Thomas Mitchell-Olds

Newman Ivey White Professor of Biology in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

French Science Center 3311, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Duke Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 668-1635
We study genetic variation in plant populations, focusing on genes that influence traits controlling plant performance in an environmental context – a central theme throughout our research in natural and agricultural populations. Much of our work is focused on the genes that affect ecological success and evolutionary fitness in natural environments. Similarly, the interaction of crop plants with their biotic and abiotic environments is controlled by complex trait variation which can be elucidated by interdisciplinary analyses incorporating functional genomics, physiological and chemical ecology, and population and quantitative genetics. We work at several levels: genetic variation within populations, local adaptation among populations, and the evolution of species differences. Our study systems are centered on the wild relatives of Arabidopsis, as well as complex trait variation of rice in Asia and Africa.


  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin at Madison 1985

  • B.A., Earlham College 1978

Voigt, ML, Melzer, M, Rutten, T, Mitchell-Olds, T, and Sharbel, TF. "Gametogenesis in the apomictic Boechera holboellii complex: the male perspective." In Apomixis: Evolution, Mechanisms and Perspectives,edited by E Horandl, U Grossniklaus, P van Dijk, and TF Sharbel. International Association for Plant Taxonomy - Koeltz Scientific Books, 2007.

Mitchell-Olds, T, Al-Shehbaz, I, Koch, M, and Sharbel, T. "Crucifer Evolution in the Post-Genomic Era." In Diversity and Evolution of Plants - genotype and phenotype variation in higher plants,edited by R Henry, 119-137. CABI press, 2005.

Gurganus, M, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Quantitative Trait Loci and Developmental Plasticity." In Plant Evolutionary Genetics and the Biology of Weeds,edited by BA Schaal, TY Chiang, and CH Chou, 77-100. Ch-Chi, Taiwan: Endemic Species Research Institute, 2004.

Kroymann, J, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Function and evolution of an Arabidopsis insect resistance QTL." In Biology of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions,edited by B Lugtenberg, I Tikhonovich, and N Provprov, 259-262. . International Society of Molecular Plant Microbe Interactions, APS Press, 2003.

Lee, C-R, Wang, B, Mojica, JP, Mandáková, T, Prasad, KVSK, Goicoechea, JL, Perera, N, Hellsten, U, Hundley, HN, Johnson, J, Grimwood, J, Barry, K, Fairclough, S, Jenkins, JW, Yu, Y, Kudrna, D, Zhang, J, Talag, J, Golser, W, Ghattas, K, Schranz, ME, Wing, R, Lysak, MA, Schmutz, J, Rokhsar, DS, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Young inversion with multiple linked QTLs under selection in a hybrid zone." Nature ecology & evolution 1, no. 5 (April 3, 2017): 119-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Keith, RA, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Testing the optimal defense hypothesis in nature: Variation for glucosinolate profiles within plants." PloS one 12, no. 7 (January 2017): e0180971-. Full Text

Wagner, MR, Lundberg, DS, Del Rio, TG, Tringe, SG, Dangl, JL, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Host genotype and age shape the leaf and root microbiomes of a wild perennial plant." Nature communications 7 (July 12, 2016): 12151-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Yao, N, Lee, C-R, Semagn, K, Sow, M, Nwilene, F, Kolade, O, Bocco, R, Oyetunji, O, Mitchell-Olds, T, and Ndjiondjop, M-N. "QTL Mapping in Three Rice Populations Uncovers Major Genomic Regions Associated with African Rice Gall Midge Resistance." PloS one 11, no. 8 (January 2016): e0160749-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Anderson, JT, Perera, N, Chowdhury, B, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Microgeographic Patterns of Genetic Divergence and Adaptation across Environmental Gradients in Boechera stricta (Brassicaceae)." The American naturalist 186 Suppl 1 (October 2015): S60-S73. Full Text

