Lab Personnel

Dr. Carol Vleck

Faculty associates and post-docs: Dr. David Vleck | Past Post-docs

Grad students: Deb Christensen | Gaby Palacios | Becky Parsons | Past Grad Students

Past Undergrads and interns: Amber Cribbs | Nicole Scott | Carrie Sanneman| Past Undergrads


Carol Vleck Dr. Carol Vleck

My research combines elements of lab and fieldwork, often in extreme environments from the deserts of Arizona to the ice fields of Antarctica. In the lab we use radioimmunoassays of steroid and peptide hormones from birds sampled in the field to examine hormonal control of behaviors. We use molecular techniques for determining length of telomeres, telomerase activity and oxidative damage to DNA in tissue samples collected at sites throughout the western hemisphere. We study energetics and thermal effects using oxygen analyzers, data loggers and constant temperature boxes. Local fieldwork includes a site where we have more than 200 nest boxes for tree swallows and house wrens. We have maintained a colony of zebra finches of known age to study behavior and physiology of reproduction, aging and immunosenescence. Click here for complete curriculum vitae.

[next] [top of page]


Faculty Associates

David Vleck   Dr. David Vleck

David is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology at ISU and also coordinates the second semester of the introductory biology labs. He is a physiological ecologist whose research experience has ranged from energetics of burrowing by fossorial mammals, evolution of developmental patterns in birds, swimming energetics of marine iguanas and thermoregulation in insects. His research has dealt with energetics of alternative reproductive modes in reptiles and the adaptive significance of variation in water economy of developing reptile embryos. He collaborates with Carol Vleck on studies of the physiology of avian eggs, Adlie penguins, and the comparative biology of aging, especially in birds.


[next] [top of page]

Current Graduate Students

Deb Christensen Deb Christensen

Deb graduated from ISU with a B.S. in Zoology after previously earning a B.S. in Health and Human Performance. She entered the Ph. D. Program in Zoology and Genetics and is working on how vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) controls prolactin secretion in zebra finches, including the relationships between age, experience, breeding stage, and prolactin response. She is also using immunocytochemistry to assay lactotroph and somatotroph activity in the anterior pituitary.

[next] [top of page]

Gaby PalaciosGaby Palacios

Maria Gabriela Palacios is originally from Rio Negro, Argentina. She received her B.A. at the University of Buenos Aires in Ecology and Evolution, and did an undergraduate thesis looking at the relationship between the acoustic frequencies of bird songs and morphological characteristics such as beak size. In 2003 she completed her master's in Organismal Biology and Ecology on evolution of life history strategies in birds at the University of Montana under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Martin. She is currently working on mechanisms of immunosenescence in tree swallows and how age and immunosenescence affect parental allocation decisions.

[next] [top of page]

Becky ParsonsBecky Parsons

Becky Parsons graduated from ISU with a degree in Biology and started working on her Master's Degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Fall, 2006. She is interested in how elevated glucocorticoids, associated with food stress, affect growth rate and phenotypic development in birds. She has been working with tree swallows in which clutch sizes can vary from three to seven chicks.

[next] [top of page]

Past Graduate Students

Wendy RossDr. Wendy Reed

Wendy completed her PhD in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program in 2000, and is now an assistant professor at North Dakota State University. Wendy's dissertation described the influence of maternal effects present in eggs (yolk, testosterone, egg size) on juvenile survival in American coots. She developed a powerful design for cross-fostering experiments to separate pre- and post-hatching maternal effects on offspring fitness, and investigated the importance of local variation in habitat quality to reproductive success in a Manitoba pothole landscape. To learn more about her latest work, click here.

[next] [top of page]





Mark HaussmannDr. Mark Haussmann

Mark received a BS from Wartburg college, then completed an MS degree in Animal Sciences at Iowa State University. He received his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2005 where he worked on telomere dynamics and immunosenescence in a variety of species. He taught at Swarthmore College for a year and is now an NSF postdoc and visiting assistant professor at Kenyon College. Mark's research interests are in the comparative biology of aging in vertebrates and life history evolution. To see more visit his website.


[next] [top of page]



Chris Olson
Dr. Chris Olson

Chris Olson did his undergraduate work at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, then worked with ornithologists at the University of Montana, Northern Arizona University, and UC California Davis. He is the author of the Virginia Warbler species account in The Birds of North America: Life Histories for the 21st Century, and has extensive field experience in Argentina, Mexico, and the southwest US. Chris completed the ISU doctoral program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2006. While at ISU he worked on the influences of behaviorally induced temperature regimes on the physiology and growth of avian embryos. Since leaving ISU he has served as a visitng assistant professor at Portland State University and is doing postdoctoral work at the Oregon Health Sciences Center.To see more visit his website.

[next] [top of page]


Wei LiuWei Liu

Wei Liu got a B.S. in Plant Molecular and Development Biology at Peking University and entered the ISU EEB program in 2001. He finished his M.S. degree in 2004, examining the relationship between oxidative damage and age in tissues from several species of birds. He is currently in a PhD program in conservation biology at Michigan State University and is doing field work in China.


Lori Ross Lori Ross

Lori finished her M.S. degree in Ecology and Evolution at ISU in 1997. Her research focus was on the relationship between incubation behavior and the parental hormone, prolactin, in Antarctic Adlie penguins. She then enrolled in the Veterinary Medicine Program at the University of Illinois.

