Burghardt_croppedMy name is Liana T. Burghardt, and I am an evolutionary ecologist broadly interested in how the abiotic and biotic environment shapes the evolution of organisms (primarily plants and microbes). In February of 2020, I’ll be starting my lab in the Plant Sciences Department at Penn State University! Currently, I am a postdoc at the University of Minnesota in the lab of Peter Tiffin.  Formerly, I was a graduate student at Duke University in the lab of Kathleen Donohue and a postbac in Johanna Schmitt’s lab. Feel free to explore this website to get a feeling for the questions that fascinate me and the projects that my collaborators and I have undertaken to address these questions. If you would like more information or are interested in collaborating, feel free to contact me at: liana.burghardt at gmail dot com

A Little More About Me…

I grew up in Knoxville, TN with my twin sister Karin. She is a new faculty member in the Entomology Department at the University of Maryland (check out her website!). She studies plant-insect interactions in natural and human-influenced systems. Our interest in plants and nature was fostered by both our parents and by the backdrop of the trails and streams of the nearby Smoky Mountains. My interest in plants was apparent by the age of 10 when I became the defacto family gardener– meaning I transplanted things willy nilly around the yard and woods. This fascination continued and in high school, I spent many happy hours volunteering in the native plant garden at Ijam’s nature center.


I was fortunate to attend Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota where I had the privilege of being taught by exceptional teachers, scientists, and naturalists such as Mark McKone and Susan Singer. I also spent a summer working in a plant development lab studying the genetics of the Medicago truncatula/Sinorhizobium symbiosis. Aside from academics, I played Ultimate frisbee for the college team SYZYGY, which was a formative experience. While we were successful as a team, reaching nationals every year, this success was transient. The lasting lessons were the ones related to teamwork, communication, and perseverance. Through these women, I learned to enjoy the process as much as the outcome. This focus on the process and the idea that we can do more together than we can separately strongly influence my approach to science and collaboration today.

After college, I spent several years at Brown University as a post-bac in the amazing lab of Johanna Schmitt (now at Davis) studying how flowering time in Arabidopsis thaliana responds to various environmental factors including temperatures that fluctuate through the day. While there, I also coached the women’s ultimate B team at Brown.

lab_2015_tiIn 2009, I joined the unique graduate community in the Biology Department at Duke University (and specifically the Donohue Lab) and moved to Durham, NC. In addition to thinking deeply about my research predicting plant life cycles across temporal and spatially variable environments, I spent lots of time in my garden and exploring the Eno river trails.

For the past three years, I’ve had the great fortune to be part of a dynamic and collaborative group in the Tiffin Lab at the University of Minnesota. It’s been fun to learn new genomic, transcriptomic, and population genetic methods and dive deeply into thinking about the environments bacteria experience in nature and how that influences their evolution. During these years, I’ve become an avid cross-country skier, participating in the 29K Korteloppet race in WI each year.

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