Who We Are

from undergraduates to postdocs and everything in between

Primary Investigator

Alan Bergland


Dr. Alan O. Bergland is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Deptartment at the University of Virginia. He is interested in basic questions in evolutionary and ecological genetics and studies flies, water-fleas, and birds. Check out the research page for more details. For papers from the Bergland lab, check out the publications page.
CV available here

Lab Managers

Grace Gutierrez


Grace is the current lab tech in the Bergland lab and has previously conducted research on male production rates in Daphnia pulex. In the future she is interested in going to graduate school to study research on the effects that human-impacted landscapes have on pollinators as well as the effects of pollinators on these landscapes.



Joaquin C. B. Nunez

Post-doc, 2020-current

My research studies patterns of genetic variation in natural populations living in highly variable environments. I seek to characterize what loci are under selection at different scales of environmental heterogeneity both in space and time. My research program seeks to determine the identity of these ecologically important loci, as well as the mechanisms that underlie their maintenance of genetic variation. I did my PhD at Brown with David M. Rand woking on intertidal barnacles. I did my undergraduate at the University of Miami with Margie F. Oleksiak and Doug L. Crawford working on killifish.

PhD Students

Alyssa Bangerter


Alyssa is a Ph.D. candidate in the Biology Department. She is broadly interested in how populations adapt to their environments and is currently interested in how they adapt to their environments in the short term. For her Ph.D. dissertation work, Alyssa does very fine-scale temporal sampling of wild Drosophila melanogaster to look at seasonal evolution. She is also investigating how other Drosophilids may evolve seasonally. Alyssa just wrapped up her 5th and final year as a Jefferson Fellow, which has in part supported her research.

Yang Yu


I am interested in understanding how Drosophila melanogaster populations adapt to spatial and temporal environmental heterogeneity. My current projects are looking at 1. Adaptive signals and genetic mechanisms underlying local adaptation at functional genetic loci; 2. Relative contributions of genetic adaptation and plasticity to seasonal fitness-related traits; 3. Seasonal gene expression patterns and the evolutionary trajectory of the expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs).


Connor Murray


Connor Murray is a Ph.D. student studying the evolutionary forces that generate and maintain diversity in the wild. Using population genomics and phenomics, he hopes to better understand how genetic diversity is influenced by competition, demographics, and sexual recombination. Future experiments will involve large scale genomics and implement technology that is cross-disciplinary to assist him in gathering high-quality data for his dissertation research. Current work has him quantifying the properties of mutation accumulation within a wild Daphnia pulex population in England.


Adam Lenhart


Studies adaption to environmental stress, with an emphasis on connecting genetic variation to trait adaptability.

Taylor Nystrom


Taylor is a graduate student working on a collaboration between the Bergland and Siegrist labs. Her research focuses on the effects of environmental factors on neurodevelopment in natural populations of D. melanogaster. She was originally introduced to flies here at UVA, working during the summers in the Condron lab. She then graduated with her bachelor’s from the University of Colorado - Boulder, worked in the Grueber Lab at Columbia University building the InSITE collection of Gal4 lines, and taught middle school science and PE. In addition to her lab research, Taylor is very excited about science education and helping make advanced research science more accessible.


Robert Porter

(lab tech 2017-2020)

I am interested in the production and hatching of daphnia resting eggs, and investigating the environmental cues involved in the differing responses between clonal lineages. As part of this, I am also interested in how populations of daphnia maintain genetic diversity over longer timescales. Previously, I worked on image collection and analysis of Daphnia pulex neonates exposed to predator kairomones, to measure the plastic response of necktooth induction.


Undergraduate Students

Courtney Tern


Courtney Tern (CLAS ‘22) is conducting independent computational research on the evolutionary history of Drosophila simulans in North America. She is writing Bash and AWK scripts to pull whole genome sequencing data from online repositories, which she will then analyze for admixture from African and European D. simulans populations. Previously, she conducted a 10-month long fecundity assay on D. melanogaster in the field. Courtney also coded the updated website that you’re looking at right now!
She is pursuing a Human Biology Distinguished Major with a double major in Statistics.

Liam Miller


I’ve done work looking at starvation/desiccation in drosophila, and am getting into research with seasonal allometry in drosophila.



Previous members of the Bergland Lab

Sasha Bilal

Undergraduate (2018-2020)

My work focused on the seasonal variation of two alleles (miR-184 A and miR-184 B) in the species Drosophila melanogaster and their role in diapause. I will be going to Georgetown University in Fall 2020 to receive a Masters in Physiology!


