Excavating the roots of the tree of life

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Excavating the roots of the tree of life


Dr Wesley Fraser, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at Oxford Brookes University, has been awarded funding to carry out a research project investigating cell wall composition in early eukaryotic cells.

The project is a multinational collaboration investigating the timing and rate of diversification of some of the earliest eukaryotes: the euglenids. The project grant is c. £300,000 and Dr Fraser will be collaborating with researchers from the University of Sheffield, the University of British Columbia, Boston College, the University of Wisconsin, and the Universiteit Utrecht.

Dr Fraser will track the chemical nature of cell wall composition since the earliest occurrence of the euglenids approximately 1 billion years ago. Eukaryotes are complex cells that form many of the organisms we are familiar with in the environment around us. Eukaryotic cells contain organelles that are enclosed within membranes, as opposed to the more basic prokaryote group of organisms. 

Dr Wesley Fraser said: “The evolution of eukaryotes signifies a key evolutionary development in life on Earth. A better understanding of the euglenids will provide evidence for the timing and nature of diversification of these earliest eukaryotes.”

This work is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), grant reference: NE/R001324/1. More information on Dr Wesley Fraser’s research can be found on his staff page.

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