UR Professor Receives NIH Grant for Invasive Species Research

April 14, 2022

Priscilla Erickson headshotUNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Biology professor Priscilla Erickson has been awarded a $415K National Institutes of Health Research Enhancement Award for her research on an invasive fruit fly.  

This three-year project examines the adaptation of an invasive species — the African fig fly — which only recently arrived in Virginia, serving as a model for how other potentially harmful invasive species quickly adapt to new habitats.

"This study will allow us to examine the types of mutations and evolutionary processes that enable invasive species to succeed and also test the predictability and repeatability of that evolution,” said Erickson. “Characterizing the dynamics of rapid evolution is important for understanding vector-borne diseases, cancer, and disease-causing mutations in humans."

This NIH funding provides a summer stipend for Erickson, as well as a salary for a postbaccalaureate position and equipment and supplies. The funding also will support summer stipends for three undergraduate student researchers, who will be recruited from the University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience program, which is dedicated to underrepresented students pursuing and continuing in STEM majors. 

“Last summer’s URISE cohort had a great time helping out with our fly collections on a field trip to Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville. I look forward to some of them joining the lab as part of this project,” Erickson said.

Erickson joined the faculty in the fall of 2021. She taught as a visiting professor during the 2019–2020 academic year.