vonHoldt Lab

Evolutionary Genomics and Ecological Epigenomics

Associate Professor, Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt [CV], trying to teach her nieces about wolf watching.



Post-doctoral Researchers


Stephen Gaughran
I am interested in understanding fundamental aspects of molecular evolution by studying natural populations. My main focus is how evolutionary processes play out in small and bottlenecked populations. In my PhD dissertation research, I studied how naturally small populations avoid mutational meltdowns and how population size correlates with the distribution of fitness effects of new mutations. As a post-doc in the vonHoldt and Graham labs, I am studying how genetic and epigenetic diversity in northern elephant seals correspond to their immunological response to lungworm infections. I am also working as an NSF postdoctoral, in collaboration with the Michael McGowen at the National Museum of Natural History to study the genomic consequences of an extreme population bottleneck in northern elephant seals. For this project, I am generating genome sequence data from seal specimens collected before and after the bottleneck, and creating a machine learning method to detect signals of natural selection in these temporally sampled genomes.


Ph.D. Students

Dhriti Tandon
I am a first year graduate student and am broadly interested in understanding genetic basis of complex and variable phenotypes such as behavior. I am especially intrigued by behaviors of evolutionary significance in animals, including sociability and mating behaviors.


Stavi Tennanbaum
I am a first-year PhD student interested in genomic evolution in wild populations. I previously worked on several field-based research projects on the evolutionary and behavioral ecology of small subarctic mammals, where I became specifically intrigued by adaptation within high alpine environments. For my dissertation research, I will be studying differential DNA methylation as a molecular marker of biological aging and investigating how gene regulation mechanisms influence life history strategy. I am primarily focused on elucidating how epigenetic modifications increase fitness in naturally fluctuating and harsh habitats and how such modifications are successfully inherited.




Undergraduate Students (EEB unless otherwise noted)

Class of 2022: Brigitte Harbers, Elton Tran, Emily Yu
Class of 2021: Lazarena Lazarova, Jasmine Lu, Rimsha Malik, Andreea Stoica (MolBio)
Class of 2020: Laura Makin, Watson Weng, Kennedy Leverett
Class of 2019: Maddie Offstein, Riley Wilkinson, Mikaela Walkup
Class of 2018: Julian Goldman, Tabitha Lumour-Mensah, Larkin Papa
Class of 2017: Cat Caro, Rohan Hylton, Quin Pompi
Class of 2016: Daniela Cosio, Carly Jackson, Jordy Lubkeman, Emily Shuldiner, Samantha Wu
Class of 2015: Thomas Kroshus (MolBio), Karlos Bledsoe
Class of 2014: Gitanjali Gnanadesikan, Eskender McCoy

Lab Alumni

Allie DeCandia, Ph.D.; graduate stduent (now a post-doc at the Smithsonian)
Elizabeth Heppenheimer, Ph.D.; graduate stduent (now a Science Editor at Jove)
Kristin Brzeski, Ph.D.; post-doc (now Faculty at Michigan Tech)
Rebecca (Shirk) Kartzinel, Ph.D.; post-doc (now Faculty at Brown University)
Linda Rutledge, Ph.D.; post-doc (now an Adjunct Professor at Trent University)
Ilana Janowitz Koch, Ph.D.; post-doc (now a Scientist at CRITFC)
Kerry Machemer, Ph.D.; post-doc

Fabricio Silva Garcez; visiting Ph.D. student from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Jenni Harmoinen; visiting Ph.D. student from University of Oulu, Finland
Yashira Afanador-Hernandez; visiting Master's student from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Constance Braz; visiting undergraduate from Virginia State University
Deja Rogers; visiting undergraduate from Virginia State University
Keana Johnson; visiting undergraduate from Virginia State University
Gayle Pedersen; visiting Ph.D. student from University of Pretoria, South Africa
Rachelle Mariano; visiting undergraduate from University of Miami

PU Learning Laboratory Program Alumni (high school internships)

Audrey Bochi-Layec
Olivia Ondis
Katie Simons
Amelia Krause
Dominica Colavito