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.



  • Associate Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, Notre Dame University, 2020-present
  • 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 2009-2018
  • 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:

  • Ye, Z, X Jiang, ME Pfrender, and M Lynch. 2021. Genome-wide allele-specific expression in obligately asexual Daphnia pulex and the implications for the genetic basis of asexuality. Genome Biology and Evolution 13:11 doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evab243
  • Molik, DC, D Tomlinson, S Davitt, E. Morgan, M Sisk, B Roche, N Meyers, and ME Pfrender. 2021. Combining natural language processing and metabarcoding to reveal pathogen-environment associations. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 15:e0008755 doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008755
  • McElroy ME, CL Jerde, TL Dressler, GC Titcomb, EA Wilson, K Deiner, TL Dudley, EJ Eliason, NT Evans, SD Gaines, KD Lafferty, GA Lamberti, Y Li, DM Lodge, MS Love, AR Mahon, ME Pfrender, MA Renshaw, and KA Selkoe. 2020. Calibrating environmental DNA metabarcoding to traditional surveys for measuring fish species richness. Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution 8:276 doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2020.00276 (I.F. 2.08)
  • Maddock, ST, RA Nussbaum, JJ Day L Latta, IV, M Miller, DL Fisk, M Wilkinson, DJ Gower, and ME Pfrender. 2020. The role of vicariance and isolation by distance in shaping biotic diversification across an ancient archipelago: evidence from a Seychelles caecilian amphibian. BMC Evolutionary Biology 20:110. doi.org/10.1186/s12862-020-01673-w
  • Reimche, JS, ED Brodie, Jr., AN Stokes, EJ Ely, HA Moniz, VL Thill, JM Hallas, ME Pfrender, ED Brodie, III, and CR Feldman. 2020. The geographic mosaic in parallel: matching patterns of newt tetrodotoxin levels and snake resistance in multiple predator-prey pairs. Journal of Animal Ecology 89:1645-1657. doi/10.1111/1365-2656.13212
  • Thomas GWC, … ME Pfrender, … et al. 2020. Gene content evolution in the arthropods. Genome Biology 21:15. doi.org/10.1186/s13059-19-1925-7
  • Kvist, J, CG Athanàsio, ME Pfrender, JB Brown, JK Colbourne, and L Mirbahai. 2020. A comprehensive epigenomic analysis of phenotypically distinguishable, genetically identical female and male Daphnia pulex. BMC Genomics 21:17. doi.org/10.1186/s12864-019-6415-5
  • Ryan, SF, E Lombaert A Espeset, R Vila, G Talavera, V Dincă, MA Renshaw, MW Eng, MM Doellman, EA Hornett, Y Li, ME Pfrender, and D Shoemaker. 2019. Global invasion history of the agricultural pest butterfly Pieris rapae revealed with citizen science and genomics. PNAS. doi/10.1073/pnas.1907492116
  • Kvist, J, CG Athanàsio, OS Solar, JB Brown, JK Colbourne, ME Pfrender, and L Mirbahai. 2018. Pattern of DNA methylation in Daphnia: Evolutionary perspective. Genome Biology and Evolution 10:1988-2007. doi/10.1093/gbe/evy155
  • 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