Werner Lab

The major focus of our lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity - the ability of a single genotype to produce multiple phenotypes.


  • Michael is a Topics Editor for a new Frontier's collection in Invertebrate Physiology: https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/50795/physiological-alterations-of-nematodes-influenced-by-cross-phylum-symbioses. Submit your abstract by Feb. 28th!

  • 8/22/22: Madelyn Purnell joins the lab as the first student from the EEOB program. Welcome Madelyn!

  • 4/1/2022: Audrey Brown (MCEB) joined the lab, welcome Audrey!

  • 1/31/2022: Check out undergraduate Sam Nestel's feature in 'The College Tour': https://vimeo.com/669651682

  • 12/15/21: Sam and Ben both won Spring Semester support from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Well done!

  • Check out Michael's SL-Tribune article about the science behind the Sandworms of Dune: https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2021/10/29/michael-s-werner-science/

Our Aim:

Different environments can elicit distinct phenotypes from a single genotype, referred to as phenotypic (developmental) plasticity (Stearns, 1989; West-Eberhard, 2003). Social insects have made use of this ability to establish elaborate caste systems, while other animals and plants can modify particular traits to match their environment; such as the microcrustacean Daphnia which develops structural ‘helmets’ in response to predator cues. Studies on these and other model systems have made significant contributions toward understanding the ecological and evolutionary implications of phenotypic plasticity. However, the proximate molecular mechanisms that transmit environmental information into physiological, behavioral, and morphological changes are still largely unknown. This is a key missing feature in our understanding of development, including many processes that affect human health and well-being, such as learning, adaptive immunity, and the effects of diet and exercise. We take an integrative approach to identify the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate phenotypic plasticity, and their potential roles in ecology, evolution and human health.

We are located in the Skaggs Biology Building, as part of the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Utah.