Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Loren Merrill
Title: Research Affiliate
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Location: Urbana-Champaign


I am examining the effects of nest-site selection on a suite of physiological and parasitological parameters for 6 species of shrub-nesting birds along a habitat urbanization gradient. The goal of this research is to understand how nest-site location influences chick condition as well as parental investment, in three species that are declining in the state, and three species that are stable. 

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*Denotes undergraduate student author

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In Review

Grindstaff, J.L. & L. Merrill. Developmental corticosterone treatment does not program immune responses in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). In Review: Journal of Experimental Zoology  

Merrill, L., M.F. Naylor, M. Dalimonte*, S. McLaughlin*, T.E. Stewart, & J.L. Grindstaff. Early-life immune activation increases song complexity and alters phenotypic associations between sexual ornaments. In Revision: Functional Ecology

Levengood, J.M., J.C., Englund, L. Merrill, & H.M. Hagy. Prevalence of avian malaria in spring-migrating Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis). In Revision: American Midland Naturalist

Jones, T.M., L. Merrill, J.D. Brawn, S.E. Zachar, A.J. Di Giovanni, & M.P. Ward. Does phenotypic variation in the Dickcissel reflect honest signaling and parasite-mediated sexual selection? In Review: The Auk

 Published/In Press


Merrill, L., S.J. Chiavacci, R.T. Paitz, & T.J. Benson. Rates of parasitism, but not allocation of egg resources, vary among and within hosts of a generalist avian brood parasite. In press: Oecologia

Merrill, L. Novel terrestrial foraging behavior in the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps). In Press: Wilson Journal of Ornithology

Ellis, V.A., M.D. Collins, M.C.I. Medeiros, E.H.R. Sari, E.D. Coffey, R.C. Dickerson, M. Joyce, C. Lugarini, J.A. Stratford, D.R. Henry, L. Merrill, A. Matthews, A. Hanson, J. Roberts, M.R. Kunkel, & R.E. Ricklefs. (2017) Parasite prevalence is positively related to the relative abundance of host species at multiple sites within a region. Parasitology Research 116: 73-80





Merrill, L., E.M. Baehl*, K.E. Ripple, & T.J. Benson. (2016) Do birds alter levels of parental investment based on nest-site habitat features? Ethology 122:859-868

Merrill, L., M.F. Naylor, and J.L. Grindstaff. (2016) Imperfect past and present progressive: beak color reflects early life and adult exposure to antigen. Behavioral Ecology 27:1320-1330


Merrill, L., & J.L. Grindstaff. (2015) Pre and post-natal antigen exposure can program the stress axis of adult zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata): evidence for environment matching. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 45:71-79


Ellis, V.A., M.D. Collins, M.C.I. Medeiros, E.H.R. Sari, E.D. Coffey, R.C. Dickerson, M. Joyce, C. Lugarini, J.A. Stratford, D.R. Henry, L. Merrill, A. Matthews, A. Hanson, J. Roberts, M.R. Kunkel, & R.E. Ricklefs. (2015) Local host specialization, host-switching, and dispersal shape the regional distributions of avian haemosporidian parasites. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112:11294-11299

Merrill, L., P.L. González-Gómez, V.A. Ellis, I.I. Levin,R.A. Vásquez, & J.C. Wingfield. (2015) A blurring of life-history lines: immune function, molt and reproduction in a highly stable environment. General and Comparative Endocrinology 213:65-73

Ellis, V.A., S. Cornet, L. Merrill, M.R. Kunkel, T. Tsunekage, & R.E. Ricklefs. (2015) Host immune responses to experimental infection of Plasmodium relictum (lineage SGS1) in domestic canaries (Serinus canaria). Parasitology Research 114:3627-3636

Merrill, L., & P.M. Collins. (2015) Environment and sex-specific allocation strategies among gonadal, somatic and immune indices in a marine fish. Canadian Journal of Zoology 93:207-12

Merrill, L., T.E. Stewart*, P.L. Gonzalez-Gomez, J.C. Wingfield, V.A. Ellis, & S.I. Rothstein. (2015) Epaulet size and current condition in red-winged blackbirds: examining a semi-static signal, testosterone, immune function, and parasites. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 88:11-21

Stewart, T.E.*, & L. Merrill. (2015) Host sex and parasitism in Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus): examining potential causes of infection biases in a sexually dimorphic species. Canadian Journal of Zoology 93:21-29


Merrill, L. & J.L. Grindstaff. (2014) Maternal antibody transfer can lead to suppression of humoral immunity in developing zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 87: 740-751

Merrill, L. (2014) Chelydra serpentina (Snapping Turtle). Ritualized aggressive behavior. Herpetological Review 45: 686

Merrill, L., S.D. Levinson*, A.L. O’Loghlen, J.C. Wingfield, & S.I. Rothstein. (2014) Bactericidal capacity is negatively linked to epaulet size, but positively linked to baseline corticosterone in male Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). The Auk 131: 3-11


Merrill, L., A.L. O’Loghlen, J.C. Wingfield, & S.I. Rothstein. (2013) Linking a static signal to current condition: song repertoire size, corticosterone and immunity in the Brown-headed Cowbird. Condor 115: 434-441

Gonzalez-Gomez, P.L., L. Merrill, C. Venegas, J.I. Pantoja, R. Vasquez, V.A. Ellis, & J.C. Wingfield. (2013) Breaking down seasonality: androgen modulation and stress response in a highly stable environment. General and Comparative Endocrinology 191: 1-12

O’Loghlen, A.L., L. Merrill, & S.I. Rothstein. (2013) Fidelity of song imitation and stability of dialect songs in Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater). Condor 115:677-686

Merrill, L., A.L. O’Loghlen, J.C. Wingfield, & S.I. Rothstein. (2013) Immune function in an avian brood parasite and its non-parasitic relative. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 86: 61-72


Merrill, L., F. Angelier, A.L. O’Loghlen, S.I. Rothstein, & J.C. Wingfield. (2012) Sex-specific variation in Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) immunity following acute stress: a mechanistic approach. Oecologia 170: 25-38


Ellis, V.A.*, L. Merrill, S.I. Rothstein, A.L. O’Loghlen, & J.C. Wingfield. (2012) Physiological consequences of molt in Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater). The Auk 129: 231-238


O’Loghlen, A.L., V.A. Ellis*, D. Zaratzian*, L. Merrill, & S.I. Rothstein. (2011) Cultural evolution and long-term song stability in a dialect population of Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater). Condor 113: 449-461

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Postdoctoral Associate: Oklahoma State University (2012-2013)

Ph.D.: University of California, Santa Barbara (2012)

BS: Cornell University (2001)

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