Cory Weller

PhD student (2016-2019); Post-doc at the NIH

Dr. Cory Weller was a Ph.D. candidate in the Biology Department. Cory developed computational approaches to map cis-eQTL and perform whole genome resonstruction in experimental crosses of Drosophila. His previous work at the University of Virginia with Dr. Martin Wu included a phylogenomic analysis of 200 bacterial genomes, uncovering a generation-time effect in spore-forming bacteria (read about it here) and was supported by an ARCS scholarship. Cory also leads the organization of the Huskey Research Exhbition as UVA’s Research Chair of the Graduate Student Council.

Daniel Y. Song

Undergraduate (2016-2019)

Daniel Song was an undergraduate student working with Priscilla Erickson to determine the effect of olfactory and nutrition cues on diapause in varying lines of D. melanogaster. He helped lay down the foundations and cages for the outdoor D. melanogaster seasonal experiments in Morven Gardens (where he also saved turtles traveling on main roads). After graduating UVA with a BA in Biology, he is currently working on getting a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences at Virginia Tech. He is expected to graduate 2021 with hopes of attending VCOM the following fall.


Cynthia Ong

Undergraduate (2016-2019)

Cynthia was an undergraduate student who was an active member of the lab for over three years, during which she conducted numerous independent research projects and significantly contributed to numerous research studies. Her projects studying Daphnia pulex included characterizing phenotypic responses to predation, examining potential costs associated with phenotypic plasticity, and studying population dynamics in natural populations through fine scale temporal sampling. She completed her distinguished majors program, presenting at the 2018 Katz Symposium and receiving high distinction. She was also awarded the Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, presenting her research at the 2019 URN Symposium. Cynthia is currently attending Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine as part of the Class of 2024.


Anne Marie Saunders

Undergraduate (2017-2019)

While working in the Bergland lab as an undergraduate, Anne Marie did multiple research projects with Dörthe Becker and Karen Barnard-Kubow. Her research included a study of life-history traits of Daphnia pulex in response to nutritional stress as well as a computationally-focused project on the demographic history of sampled Daphnia populations. Anne Marie’s use of GIS, R, and BASH during her time in the Bergland lab inspired her to pursue a Master’s in Computational Methods in Ecology and Evolution at Imperial College London after graduating from UVA in 2019.

Austin Edwards

Lab tech (2017-2018); Research Scientist at UC San Francisco

Austin Edwards was a technician building devices to study Drosophila behavior. He previously was a technician at Janelia Research Campus studying the neuronal basis of social and visual behaviors in Drosophila with Kristin Branson and Michael Reiser. He is broadly interested in applying machine learning and computer vision techniques to quantifying animal behavior.


Erin Voss

Lab Tech (2017-2018); PhD student in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley

Erin Voss was a technician working on Daphnia evolutionary genetics. Erin attended Bowdoin College in Maine where she studied the evolutionary history of the European Green Crab.


Dr. Karen Barnard-Kubow

NIH NRSA Post-doc and Research Scientist (2016-2020); Assistant Professor & Director of Genomics, James Madison University

Dr. Karen Barnard-Kubow is interested in the processes underlying the generation and maintenance of genetic variation, and how genetic divergence may eventually lead to the formation of new species. For her PhD with Laura Galloway she worked on cytonuclear incompatibility and speciation in an herbaceous plant species. She conducted post-doctoral research with Ben Blackman examining the genetic architecture of photoperiod in wild populations of sunflowers. Her research in in the Bergland Lab focused on understanding how the interplay between ecology and reproductive polymorphism influences the maintenance of genetic diversity within populations of the model facultative parthenogen, Daphnia pulex.

Dr. Priscilla Erickson

Jane Coffin Childs Post-doc (2016-2021); Assistant Professor, University of Richmond

Priscilla is interested in studying how organisms survive in changing environments. In the Bergland lab, Priscilla focused on the genetic basis of traits related to cold tolerance and overwintering in fruit flies, using a combination of field work, lab experiments, and genomics. Starting in 2021, Priscilla will have her own lab at the University of Richmond, where she will work with undergraduates to study evolutionary genetics in the invasive fruit fly Zaprionus indianus.

Dr. Dörthe Becker

Post-doc (2017-2020); Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Marburg

Dr. Dörthe Becker is a physiological ecologist interested in the molecular mechanisms by which various stressors are tolerated via acclimation. During her PhD, her research focused on highly conserved stress-induced signaling processes that enable Daphnia to adequately adjust their physiological performance upon environmental change. For her subsequent post-doctoral research with Andrew Beckerman and John Colbourne she broadened her research towards the field of environmental genomics in order to explore the regulatory mechanisms that provide the basis for tolerance, acclimation and phenotypic plasticity. Specifically, her research on different Daphnia genotypes investigated the molecular signatures of predator induced changes in life history and morphology, with particular focus on how these responses are modified by other environmental contaminants (e.g. metals). Her research in the Bergland lab continued this line of research as part of the on-going project on dynamics of predation induced adaptation in Daphnia.