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Donna J Holmes Associate Clinical Professor


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.


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  • Donna J Holmes