Brian Ernsting

Faculty Photo


  • Molecular Systematics


  • B.S. - German and Molecular Biology, The University of Michigan
  • Ph.D. - Biological Chemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Michigan

Research Interests

My research focuses on using DNA sequence data to examine relatedness between individuals, species, and other groups of organisms. Since some genes are shared by all eukaryotes, we can use similarities and differences in the sequence of these genes to learn about relatedness. In general, the more similar two sequences are, the more closely they are related. We have developed techniques for extracting DNA from small individuals, including arthropod eggs, amplifying the segments of interest using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and determining the sequence of the PCR products. Then, we use sophisticated software to simultaneously derive the genetic distances for large numbers of related sequences, and ultimately to reconstruct a phylogenetic tree describing how the sequences (and thus the species they were amplified from) are related to each other.

Selected Publications

Ernsting, B.R., D.D. Edwards, M.F. Vidrine, and H. Cun. 2008. Genetic differences among sibling species of the subgenus Dimockatax (Acari: Unionicolidae: Unionicola): heterogeneity in DNA sequence data supports morphological differentiation. International Journal of Acarology, 34: 403-407.

Ernsting, B.R., D. D. Edwards, M. F. Vidrine, K. S. Myers, and C. M. Harmon. 2006. Phylogenetic relationships among species of the subgenus Parasitatax (Acari: Unionicolidae: Unionicola) based on DNA sequence of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene. International Journal of Acarology, 32 195-202.