Sarah Jane Alger, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

Office: TNR 439
Phone: (715) 346-2018


Ph.D., Zoology – University of Wisconsin – Madison (2010)
M.S., Biometry – University of Wisconsin – Madison (2010)
B.A., Biology with International Studies Emphasis – Macalester College (1998)


Biology 381 – Animal Physiology
Biology/Psychology 388 – Animal Behavior
Biology 490 – Senior Seminar   

Professional Affiliations

Animal Behavior Society
Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology
Society for Neuroscience

Honors and Awards

2017 University Excellence in Teaching Award, UWSP
2016 Biology Department Excellence in Teaching Award, UWSP

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the physiology of behavior in animals and in science communication. Within this framework, the Alger Lab has a number of ongoing research areas.

Reproductive Behavior in Zebra Finches
The zebra finch is a monogamous songbird species that forms lifelong pair bonds. We are interested in the physiology and behaviors associated with the formation and maintenance of these pair bonds. Projects have investigated dominance and compatibility in mate choice, behavioral and vocal changes during pair bond formation, white noise effects on pair bond maintenance, and neural responses to mates versus non-mates.

Stress Behavior in Retired Research Primates
In collaboration with Primates Incorporated, a research primate retirement sanctuary in Westfield, Wisconsin, we use non-invasive methods to investigate means of reducing stress in the sanctuary residents. We are currently exploring possible benefits of probiotic administration on the gut microbiome, stress hormones, and stress behaviors in rhesus monkeys.

Science Communication
Most mating terms are well defined and consistently applied. However, the term "promiscuous" appears to be used differently in different contexts and in reference to different species. We are quantifying and analyzing the use of the term "promiscuous" in primary and secondary journal articles.

Select Publications

2018Pultorak, J.D., Alger, S.J., Loria, S.O., Johnson, A.M., and Marler, C.A. (2018). Changes in behavior and ultrasonic vocalizations during pair bonding and in response to an infidelity challenge in monogamous California mice. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6(125): 1-15.
2016 Alger, S.J., Larget, B. and Riters, L.V. (2016). A novel statistical method for behaviour sequence analysis and its application to birdsong. Animal Behaviour, 116, 181-193.
2014 Fuxjager, M.J., Alger, S.J. and Marler, C.A. (2014). Hormonal mechanisms of animal behavior. In: K. Yasukawa, Z. Tang-Martinez (Eds.), Animal Behavior: How and Why Animals Do the Things They Do, Volume 1: Causation and Development of Animal Behavior, Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT.
20​11 Alger, S.J., Juang, C.*, Riters, L.V. (2011). Social affiliation relates to tyrosine hydroxylase immunolabeling in male and female zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 42(1):45-55.
2009 Alger, S.J., Maasch, S.N.*, Riters, L.V. (2009). Lesions to the medial preoptic nucleus affect immediate early gene immunolabeling in brain regions involved in song control and social behavior in male European starlings. European Journal of Neuroscience, 29(5), 970-982.
2006 Alger, S.J. and Riters, L.V. (2006). Lesions to the medial preoptic nucleus differentially affect singing and nest box-directed behaviors within and outside of a breeding context in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Behavioral Neuroscience, 120(6), 1326-1336.
2004 Riters, L.V. and Alger, S.J. (2004). Neuroanatomical evidence for indirect connections between the medial preoptic nucleus and the song control system: possible neural substrates for sexually motivated song. Cell and Tissue Research, 316:35-44.

Science Writing for the Public

I am lead author and editor for The Scorpion and the Frog, an independent weekly animal physiology and behavior blog aimed for the general public. The Scorpion and the Frog accepts guest submissions from students and others. Submission guidelines can be found here.

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