Josh Pultorak

Josh Pultorak
Interdisciplinary undergraduate science education with an emphasis on experimental biology.

Years at WID

2014 - present


Scientist and educator by day, musician by night, and citizen of the cosmos always. Josh recently completed his PhD from the Department of Integrative Biology at UW-Madison and is a former Marie Christine Kohler Interdisciplinary Fellow @WID. When not in the classroom or lab, he’s likely to be found performing as a percussionist in a handful of world music groups in town, or listening to podcasts on artificial intelligence, free will, complexity science, or something of the like.


  • B.A., Zoology, Miami University
  • B.A., Psychology, minor in Neuroscience, Miami University
  • Ph.D., Zoology, University of Wisconsin–Madison  

Research Description

Research over the last several decades indicates that species exhibiting “genetic” monogamy are exceedingly rare in nature, despite numerous examples of “socially” monogamous animals. Unlike most rodents, the California mouse is strictly monogamous in the wild, making it an excellent model to study mechanisms of mammalian mate fidelity. Josh's PhD research examined how hormones and the social environment interact to produce adaptive behavior in this species, including pair bond regulation and mate fidelity, with a special focus on ultrasonic communication. Given the widespread use of rodents in both basic and clinical research, measures incorporating ultrasonic vocalizations are becoming increasingly common for a variety of uses. One such use is to assess functional communication deficits in rodent models of communicative disorders. Josh’s secondary research focus sought to understand the neuropathology of Parkinson’s disease as it relates to speech deficits in an effort to devise effective new treatments. Projects involve assessment of vocal signal abnormalities in a PINK1 gene knock-out rat model of Parkinson’s disease and assessment of possible communicative impacts manifest from these vocal deficits via ultrasonic playback. In addition to basic biology, Josh's research interests include the positive impacts of active learning in undergraduate science education.


  • The Handphibians
  • Panchromatic Steel
  • No Name String Band
  • Hormones and Behavior Society
  • Animal Behaviour Society
  • Human Behavior and Evolution Society
  • Marie Christine Kohler Fellows @WID (2014-2017)


  • Marie Kohler Fellow, 2014-2017
  • University of Wisconsin Communications B Teaching Fellow, 2014
  • Howard Hughes Intern, 2008

Selected Publications

  • Pultorak, J.D., Matusinec, K., Miller, Z.K., and Marler, C.A. 2017. Ultrasonic vocalization production and playback predicts intra-pair and extra-pair social behavior in a monogamous mouse. Animal Behaviour. 125, 13-23.
  • Pultorak, J.D., Kelm-Nelson, C.A., Blue, K.V., Holt, L.R., Ciucci, M.R., and Johnson, A.M. 2016. Decreased approach behavior and nucleus accumbens immediate early gene expression in response to Parkinsonian ultrasonic vocalizations in rats. Social Neuroscience. 11(4), 365-379.
  • Pultorak, J.D., Fuxjager M.J., Kalcounis-Rueppell M.C., and Marler, C.A. 2015. Male fidelity expressed through rapid testosterone suppression of ultrasonic vocalizations to novel females in the monogamous California mouse. Hormones and Behavior. 70, 47-56.
  • Grant, L.M., Kelm-Nelson, C.A., Hilby, B.L., Blue, K.V., Rajamanickam, E.S., Pultorak, J.D., Fleming, S.M., and Ciucci, M.R. 2015. Evidence for early and progressive ultrasonic vocalization and oromotor deficits in a PINK1 gene knockout rat model of Parkinson's disease. Journal of Neuroscience Research. 93, 1713-1727.
  • Costello A.K., Pultorak J.D., and Meikle D.B. 2009. Do male house mice (Mus musculus) discriminate between females that differ in nutritional status? Behavioural Processes. 82, 119-125.