Marit Van Santen

Marit Van Santen


Tel.: +41 (0)44 634 84 16

Research interests:

I am interested in how evolutionary processes  have shaped current plant biodiversity. Phylogenetic studies investigating plant evolutionary diversification rates have shown that diversification rates are divergent between taxa, in time and over geographical distance. Another observed pattern is the high prevalence of explosive diversification events (also referred to as radiations) in the history of life. These explosive diversification events yield a wealth of diversity. Elucidating the evolutionary mechanisms behind these events is an essential step towards the understanding of plant biodiversity. During my PhD research I will focus on a very fast radiation genus Phylica, which includes around 140 species largely restricted to the Cape Floristic Region. Diversification events in Phylica took place from 7-8 million years ago. It is a typical ericoid-leaved, small-flowered shrubby Cape genus that radiated in the Plio-Pleistocene. The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the mechanisms behind the evolution (what are the drivers behind this radiation) and maintenance (co-existence patterns and mechanisms) of this rapid radiating genus. This PhD project is part of a research program using the Cape flora as test case to investigate the evolution of plant diversity.


2015 - Present: PhD studies in Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Systematic Botany, UniversityZurich, Switzerland. Topic:"Radiation in the Cape flora: the evolutionary history of Phylica", supervisor: Prof  H. P. Linder

2013-2015: MSc Biology "Evolution, Biodiversity & Conservation"  University of Leiden, the Netherlands (Cum laude).

Master theses: " Modelling interlinked field patterns: community composition, species traits and ecosystem function along a disturbance gradient", supervisor: Prof. Dr. M. Vos

Traits associated with canopy microhabitat conditions in the Amazonian Lejeuneaceae" , supervisors: Dr. S. Mota de Oliveira, Dr. M. Stech

2010- 2013 BSc Biology University of Leiden, the Netherlands. Bachelor thesis: Evolutionary trends and pollinator associated lineage diversification events in Diasciaem>, supervisors: Dr. T. van der Niet, Dr. M.C. Roos


2015 November: Collecting trip in the Cape flora, South-Africa

2015 March: Collecting trip in the Amazon, Brazil

2014 February - March: Course tropical biodiversity in the Danau Girang Field Center Sabah, Borneo. Organised by Naturalis Biodiversity Center