Michael Pfrender Associate Professor; Director, Genomics Core

Evolutionary and Ecological Genomics
Michael Pfrender

Research Interests:

My lab is interested in a broad range of topics in the area of evolutionary and ecological genomics. Projects include investigation of the molecular genetic basis of adaptive traits and phenotypic plasticity, and the relationship between genetic diversity and ecosystem function. We are particularly interested in the relationship between short-term organismal responses to environmental stresses and long-term adaptive changes in novel environments. Ultimately, we are trying to connect genome structure, quantitative genetic architecture, and patterns of gene expression and gene evolution, with the process of, and limits to, adaptation in changing environments. Anthropogenic influences have created an ecological context of rapidly changing environments. There are many unresolved questions at multiple levels of biological organization that confront the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology. How will populations, species, and communities of organisms respond to novel species introductions and rapidly changing abiotic conditions? Can we predict the probability of adaptations and long-term persistence? Understanding the impacts of alterations in natural ecosystems, and using this knowledge to predict future consequences and preserve biodiversity, is a major challenge for 21st century Biologists with direct relevance to human health and well being.



  • Director, Genomics & Bioinformatics Core Facility, University of Notre Dame 2009-Present
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame 2009-Present
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology, Utah State University 2009-Present
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Utah State University 2007-2009
  • Assistant Professor, Utah State University 2001-2007
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Oregon State University 1998-2001
  • Instructor, University of Oregon 1997-1998
  • Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of Oregon 1992-1997
  • Graduate Research Fellow, University of Michigan 1990-1992
  • PhD, Department of Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 1998
  • MS, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1992
  • BS, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 1988


Recent Papers:

  • Asselman, J, ME Pfrender, JA Lopez, DIM De Coninck, CR Janssen, JR Shaw, and KAC De Schamphelaere. 2015. Conserved transcriptional responses to cyanobacterial stressors are mediated by alternate regulation of paralogous genes in Daphnia. Molecular Ecology 24:1844-1855.
  • Feldman, CR, AM Durso, CT Hanifin, ME Pfrender, PK Ducey, AN Stokes, KE Barnett, ED Brodie III, ED Brodie Jr. Is there more than one way to skin a newt? Convergent toxin resistance in snakes is not due to common genetic mechanisms. Heredity (In press).
  • McGlothlin, J, J Chuckalovcak, D Janes, S Edwards, C Feldman, ED Brodie Jr., ME Pfrender, and ED Brodie III. 2014. Parallel evolution of tetrodotoxin resistance in three voltage-gated sodium channel genes in the garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31:2836-2846. doi:10.1093/molbev/msu237.
  • Routtu, J, MD Hall, B Albere, C Beisel, RD Bergeron, A Chaturvedi, J-H Choi, J Colbourne, L De Meester, MT Stephens, C-P Stelzer, E Solorzano, WK Thomas, ME Pfrender, and D Ebert. 2014. A SNP-based second-generation genetic map of Daphnia magna and its application to QTL analysis of phenotypic traits. BMC Genomics 15:1033 doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1033.
  • Yampolsky, L, E Zeng, J Lopez, P Williams**, K Dick**, JK Colbourne, and ME Pfrender. 2014. Functional Genomics of acclimation and adaptation in response to thermal stress in Daphnia. BMC Genomics 15:859. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-859.
  • Miner, BE, JK Colbourne, RA Knapp, and ME Pfrender. 2013. Evolutionary history of alpine and subalpine Daphnia of western North America. Freshwater Biology 58:1512-1522.
  • Orsini, L, N K Schwenk, L De Meester, JK Colbourne, ME Pfrender, and LJ Weider. 2013. The Evolutionary time machine: using dormant propagules to forecast how populations can adapt to changing environments. TREE 28:274-282.
  • Feldman CR, ED Brodie, JR., ED Brodie, III, and ME Pfrender. 2012. Constraint shapes convergence in tetrodotoxin resistant sodium channels of snakes. PNAS 109:4556-4561.
  • Latta LC, IV, LJ Weider, JK Colbourne, and ME Pfrender. 2012. The evolution of salinity tolerance in Daphnia: a functional genomics approach. Ecology Letters 15:794-802.
  • Miner B, L De Meester, ME Pfrender, W Lampert, and NG Hairston, Jr. 2012. Linking genes to communities and ecosystems: Daphnia as a ecogenomic model. PRSLB 279:1873-1882 doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.2404