Colleen Miller

Graduate Student


Growing up in the Midwest United States, I always had an interest in the natural world around me and its inhabitants. As I grew older, my interest in the environment also grew. Finally, as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Zoology and German, I found my passion for ecological research. I gained experience in many related fields during my studies. These experiences included a field-based experimental study on the relationship between light pollution, nighttime warming and agricultural food web dynamics; an exploratory look into Icelandic midge population ecology through the lens of parasitism; and a museum internship in Triassic fossil preparation. Outside of my research, I also gained an academic foundation in a wide breath of biological subjects.

After four years of internships and classes, this varied background finally led me to my current interest: climate change ecology. By joining Dr. Benjamin Zuckerberg’s lab in 2015 as an undergraduate research assistant, I was able to pursue this interest fully. My undergraduate honors thesis focused on the relationship between climate variables and morphological characteristics of Northern Cardinals. Through collaboration with multiple institutions, I measured study skins to quantify this relationship both spatially and temporally. This research experience provided a basis for my M.S. graduate work with Dr. Zuckerberg.

Research Goals:

My research in the Zuckerberg lab will continue to explore the relationship between environmental variables and variation in morphological traits. I intend to expand upon my previous research to create a broader picture of the factors influencing morphology. Although climate change is a relevant influence on species and populations, land use and resource change is also a growing pressure. While including these factors, I plan to assess the constraints of morphological traits via physiological pressures in order to create a complete picture of variation. Through this research, I intend to contribute novel information to the field of climate change ecology, thereby providing a basis of knowledge for further research.


B.A. Zoology and German, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016. Honors Thesis: Northern Cardinal bill morphology variation modeled spatially and temporally in a climatic context.