Dr Bernd Hänfling


Director of Research - Biodiversity and Freshwater Conservation 


I am a molecular ecologist with an extensive experience in studying the ecology and evolution of freshwater organisms. My primary focus lies in applying molecular markers including Next Generation Sequencing approaches to study ecological and evolutionary processes in aquatic ecosystems and populations. An overarching aim of my research is to understand the interplay of natural and anthropogenic processes influencing the geographic distribution of biodiversity. My past work has involved investigating the phylogeography and population genetics of freshwater fish and invertebrates, examining the colonisation history and dispersal of invasive species, and using population genomic approaches to understand local adaptations. Most recently I have directed my efforts towards advancing the development of environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches for monitoring freshwater diversity. Specifically, I have contributed significantly to the development of eDNA metabarcoding to estimate fish community diversity in the context of Water Framework Directive (WFD) monitoring of lentic ecosystems. Additionally, I have conducted fundamental research using eDNA approaches to address ecological questions in aquatic ecosystems. I’m deeply interested in evidence-based conservation and strive to translate fundamental research findings into effective management strategies and policies. To that end I actively seek close engagement with stakeholders ensuring the seamless knowledge transfer and fostering collaborations for impactful outcomes.    

  • PhD in Natural Sciences, University of Bayreuth/Germany 
  • Biology Diploma (Masters) in Biology, University of Bayreuth/Germany 

Research interests:  

  • Monitoring biodiversity change  
  • Evolutionary and ecological drivers of biological diversity  
  • Species conservation and ecology   
  • Freshwater fisheries management 

Research project highlights:


External supervision:

  • Sara Peixoto
  • Matthew Lewis
  • Andrada Opris
  • Clare Collins 


Di Muri C, Lawson Handley L, Bean C, Benucci M, Harper LR, James B, Li J, Winfield IJ, Hänfling B (2022) Spatio-temporal monitoring of lake fish spawning activity using environmental DNA metabarcoding. Environmental DNA 2022,1–12.  

Hänfling B, Lawson Handley L, Read DS, Hahn C, Li J, Nichols P, Blackman RC, Oliver A, Winfield IJ (2016) Environmental DNA metabarcoding of lake fish communities reflects long-term data from established survey methods. Molecular Ecology 25, 3101-3119.  

Jeffries DL, Copp GH, Lawson Handley L, Olsén KH, Sayer CD, Hänfling B (2016) Comparing RADseq and microsatellites to infer complex phylogeographic patterns, an empirical perspective in the Crucian carp, Carassius carassius, L. Molecular Ecology 25, 2997-3018.  

McInerney CE, Maurice L, Robertson AL, Knight LRFD, Arnscheidt J, Venditti C, Dooley JSG, Mathers T, Matthijs S, Eriksson K, Proudlove GS, Hänfling B (2014) The ancient Britons: groundwater fauna survived extreme climate change over tens of millions of years across NW Europe. Molecular Ecology 23, 1153-1166.  

Herborg LM, Weetman D, Van Oosterhout C, Hänfling B (2007) Genetic population structure and contemporary dispersal patterns of a recent European invader, the Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis. Molecular Ecology 16, 231-242.  

Hänfling B, Bolton P, Harley M, Carvalho GR (2005) A molecular approach to detect hybridisation between crucian carp (Carassius carassius) and non-indigenous carp species (Carassius spp. and Cyprinus carpio). Freshwater Biology 50, 403-417  

Hänfling B, Hellemans B, Volckaert FAM, Carvalho GR (2002) Late glacial history of the cold-adapted freshwater fish Cottus gobio, revealed by microsatellites. Molecular Ecology 11, 1717-1729. 

Full list of publications

External profile