Rick Gillis, Professor of Biology



Phone: (608)-785-8253     E-Mail: rgillis@uwlax.edu              Office Hours ~ Spring 2016 


 Hiking With Dakota* in the Uinta Mountains of Utah ~ August 2012


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream" - Remember, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” ~ Mark Twain


*It is with a heavy heart that I need to report that Dakota passed away on 1 November 2013 due to some serious health issues; he was less than three years old, and his passing has saddened us greatly and left a great "hole" in our lives that has now been filled with another American Eskimo named "Montana"! 

Click here for the Montana at 8 weeks old or here for the a photo at 4 months old or here for two photos of Montana at 5 months old or here for the most recent one of him at 7 months old on his first camping trip out west.



I am a broadly trained zoologist with an interest in the ecology of whole organisms, particularly amphibians and reptiles. A good deal of my time is also committed to the continuing development and maintenance of the Animal Biology and Human Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory web sites as well as the Department of Biology web site.


If you would like to see some additional photos of me, my wife Gail (who teaches in the Management Department of the College of Business Administration here at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse), our two standard American Eskimo dogs (whom we loved very much but sadly passed away in April 2011) and the newest addition to "Our Family", a miniature American Eskimo named Dakota (who we are once again sad to report passed away on 1 November 2013 due to several serious health issues), click Here.


Over the past 15 years I have the opportunity to lead over a dozen Amazon River tours for a Florida-based tour company called Explorations Inc.  In addition to offering both jungle safaris and river boat tours to the Peruvian Amazon, the company also organizes trips to the Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, including spectacular Machu Picchu, as well as Costa Rica and some of the most important Mayan sites in Mexico and Central America. You can also visit their newer website at: Adventures Of Discovery.


For more information about these trips, contact Charlie Strader anytime toll free from the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico: (800)-446-9660.


To see some of the photos I have taken while conducting Amazon Tours, click on My Amazon Photo Album.


To see some of my favorite travel photos from other places, click on My Travel Photo Album.



   Ph.D. Zoology - Colorado State University, 1975

   M.S. Zoology - Colorado State University, 1968

  B.A. Spanish - University of Pennsylvania, 1965



Courses Taught Spring 2016


    Ecology (BIO 307 ~ Section 02)

    General Biology (BIO 105 ~ Section 03)

Organismal Biology Labs (BIO 203 ~ Sections L12 & L19)


Web Sites  


   Zoo Lab - A Resource for Animal Biology

   A & P Lab - A Resource for the Human Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory


Membership in Professional Societies

    American Institute of Biological Sciences

   Ecological Society of America

   Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles

   Society for the Study of Evolution

   Herpetologist's League

   Southwestern Association of Naturalists


Hobbies and Personal Interests

     Flying:  Private Pilot with Single Engine, Land, Seaplane, Glider and Instrument Ratings

    SCUBA Diving - SSI Advanced Open Water Diver

   Amateur Radio - General Class Operator's License (NYCM)

   Travel and Photography

   Hiking and Backpacking

Research Interests

My research interests in the past have centered broadly on such problems as the evolution and use of temperature regulation in cold-blooded organisms, amphibian water economy and the role of color and pattern in predator avoidance.  I am also interested in population ecology and the evolution of life history patterns, particularly of reptiles. More recently, I have become interested in several populations of terrestrial slugs that appear to be living in some local, spring-fed streams. Although my principal target organisms have been amphibians and reptiles, I have also worked with grasshoppers and bats.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Sandland, G.J., R. Gillis, R.J. Haro and P. Peirece. 2014. Infection patterns in invasive and native snail hosts exposed to a parasite associated with waterfowl mortality in the Upper Mississippi River, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 50: 125-129.

Sandland,G.J., S. Houk, B. Walker, R.J. Haro and R. Gillis. 2013. Differential patterns of infection and life-history expression in native and invasive hosts exposed to a trematode parasite. Hydrobiologia 701:89-98.

Haro, R. J.,  R. Gillis and S.T. Cooper. 2004. First report of a terrestrial slug(Arion fasciatus) living in an aquatic habitat. Malacologia 45:451-452.

Howe, G. E., R. Gillis and R. C. Mowbray. 1998. Effect of chemical synergy and larval stage on the toxicity of atrazine and alachlor to amphibian larvae. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 17:519-525.

Gillis, R. and R. E. Ballinger. 1992. Reproductive ecology of red-chinned lizards (Sceloporus undulatus erythrocheilus) in southcentral Colorado: comparisons with other populations of a wide ranging species.  Oecologia 89:236-243.

Gillis, R. 1991. Thermal biology of two populations of red-chinned lizards (Sceloporus undulatus erythrocheilus) from Colorado.  Journal of Herpetology 25:18-23.

Gillis, R. 1989. Selection for substrate reflectance-matching in two populations of red-chinned lizards (Sceloporus undulatus erythrocheilus) from Colorado. American Midland Naturalist 121:197-200.

Gillis, R. and P.A. Smeigh. 1987. Altitudinal variation in thermal behavior of the grasshopper Circotettix rabula. Southwestern Naturalist 32:203-211.

Gillis, R. and W. J. Breuer. 1984. A comparison of evaporative water loss and tolerance to dehydration in the red-eft and newt of Notophthalmus viridescens. Journal of Herpetology 15:81-82.

Gillis, R. and K. W. Possai. 1983. Thermal niche partitioning in the grasshoppers Arphia conspersa and Trimerotropis suffusa from a montane habitat in central Colorado. Ecological Entomologist 8:155-161.

Gillis, R. 1982. Substrate colour-matching cues in the cryptic grasshopper Circotettix rabula (Rehn & Hebard). Animal Behaviour 30:113-116.

Lysenko, S. and R. Gillis. 1980. Effect of ingestive status on thermoregulatory behavior of Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis and Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis.  Journal of Herpetology 14: 155-159.

Gillis, R. 1979. Adaptive differences in the water economies of two species of leopard frogs from eastern Colorado. Journal of Herpetology 13:445-450.

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If you have any questions about or additions to this page,  please contact: rgillis@uwlax.edu