Manzaneda, AJ, Rey, PJ, Anderson, JT, Raskin, E, Weiss-Lehman, C, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Natural variation, differentiation, and genetic trade-offs of ecophysiological traits in response to water limitation in Brachypodium distachyon and its descendent allotetraploid B. hybridum (Poaceae)." Evolution; international journal of organic evolution 69, no. 10 (October 2015): 2689-2704. Full Text

Olson-Manning, CF, Strock, CF, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Flux Control in a Defense Pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana Is Robust to Environmental Perturbations and Controls Variation in Adaptive Traits." G3 (Bethesda, Md.) 5, no. 11 (September 10, 2015): 2421-2427. Full Text

Dixit, S, Grondin, A, Lee, C-R, Henry, A, Olds, T-M, and Kumar, A. "Understanding rice adaptation to varying agro-ecosystems: trait interactions and quantitative trait loci." BMC genetics 16 (August 5, 2015): 86-. Full Text

Wagner, MR, Lundberg, DS, Coleman-Derr, D, Tringe, SG, Dangl, JL, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Corrigendum to Wagner et al.: Natural soil microbes alter flowering phenology and the intensity of selection on flowering time in a wild Arabidopsis relative [Ecology Letters 18(2), (2014) 218-220]." Ecology Letters 18, no. 2 (January 1, 2015): 218-220. Full Text

Heo, J-Y, Feng, D, Niu, X, Mitchell-Olds, T, Van Tienderen, PH, Tomes, D, and Schranz, ME. "Identification of quantitative trait loci and a candidate locus for freezing tolerance in controlled and outdoor environments in the overwintering crucifer Boechera stricta." Plant, cell & environment 37, no. 11 (November 2014): 2459-2469. Full Text


Anderson, JT, Inouye, DW, McKinney, AM, Colautti, RI, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Phenotypic plasticity and adaptive evolution contribute to advancing flowering phenology in response to climate change." England. September 22, 2012. Full Text

Wittstock, U, Agerbirk, N, Stauber, EJ, Olsen, CE, Hippler, M, Mitchell-Olds, T, Gershenzon, J, and Vogel, H. "Successful herbivore attack due to metabolic diversion of a plant chemical defense." United States. April 6, 2004. Full Text

Kroymann, J, Donnerhacke, S, Schnabelrauch, D, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Evolutionary dynamics of an Arabidopsis insect resistance quantitative trait locus." United States. November 25, 2003. Full Text

Ratzka, A, Vogel, H, Kliebenstein, DJ, Mitchell-Olds, T, and Kroymann, J. "Disarming the mustard oil bomb." United States. August 20, 2002. Full Text

McKay, JK, Bishop, JG, Lin, JZ, Richards, JH, Sala, A, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Local adaptation across a climatic gradient despite small effective population size in the rare sapphire rockcress." England. August 22, 2001. Full Text

Bishop, JG, Dean, AM, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Rapid evolution in plant chitinases: molecular targets of selection in plant-pathogen coevolution." United States. May 9, 2000.

Stotz, H, Kroymann, J, Tobler, M, and Mitchell-Olds, T. "Systematic genetic and molecular analysis of insect resistance in Arabidopsis." 2000.

Mitchell-Olds, T. "Genetics and evolution of insect resistance in Arabidopsis." Novartis Symposium 223. London: Novartis Foundation, 1999.

Mitchell-Olds, T. "Quantitative genetic changes in small populations." Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press, 1991.

Molecular Causes and Fitness Consequences of Complex Trait Variation awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 2008 to 2018

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: The Genetic Architecture of Covarying Traits awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2017

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: The Genetic Architecture and Evolution of Phenotypic Plasticity for Chemical Defenses in a Wild P awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2016

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Evolutionary Genetics of Asexual Reproduction in a Wild Plant Species awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2016

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Genetic Architecture and Genomic Divergence During Ecological Speciation in Boechera stricta, a W awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2011 to 2014

DISSERTATION RESEARCH: Evolution of a novel phenotype: The role promiscuous enzyme function in adaptation awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2013

Ecological Genomics of Local Adaptation and Trait Variation in an Arabidopsis Relative awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2011