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by merriman last modified Apr 24, 2023 10:22 AM
Contributors: ledwell

Dana K. Merriman Ph.D. 

Formerly Dana K. Vaughan


Professor Emerita (retired June 2021 but as of Oct 2022 I'm back teaching again)
Biology, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Squirrel Colony Director 
Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Medical College of Wisconsin 


Office: Halsey 249   
Phone: (920) 424-3076  
2022 was a banner year for the UW Oshkosh Squirrel Colony. We began a partnership with Fauna Bio LLC to promote novel research into possible medical applications of "extreme physiology" among mammals, including mammalian hibernation. In August, Fauna Bio's visit to UW Oshkosh celebrated this unique relationship. 
The Squirrel Colony's ability to provide access to hibernators to scientists everywhere and expert advice for their care and use, the NIH has highlighted its expanded efforts in comparative genomics, including our species, for studies of hibernation and vision. You can find out more about comparative genomics here.

I joined the faculty at UW-Oshkosh in September 1998 as a member of the Department of Biology.  I retired from service in June 2021, but continue to do NIH-funded and contract research.


Over my 23 years at UWO, I have taught a number of courses for the Department and for the College of Letters & Science, including freshman English Composition (WBIS) and a Quest II University Studies Program course.  In 2017, I co-taught a new doctoral course (with Dr. Kurtz) for the College of Nursing's accelerated Nurse Anesthetist degree program. 


I developed 4 new undergraduate courses for the campus (Neurobiology, Healthcare Orientation, Right & Wrong of Healthcare Science, and Biology of Gender; the latter was cross-listed with Women & Gender Studies). I have also contributed substantial leadership for several new degree programs (the Neuroscience Minor, Healthcare Emphases in four departments, and the Environmental Health major). I designed and for its first six years directed the Radiologic Science major, which went live in Fall 2012 and has expanded to include Sonography. 

I played a major role in campus-wide academic advising of students interested in healthcare-related careers, including the keynote address at Health Science Titan Preview  

each fall.  

My lab's research in the ground squirrel visual system has been funded by WiSys, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  Our work is conducted in collaboration with scientists at major research institutions across the nation. See my most recent publications here.

My 13-lined ground squirrel captive breeding colony is a unique national resource.  Here is a partial list of publications deriving from the colony (link).   

My research assistants (mostly undergraduates) have presented their research at regional and national venues, including the annual meetings of the Chicago Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience and the Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology.   In January 2013, we hosted the Hibernation 2.0 meeting that drew participants from the US and Canada.


I retired in June 2021 but returned to work part-time to fulfill research grant objectives and to teach here and there when my Department needs this. 


Sept 2020: The journal Nature reviews our work on stem cells from non-traditional animal models.  


A few of my interests

Super-cool paper about yet another role for cellular mitochondria (not just for ATP!): Vision scientists discover new angle on path of light through photoreceptors | National Institutes of Health (NIH) 

PrettyChatNFCalret.jpg    DifferentAgedLittersCombined

Ground squirrel visual system (retinas with 85% cones that undergo seasonal remodeling) and ground squirrel reproductive biology (in captivity, unrelated mothers co-raise different-aged young successfully... so is this truly an "asocial" sciurid species?)

Link to 13LGS genome resource within MCW's Rat Genome Database

Perfectly preserved 30,000 year old Ice Age ground squirrel discovered in Alaska. It seems to have been a young one that died during its very first hibernation, something that happens a lot in the wild even today. 


  LabAnimalCover2012.jpg    CellCoverDec2017  Smaller_OuEtAl2018CellVol173cover 



The colony's journal covers, so far: 

  • Lab Animal November 2012 
  • Cell May 3, 2018... profiled in Science (link) and by NIH (link)
  • Current Biology September 2019

Human hibernation?  Washington Post article (link)  


Stress Physiology; it's no joke for the "Stone Age body in the Space Age"


"Wildling" rodent models.   The microbiome is a cornerstone of the "Square of Control" that I taught all of my physiology students over the years.  Here is a fascinating article of microbiome-immune system interaction and its importance to improving translational research. 





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by merriman last modified Apr 24, 2023 10:22 AM
Contributors: ledwell