Michael Pfrender 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.



  • Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame 2018-Present
  • Director, Genomics & Bioinformatics Core Facility, University of Notre Dame 2009-Present
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame 2009-2018
  • 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:

  • Grey, EK, L Bernatchez, P Cassey, K Deiner, M Deveney, A Lacoursière-Roussel, SCY Leong, Y Li, BP Olds, ME Pfrender, T Prowse, M Renshaw, and D Lodge. 2018. Estimation of global biodiversity patterns with environmental DNA metabarcoding. Scientific Reports 8:8843. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-27048-2.
  • Li, Y, NT Evans, MA Renshaw, CL Jerde, BP Olds, AJ Shogren, K Deiner, DM Lodge, GA Lamberti, and ME Pfrender. 2018. Estimating fish alpha- and beta-diversity along a longitudinal stream gradient with environmental DNA metabarcoding. Metabarcoding & Metagenetics 2:1-11. DOI:10.3897/mbmg.2.24262.
  • Asselman, J, ME Pfrender, JA Lopez, JR Shaw, KAC De Schamphelaere. 2018. Linking reproductive effects to anthropogenic and natural stressors through gene co-expression networks. Environmental Science & Technology 52:317-326. DOI:10.1021/acs.est.7b05256.
  • Bradshaw, WE, J Burkhart, JK Colbourne, R Borowczak, J Lopez, DL Denlinger, JA Reynolds, ME Pfrender, and CM Holzapfel. 2018. Evolutionary transition from blood feeding to obligate non-biting in a mosquito. PNAS 115:1009-1014. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1717502115.
  • Orsini L, JB Brown, OS Solari, D Li, S He, R Podicheti, MH Stoiber, KI Spanier, D Gilbert, M Jansen, D Rusch, ME Pfrender, JK Colbourne, MJ Frilander, J Kvist, E Decaestecker, KAC De Schamphelaere, and L De Meester. 2018. Early transcriptional responses pathways in Daphnia magna are coordinated in networks of crustacean specific genes. Molecular Ecology 27:886-897 DOI: 10.1111/mec.14261.
  • Ryan, SF, JM Deines, JM Scriber, ME Pfrender, SE Jones, SJ Emrich, and JJ Hellmann. 2018. Climate-mediated hybrid zone movement revealed with genomics, museum collection, and simulation modeling. PNAS 115:E2284-E2291 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1714950115.
  • Asselman, J, DIM De Connick, E Beert, CR Janssen, L Orsini, ME Pfrender, E Decaestecker, and KAC De Schamphelaere. 2017. Bisulfite sequencing with Daphnia highlights a role for epigenetics in regulating stress responses to Microcystis through preferential differential methylation of serine and threonine amino acids. Environmental Science & Technology 51:924-931. DOI:10.1021/acs.est.6b03870.
  • Deiner, K, E Machler, M Seymour, HM Bik, A Lacoursiere-Roussel, F Altermatt, S Creer, I Bista, DM Lodge, N de Vere, ME Pfrender, and L Bernatchez. 2017. Must you see to believe? Environmental DNA metabarcoding of animal and plant communities. Molecular Ecology. 26:5872-5895. DOI: 10.1111/mec.14350.  
  • Deiner, K, MA Renshaw, Y Li, BP Olds, DM Lodge, and ME Pfrender. 2017 Long-range PCR allows sequencing of mitochondrial genomes from environmental DNA. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 8:1888-1898. DOI:10.111/2041-210X.12836.
  • Evans, N, Y Li, MA Renshaw, BP Olds, K Deiner, CR Turner, CR Jerde, DM Lodge, GA Lamberti, and ME Pfrender. 2017. Fish community assessment with eDNA metabarcoding: effects of sampling design and bioinformatics filtering. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 74:1362-1374. DOI:10.1139/cjfas-2016-0306.