PhD student wins prize at International Conference

Bangor University PhD researcher Anita Weissflog has been awarded a prize for the best poster presentation at a prestigious international Conference.Anita discussing her research poster at the annual meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation in Madagascar recently.Anita discussing her research poster at the annual meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation in Madagascar recently.

Anita, who is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council through the Envision Doctoral Training Partnership, for her PhD at Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, is researching the role of soil fungi on the regrowth of tropical forests after disturbance. Tropical forest recovery is often slow and unpredictable, limiting the potential for restoration of biodiversity and the other benefits provided by forests such as carbon storage. Improved understanding of the mechanisms that drive tropical forest dynamics after severe disturbance is urgently needed to inform better restoration methods. Anita’s research is investigating the fascinating role of fungi that grow into the root systems of tree seedlings. These can either act as pathogens, killing the seedlings, or provide benefits such as improved supply of nutrients thus increasing the seedlings’ growth.

Anita was awarded the 2019 New Phytologist Poster Prize in Plant Biology at the annual meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Madagascar for her work, entitled:

“Fungal-mediated plant-soil-feedbacks affect secondary succession of tropical rainforests.”

Anita’s supervisors at Bangor University, Dr Lars Markesteijn and Prof John Healey, commented:

Anita during her fieldwork in Panama.Anita during her fieldwork in Panama.“We were very excited to receive news that Anita Weissflog was awarded this prestigious prize for her presentation at the ATBC meeting in Madagascar this year. Anita’s research is very timely given the current crisis of tropical deforestation and its contribution to the global climate emergency. Her project is based at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, our research partner in Panama, to find out why and how fungi are important in controlling changes in which tree species dominate tropical forests as they regenerate after human disturbance. Being awarded the New Phytologist Poster Prize in Plant Biology shows Anita’s excellent achievements in her PhD research, as well as drawing attention to this important area of tropical forest ecology. This research makes an important contribution to Bangor University’s internationally renowned BSc and MSc degrees in forestry.”

Anita, who comes from Germany, won one of the Envision PhD studentships at Bangor University in 2017. These are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council in order to develop the next generation of leaders in environmental science. Anita chose to study at Bangor because both the PhD project and the research environment at the University’s School of Natural Sciences offered an ideal opportunity to study the mechanisms shaping and maintaining the diversity of life which is her main research interest.

The New Phytologist Trust, an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of plant science, awards the New Phytologist Poster Prize in Plant Biology at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Annual Meeting, which Anita attended in Antananarivo, Madagascar, at the beginning of August this year.

Publication date: 30 August 2019