, Austria), and Susana Magallón (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico).

At the heart of the project is a collaborative database named PROTEUS. The first eFLOWER Summer School organised at the University of Vienna in July 2013 had allowed 18 students and postdocs from 12 countries to help us build a very large dataset of floral traits in PROTEUS, ultimately leading to the publication of a first paper in 2017 presenting a new model for the ancestral flower of all angiosperms.

The second eFLOWER Summer School was held at the Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Upperville, Virginia (USA) in September 2018, attracting 15 students from 7 countries. While it allowed us to continue building an expanded version of the eFLOWER dataset for future studies, the Oak Spring School also had a strong teaching component, which proved very successful.

Program structure

The Summer School will be structured around the alternation of ‘Data Days’ and ‘Analytical Days’ (four each).

Each Data Day, we will focus on recording floral and fossil data for selected groups of flowering plants in PROTEUS.

Each Analytical Day will address a specific methodological topic, with a theoretical morning class introducing the fundamentals, and an afternoon hands-on practical to implement methods presented in the morning, using real-life plant datasets provided by us and/or built together over the data days.

Topics addressed in Analytical Days will include ancestral state reconstruction of morphological traits (using maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods), divergence time estimation using molecular dating methods (relaxed clock methods, fossil calibration), and diversification rates and state-dependent diversification.

In addition, each day will also feature a seminar talk, usually before lunch, and each student will give a flash talk on their own research project in sessions scheduled before dinner. Seminar talks and two public lectures will be given by the organisers and invited speakers from Australia.

The School will be held at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney (1-3 and 9-10 April) and the University of New South Wales (6-8 April), respectively located in the city centre by the Sydney Harbour and Opera House and in the nearby city of Kensington (ca. 8 km away), close to the beautiful eastern Pacific beaches.

The School will be broken in two parts separated by a weekend in the Blue Mountains (ca. 100 km west of Sydney), including a visit to the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.


Thanks to financial support from the New Phytologist Trust and the Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens, the eFLOWER Summer School Down Under will be free to all selected participants (i.e., no registration fee) and travel expenses will be partly covered, as in both previous eFLOWER Summer Schools.

Each participant will receive up to AU$ 1000 on a reimbursement basis for their transportation (economy flights) to Sydney and accommodation (additional costs beyond this limit will be at the participants’ charge).

Please note that accommodation in Sydney is not cheap, but we will do our best to help the participants and find reasonable solutions. Lunches will be provided most days, but most remaining food expenses, as well as travel insurance and visa costs will not be covered by the School.

Application and selection process

The 15 students will be selected on the basis of the fit between their prior background and current research interests and the goals of the Summer School.

The School is ideally suited to graduate students who already have some botanical and phylogenetic background, but who lack training in current macroevolutionary methods. Preference will be given to PhD and master’s students currently enrolled in a graduate program, however we will also consider applications from advanced undergraduate (e.g., Honour’s) or early postdocs.

All nationalities and countries of origin are welcome to apply. As in previous events, we will aim at a good gender and diversity balance among the final set of selected participants.

Before you apply, please consider the following requirements to participate in the Summer School.

  1. All of the approaches taught in the Summer School start with phylogenetic trees obtained from molecular or genomic data and thus prior understanding of and experience with phylogenetic reconstruction is an essential prerequisite for participants, because this topic will not be taught in the Summer School.
  2. Proficiency in both spoken and written English is a critical requirement to participate.
  3. The event will include public outreach components to increase visibility of our field of research and the organisations hosting and funding the School. As a result, some filming will occur and you may be asked to interact with science communicators, journalists, and/or funding donors during the course of the event.

To apply register here and send to a one-page letter of motivation and a short CV, combined as a single PDF attachment with file name formatted as follows: Firstname_LASTNAME.pdf. Deadline for applications: 1 December 2019.

All applications will be reviewed and ranked independently by the organisers. If necessary, named referees will be contacted and short videoconference interviews will be conducted to reach the final selection of participants.

Applicants will be notified by 21 December 2019 if they are successful or unsuccessful.

A poster and PDF version of this announcement are available here.


Further information