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Dorset W. Trapnell

Associate Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator
Plant Biology
Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 3503
Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 3508
Office Phone:

Dr. Trapnell earned her B.A. from Colgate University, M.B.A. from Rutgers University, and both her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.  During her postdoctoral fellowship she worked with Dr. Kathy Parker at UGA before joining the Odum School of Ecology as the Assistant Dean. In 2010 she joined the Department of Plant Biology. Dr. Trapnell is an evolutionary biologist who studies natural plant populations at multiple spatial and temporal scales. She is best known for her use of population genetic approaches to investigate patterns of genetic diversity in contemporary populations of orchids for the purpose of inferring historical processes within a spatial context. Dr. Trapnell particularly enjoys working with tropical epiphytic orchids.

Research Interests:

The unifying theme of my research is investigation of the evolutionary factors that shape patterns of genetic variation in natural plant populations and the manner in which species-wide diversity is partitioned and maintained at various spatial and temporal scales. More specifically, my lab studies: i) contemporary gene flow using direct approaches, ii) historical patterns of gene movement over shallow and deeper temporal scales, and iii) long-distance seed dispersal and the tail of the dispersal kernel empirically. We often explore the role of both pollen-mediated and seed-mediated gene dispersal to address these questions. This research is particularly pertinent in the context of nearly ubiquitous, anthropogenic habitat disturbance and accelerating climate change. I am especially interested in studying epiphytes which account for approximately 10% of all vascular plant species, and orchids because of their varied evolutionary strategies and somewhat unique biology.  Our lab employs a variety of population genetic tools to address these questions.

  • American Orchid Society (Co-PI with PA Smallwood). Does mycorrhizal specificity vary across the range of Cypripedium acaule (Orchidaceae) and how does this relationship influence the orchid’s ability to establish new populations and expand its range? 2019.

  • Garden Club of America (Co-PI with PA Smallwood). Variation in mycorrhizal species associating with Cypripedium parviflorum (Orchidaceae) across a broad geographic range in eastern North America. 2019.

  • LACSI Ambassador Faculty Travel Award, UGA. Characterization of mycorrhizal symbionts of sympatric Lepanthes species (Orchidaceae) and investigation of their possible role in driving orchid diversification. 2019.

  • The Georgia Botanical Society - Marie Mellinger Research Grant (Co-PI with PA Smallwood). The role of fungal symbionts in the establishment of new populations and range expansion of Cypripedium acaule (Orchidaceae). 2018.

  • NSF DEB – Evolutionary Ecology (Co-PI with JD Karron, RJ Mitchell, E Porcher & C Devaux). Collaborative Research: Evolutionary tradeoffs between outcross siring success and selfing: the role of ecological context in the stability of mixed mating systems. 2017 – 2020.
Selected Publications:

Ph.D Plant Evolutionary Biology, University of Georgia 2003

Events featuring Dorset W. Trapnell
2401 Miller Plant Sciences

"Orchids and the seed dispersal conundrum"

My Graduate Students

Patrick Smallwood

Graduate Student

Piotr Tuczapski

Graduate Student

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