Ecology and systematics of wild orchids

Orchids have an iconic status in conservation biology and are well suited for research at the interface of ecology and evolution, aimed at understanding the ecological and genetic determinants of variation at and below the species level.

Marsh- and spotted-orchids (genus Dactylorhiza) have long been considered a taxonomically ‘critical’ group due to their morphological plasticity and frequency of hybridisation.

Work in collaboration with Prof. Richard Bateman at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, is attempting to relate morphometric variation in Dactylorhiza throughout Britain and Ireland to genetic data from DNA sequencing in order to improve the definition of species and infraspecific taxa, and investigate the importance of ecological variables in influencing morphological differentiation and convergence.