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Lab Members

Principal Investigator


Dr. Pirmin Nietlisbach

Photo of Pirmin Nietlisbach

E-mail: pnietli@ilstu.edu
Phone: (309) 438-3669

Office: Science Laboratory Building – SLB 339

Pirmin graduated from the University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2010. He studied sex-linked genetic variation in orang-utan (Pongo spp.) populations for his MSc thesis research in the lab of Michael Krützen. In 2015, Pirmin finished his PhD on inbreeding and heterozygosity in song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) in the labs of Erik Postma and Lukas Keller at the University of Zurich, followed by a postdoc period. From 2017-2020, he was a postdoc in the lab of Michael Whitlock at the University of British Columbia. Pirmin joined the School of Biological Sciences at Illinois State University in Normal in September 2020.

Lab Manager


Jessica A. Krippel

E-mail: jakrip1@ilstu.edu
Phone: (309) 438-8551

Office: Science Laboratory Building – SLB 338

Jessica obtained her Bachelor of Science from the University of Iowa in 2006, after which she worked as the behavioral husbandry coordinator at an AZA-accredited zoo in Asheville, NC. Her interest in studying animal behavior then led her to obtain a Master of Science in Biology with a focus in Animal Behavior from Western Carolina University in 2014. From there, Jessica moved to Vancouver, Canada, where she worked as a research associate at the University of British Columbia overseeing a long-term field study site, and started her own canine behavior consulting business Evolution Dog Training. Jessica joined the lab in October 2020.

Jessica is interested in understanding animal behavior from both an applied and evolutionary perspective. Her research investigates how consistent individual differences in behavior over time and contexts, also known as animal personality or behavioral syndromes, evolve and are maintained in populations of wild animals. Outside of academia, Jessica works in applied animal behavior, using applied behavior analysis to bring about behavior change in animals.

Here at Illinois State University, Jessica is in charge of keeping our lab up-to-date, supervising students in the lab and field, and helping the students to plan and execute behavior-related research projects. Outside of school, Jessica works on her behavior consulting business, hikes with husband and dogs, and rides her horse, Gabe.

MSc Students


Rachel Berg

E-mail: raberg1@ilstu.edu

Office: Science Laboratory Building – SLB 338

Rachel received a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior from the University of Minnesota in 2017. After graduation, she worked at a wildlife research and education facility in central Minnesota, where she participated in multiple research projects on gray wolves. Rachel is now a master’s student at Illinois State University. She joined the lab in May 2021.

Rachel is researching inbreeding in North American deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) populations located on the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. Investigating their genetic composition will give insight into impacts of inbreeding on isolated wild populations.

Lauren Leischner

E-mail: lmleisc@ilstu.edu

Office: Science Laboratory Building – SLB 338

Lauren Leischner is a graduate student at Illinois State University in the Behavior, Ecology, Evolution & Systematics (BEES) section. She graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield with a Bachelor’s degree in biology in the spring of 2021. She joined the lab in the fall of 2021.

Lauren will conduct research with the house wren population in the Mackinaw Study Area, collaborating with Charles Thompson and Scott Sakaluk.

Undergraduate Students


Vanessa Jensen

E-mail: vjense2@ilstu.edu

Office: remote

Vanessa Jensen is an undergraduate student at Illinois State University majoring in animal science and minoring in environmental sciences.  She is also the Vice President of Black Girl Code. Vanessa joined the lab in January 2021.

Vanessa is contributing to the research in our lab by researching how to estimate the age of deer mice based on their weight. Approximate age information will be helpful for identifying parent-offspring relationships and thus for measuring reproductive success. The resulting pedigree will also be used to estimate inbreeding.

Mary Schiltz

E-mail: maschi5@ilstu.edu

Office: remote

Mary Schiltz is an undergraduate at Illinois State University majoring in conservation biology. She is an ecological restoration volunteer in St. Charles, Illinois, and a member of ISU’s wildlife conservation club. Mary joined the lab in October 2020.

Mary is contributing to research in our lab by organizing deer mouse trapping data collected in the field. Analyzing these data will provide information about the preferred habitats and times of activity of the deer mice being studied. This information will be used to improve trapping success by pinpointing the best locations and timing for trapping mice.


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