Past Post-Docs

Tamara RossDr. Tamara Ross

Tamara spent a postdoctoral year in 1998-1999 developing DNA fingerprinting techniques for penguin blood samples from Antarctica. She received her Ph.D from ISU in August 1998. Her dissertation work on the federally endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail, Discus macclintocki, involved assessments of population size and genetic diversity in local populations. She is currently working for the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish.

[next] [top of page]


Dr. Theresa Bucher

Terry Bucher seated

Terry, who is seated in the photo, was part of our field team in Antarctica in 1995-1997. In addition to her interest in penguin behavior and physiology, she has broad interests in comparative respiratory physiology and energetics in a variety of vertebrates ranging from tropical frogs and high elevation hummingbirds to Antarctic seabirds.

[next] [top of page]

A Few Past Undergraduate and High School Interns

Nicole ScottNicole Scott

Nicole Scott was a UMEB student who joined the Vleck lab Spring 2003. She worked with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries and Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Grand Chenier, Loiusiana to investigate the relationship between alligator body length and telomere length which she presented at a Crocodilian meeting in Australia and which we have recently published. Nicole has gone on to do graduate work in primatology.


[next] [top of page]


Amber Cribbs Amber Cribbs

Amber Cribbs was a UMEB student majoring in biology. Ambers research focused on the stress hormone, corticosterone. She measured corticosterone in House sparrows and how it varies between sexes and with season. She presented these data in a poster at the American Ornithologists Union meeting at the University of Illinois in August, 2003. Amber also worked with Zebra Finches to study the effects of aging on glucocorticoid expression and immune response with Mark Haussmann. She presented this work at the SICB meeting in New Orleans in January, 2004.

Carrie SannemanCarrie Sanneman

Carrie was a biology and environmental studies major. She was also a member of UMEB. She spent a summer collecting blood from American alligators in Rockfeller State Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana and from Leach's Storm-petrels on Kent Island in New Brunswick, Canada and then spent a semester studying at Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand.



Past Undergrad and HIgh School Internship Students

Molly Staley, 2007, ISU Honors Program Freshman Research.
Becky Parsons, 2006. (Effects of handicapping on flight performance and oxidative damage in zebra finches).
Amanda Chamberlin, 2005. Vet Med Summer Scholars Program, 2005 (Aging in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata): a study in histopathology)
Becky Parsons, 2005. (Corticosterone and predation in wild populations of Rana catesbeiana tadpoles).
Kelsey Dalton, 2005. Honors project in Animal Ecology. (Reproductive success in novice and experienced zebra finches).
Nicole Scott, 2002-5. (Telomeres in American alligator effect of age and body size) UMEB Participant and Honors Project in Zoology & Genetics.
Carrie Sanneman, 2003. (Aging and DHEA in birds) UMEB Participant.
Amber Cribs, 2002-2004. (Change in corticosterone stress response over the annual cycle in house sparrows) UMEB Participant
Erin Mehsling, Summer 2002, (Breeding biology of Tree Swallows) UMEB Participant
Jill Hunt, Summer 2001 (Physiology of migrating warblers) UMEB Participant
Sara Kaiser, Spring, 2001. (Physiology of migrating warblers) UMEB Participant
Rebecca Jansma, Spring 2001. (Physiology of migrating warblers) UMEB Participant
Karen Osborne, Fall 2000. (Glycerol and triglyceride levels in migratory warblers)
Sara Brenner, 2000. NSF REU. (Telomere restriction fragment analysis in Zebra Finches)
Uzo Obikeze, 1999. NSF REU. (Physiological responses of Adlie penguins to fasting)
Nicole Vertalino, 1998. Program for Women in Science and Engineering. (Comparisons of corticosterone and heterophil/lymphocyte ratios as a measure of stress in free-living birds)
Tonia Schwartz, 1998. Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program (Analysis of DNA for sex-determination in jays and penguins)
Tony Olson, 1997. Summer-fall independent student project (Effects of varying pH exposure on corticosterone levels in Xenopus laevis)
Elizabeth Fettkether, 1997. Summer independent student project (Effects of handling stress on Adelie penguins)
Laurie Weaver, 1997. Summer independent student project (The effects of fasting on blood chemistry in Adelie penguins)
Sandy McGraw, 1996. Internship (Reproductive endocrinology and behavior of cooperatively breeding Mexican jays in Arizona)
Dan Patrick, 1996. ISU Department of Zoology & Genetics Undergraduate Summer Internship program, (The effects of VIP and anti-VIP on prolactin secretion in blue jays)
Valissitie Heeren, 1996. NSF REU, Program for Women in Science and Engineering. (Protein and lipid utilization during the breeding fast in Adelie penguins, Pygoscelis adeliae)
Anna Keyte, 1996. High School Summer Internship Program, Program for Women in Science and Engineering. (Corticosteroid-binding globulin in Adelie penguins at different stages of the reproductive cycle)
Khodejah Chester, 1995. Undergraduate Summer Intern, Research Careers for Minority Scholars Program. (Isolation of DNA from avian blood samples)
John Adams, 1995. NSF REU (Control of reproductive behavior in Arizona scrub jays)
Nikki Rathbun, 1995. High School Summer Internship Program, Program for Women in Science and Engineering. (The effects of serotonin depletion on the behavior of Mexican jays)

[top of page]