Josh Pultorak

Josh Pultorak
Instructor, Tiny Earth
330 North Orchard Street, Room 4280
Madison WI 53715
Joined WID: 2014

Interdisciplinary undergraduate science education with an emphasis on experimental biology.


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., Psychology and Zoology, minor in Neuroscience, Miami University
  • Ph.D., Zoology, University of Wisconsin–Madison  
    • Certificate of Excellence in Research, Teaching and Learning. Delta Program, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Research Description

Josh acts as a mentor to dozens of undergraduate researchers involved in the global Tiny Earth initiative aimed at addressing the world’s antibiotic crisis. Research projects examine environmental influences on antibiotic activity in bacteria collected in Wisconsin soils. His PhD research (recently featured in National Geographic) primarily explored mechanisms of monogamy in California mice, specifically investigating how intersexual ultrasonic communication, hormones and the social environment interact to regulate pair bonding and mate fidelity. Secondary research efforts included biomedical applications, seeking to understand the neuropathology of Parkinsonism as it relates to vocal deficits in a PINK1 gene knock-out rat model of disease. More recently, Josh's research interests have dovetailed with his teaching passion, examining ‘threshold concept’ models of learning as well as positive impacts of active learning pedagogy in undergraduate biology education, particularly within CUREs (course-based undergraduate research experiences).


  • UW Depts. of Integrative Biology and Plant Pathology
  • Madison College (biology)
  • The Handphibians (Vice President), Panchromatic Steel, No Name String Band
  • Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER)


  • Marie Christine Kohler Interdisciplinary Fellow @WID
  • University of Wisconsin Communications B Teaching Fellow
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Intern