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Dana Dudle

Dana Dudle and her students investigate how flowering plants respond to environmental stressors. Students working with Dr. Dudle collect data in the field, the greenhouse, the lab, and in common gardens to decipher how a plant’s genetics interact with the environment to produce the variety of phenotypes we observe.

When DePauw University acquired the Nature Park, a few research students noticed that plants growing in the hot, dry, bright abandoned quarry tended to produce more red pigments than plants growing under less stressful conditions.  Since then, Dr. Dudle and her collaborators have wondered if and when the production of red or pink pigments is associated with higher survival or reproductive success.
In 2010, that question sparked by DePauw students in the quarry yielded an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany, “Why some stems are red”, which Dr. Dudle co-authored with Professor Kevin Gould of Victoria University in New Zealand.  Since 2008, Dr. Dudle and several students have collaborated with Dr. Bryan Hanson in Chemistry and Biochemistry to study how harsh environments affect the chemical and morphological responses of an extremely stress-tolerant plant, Portulaca oleracea (purslane).  In 2011, Prof. Dudle and her students began an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Sandra Davis of University of Indianapolis investigating floral color in bouncing bet, Saponaria officinalis.  The flowers change color, from white to pink, as they change their functional gender, from male to female.  The color change seems more extreme for plants growing in bright sunlight.  In the past few years, students have helped design and carry out a variety of experiments trying to determine whether changing color is an evolutionary adaptive strategy in this plant.

Professor Dudle teaches courses in evolution, ecology, and plant biology.  Among the courses she teaches are:  Bio 197: Biology Writing, Bio 145: Ecology and Evolution; Bio 230: Plant Biology; and Bio 345: Conservation Biology.  She has helped lead Winter Term courses in Costa Rica, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands.