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Donna Holmes

Donna Holmes

Associate Clinical Professor


Gibb Hall 238



Mailing Address

University of Idaho
Department of Biological Sciences | WWAMI Medical Education Program
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3051
Moscow, Idaho 83844-3051

  • Postdoctoral experience, Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; University of Medicine and Dentistry, Newark, New Jersey (1986–1993)
  • Ph.D., Biology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio: 1987
  • M.S., Biology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio: 1980

  • Evolution and comparative biology of aging and longevity
  • Life-history evolution, especially physiological trade-offs between development, reproduction and longevity in vertebrates
  • Human health and aging-related disease in evolutionary context; menopause and health in women
  • Ovarian aging in female vertebrates
  • Effects of prenatal environment and maternal health on offspring fitness and lifespan

I’m an evolutionary biologist interested in biological and clinical aspects of aging and life-history evolution. I earned my Ph.D. in animal behavior from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and received postdoctoral training at Harvard University and New Jersey Medical School. My research since then has focused generally on how animals ─ including humans ─ make developmental and physiological tradeoffs between reproduction, health and longevity. In the 1990s, I participated in laboratory studies examining how some long-lived animals, like birds, prevent aging-related oxidative damage to their cells and tissues. More recent research in my lab has focused on the effects of prenatal hormones on health in adult birds, reproductive aging in female animals (including humans), and the impact of menopause on women’s health as viewed in evolutionary context. 

In my research and writing, I explore ways of translating evolutionary themes and other aspects of the biology of aging to non-specialists, to assist them in understanding patterns of aging and disease risk across the human life course, as well as changes in longevity and health over the course of human history. I am the co-editor of a multi-authored textbook in preparation for Springer Press, featuring evolutionary medical perspectives on human health, entitled Evolution and Human Health Across the Life Span, with Grazyna Jasienska and Diana Sherry.

I worked here in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Idaho from 1993 to 2005, and recently moved back after a decade at Washington State University. I’m working with the University of Washington and the WWAMI Medical Education program to develop a new life-cycle curriculum that includes aging, geriatric medicine and end-of-life issues. I have also taught evolution and society, biology of aging, women’s biology, and general zoology. I am the 2016 Chair-elect of the Gerontological Society of America, Biological Sciences Section, and I serve on the Executive Committee and Editorial Board of the American Aging Association.

  • Holmes D.J., and Cohen A.A. 2014. Overview: Aging and Gerontology. Reference Module inBiomedical Sciences. Elsevier. 15-Oct-14 doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.00149-5.
  • Cohen A.A., and Holmes D.J. 2014. Evolution and the Biology of Aging. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences. Elsevier. 15-Oct-14 doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.00032-5.
  • Holmes D.J. 2014. Sex and Gender Differences in Life Span, Aging, and Health. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences. Elsevier. 15-Oct-14 doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-801238-3.00161-6.
  • Holmes, D.J.  Extreme aging: implications for women’s health in the post-menopausal lifespan. In D. Sherry, G. Jasienska, and D.J. Holmes, Editors. Evolution and Human Health across the Life Span. Springer Press (in press for 2017).
  • Schwabl, H., D.J. Holmes, R. Strasser and A. Scheuerlein. 2012. Effects of prenatal androgens on life-history trajectories of captive house sparrows. AGE: Journal of the American Aging Association 34(1):87-94. (Published online March 2011).
  • Finch, C.E. and D.J. Holmes. 2010. Ovarian aging in developmental and evolutionary contexts. Special Issue: Demography and Aging. M. Weinstein and K. O’Connor (Eds). Annals of New York Academy of Sciences 1204 (2010): 82-94 (Proceedings of Workshop on Reproductive Aging, Georgetown University, June 2008).
  • Holmes, D.J. and L.C. Lavine. 2009. Cockroaches, apoptosis, and the evolution of reproductive aging. News and Commentary. Heredity 103:192-193.
  • Holmes, D.J. and Kathy Martin. 2009. Special Reviews in Ornithology. A bird’s-eye view of aging: What’s in it for ornithologists? The Auk, International Journal of Ornithology 126(1):1-23.
  • Holmes, D.J. 2008. The fires of aging. Review of C.E. Finch, The Biology of Human Longevity. Science 319:1044-45.
  • Reznick, D., M. Bryant, D. Holmes. 2006. The evolution of senescence and post-reproductive lifespan in guppies (Poecilia reticulata). PLoS Biology 3(1):135-143. 
  • D.J. Holmes and M.A. Ottinger. 2006. Wild and domestic birds as models for the biology of aging. M. Conn, Ed., Handbook of Models for Human Aging. Elsevier Press.
  • D.J. Holmes and M.A. Ottinger. 2003. Birds as long-lived animal models for the study of aging. Experimental Gerontology 38:1365-1375.
  • D.J. Holmes. 2003. Aging in birds. In Osiewacz, H. (Ed.) Aging in Organisms, pp. 201-219, Kluwer Press, Amsterdam.
  • D.J. Holmes, S.L. Thomson, J. Wu and M.A. Ottinger. 2003. Reproductive aging in female birds. Experimental Gerontology, 38(7): 751-756. 
  • D.J. Holmes. 2002. Mole-rats take aging underground. Commentary, BioMedNet Online Magazine, Nov.
  • Ogburn, C.E., G.M. Martin, M.A. Ottinger, D.J. Holmes, K. Carlberg and S.N. Austad. 2001. Exceptional cellular resistance to oxidative damage in long-lived birds requires active gene expression. Journals of Gerontology: Biological Sciences 56A:B1-7.
  • D.J. Holmes, R. Flückiger, and S.N. Austad. 2001. Biology of aging in birds: an update. Experimental Gerontology 36:869-883. 
  • Austad, S.N. and D.J. Holmes. 1999. Evolutionary approaches to probing aging mechanisms. In B.P. Yu (Ed.). Methods in Aging Research. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida. 
  • Ogburn, C.E., S.N. Austad, D.J. Holmes, J.V. Kiklevich. K. Galleon, G.M. Martin. 1998. Cultured renal epithelial cells from birds and mice: Enhanced resistance of avian cells to oxidative stress and DNA damage. Journal of Gerontology, Biological Sciences 53A:B287-292.
  •  Holmes, D.J. and S.N. Austad. 1995. Birds as animal models for the comparative biology of aging: A prospectus. Journal of Gerontology, Biological Sciences 50A:59-66.

  • Chair-elect, Biological Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America, 2014 (for 2015-2016)
  • Keynote Speaker, Graduate Student Senate and Shanklin Awards, Bowling Green State University, 2014
  • Award for Leadership and Service, Biological Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America, 2011
  • Secretary (elected), 2008-2011, Biological Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America
  • Board of Directors, American Aging Association (AGE), 2009-2015 (elected)
  • Fellow (elected), 2004, Biological Science Sections, Gerontological Society of America
  • Member, Center for Reproductive Biology, Washington State University, 2002
  • Presidential Symposium, “Female Reproductive Aging: Biology and Ideology,” National Meeting, Gerontological Society of America, 2001 (Awarded competitively and funded by National Institute on Aging)
  • Alumni Association Award for Faculty Excellence, University of Idaho, 1998
  • Nominee, Accomplished Graduate, Graduate College, Bowling Green State University, 1994
  • Finalist, Bunting Science Scholars Fellowship, Radcliffe College, 1990
  • First Prize, Charles F. Shanklin Awards for Research Excellence in Science and Mathematics, Bowling Green State University, 1986 


Department of Biological Sciences

Physical Address:
Life Sciences South 252

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3051
Moscow, ID 83844-3051

Phone: 208-885-6280

Fax: 208-885-7905


Web: Department of Biological Sciences