Profile photo of Emily Bruns
Contact Info
Office Phone: 301.405.7684
Lab Phone: 301.405.5475
Emily Bruns
Assistant Professor

Graduate Program Affiliation

  • BISI-Behavior, Ecology, Evolution & Systematics (BEES)

Research Interests

We study the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of infectious disease in natural populations. Parasites are a ubiquitous feature of natural ecosystems, and are estimated to account for well over 50% of the biodiversity. The Bruns lab is interested in understanding the impacts of infectious disease on host abundance and distribution in nature, and how these ecological effects intersect with the evolution of important host and pathogen traits such as transmission and resistance. We use plants and their fungal pathogens as powerful experimental model systems together with mathematical models of numerical and genetic dynamics to investigate these questions.

Our current research focus is on the evolutionary dynamics of age-specific disease resistance. Studies across a wide range of host taxa from humans to invertebrates and plants, have shown that juveniles are typically more susceptible to infectious disease than adults. From an evolutionary perspective, the widespread occurrence of juvenile susceptibility is puzzling, because the fitness consequences of becoming infected are significantly higher pre-reproduction. We develop models to understand the eco-evolutionary feedbacks between age-structure, disease spread and resistance evolution. In addition, we are using the plant disease, anther-smut on Silene latifolia, as a model system to investigate the evolutionary dynamics of age-specific resistance in a real-world context. 


B.S. University of California, Santa Cruz
Ph.D. University of Minnesota
Postdoctoral Training: University of Virginia

Recent Publications

Bruns, E., Miller, I., Hood, M., Carasso, V., and J. Antonovics. 2019. The role of infectious disease in the evolution of females: evidence from anther-smut disease on a gynodioecious alpine carnation. Evolution. 73: 497-510
Bruns, E., Antonovics J., and M.E. Hood. 2019. Is there a disease-free halo at species range limits? The co-distribution of anther-smut disease and its alpine host species. Journal of Ecology. Early View.  2019; 107: 1– 11
Ashby, B. and E. Bruns. 2018. The evolution of juvenile susceptibility to infectious disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 285: 20180844.
Bruns, E., Hood, M.E., and Antonovics, J.  2017 Transmission and temporal dynamics of anther-smut disease (Microbotryum) on alpine carnation (Dianthus pavonius). Journal of Ecology, 105: 1413-1424.
Miller, I. and E. Bruns.  2016 The effect of disease on the evolution of females and the genetic basis of sex in populations with cytoplasmic male sterility. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 283: 20153035.