Courtney Kurtz - Biology
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Courtney Kurtz, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biology

Phone: (920) 424-1076



Dr. Kurtz is trained as a physiologist and immunologist.  She also works extensively with cell protein biology.  The courses taught reflect these areas.
  • BIO 105 – Biological Concepts: Unity (Fall, odd years)
  • BIO 212 – Human Physiology (Fall, even years)
  • BIO 319/519 – General Animal Physiology (Spring)
  • BIO 323 – Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology (Fall, odd years)
  • BIO 374/574 – Cell/Immunology Laboratory (Fall)

Course Syllabi

This folder contains the course syllabi for Dr. Kurtz’s classes.

Click on a link below to download the most recent syllabus for each course.

Research Program

— last modified Jan 26, 2017 09:54 AM

My research program involves studies of the physiology of hibernation, using the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) as a model organism.  We are particularly interested in the mucosal immunology of hibernators.  Mucosal immunology is a specific branch of immunology that deals with immune responses at those sites of the body exposed to the outside world and separated from it by a single layer (or at most a few layers) of epithelial cells.  These sites are exposed to a number of “non-self” antigens, including commensal microbes, food antigens and pollen.  Mucosal sites of the body include the gastrointestinal tract (the largest mucosal site), the respiratory tract and the urogenital tract.  Immunity at mucosal sites is different than in the blood and systemic organs in that it mainly involves tolerant, suppressive responses rather than inflammatory ones.  The leukocytes of mucosal sites must be tolerant against harmless or commensal antigens while maintaining the ability to respond to pathogens that may infect the tissue.


13-lined Ground Squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus)

We examine this aspect of immunology in hibernators because dramatic differences are seen in the immune populations of these regions (Kurtz & Carey, 2007; Bohr et al., 2014).  During hibernation, the number of circulating immune cells is dramatically decreased but the number of immune cells in mucosal sites, particularly the gastrointestinal tract, increases.  The reason for this change is unknown, but studies have suggested an increased permeability in the mucosal epithelium of hibernators suggesting that more microbes or their products may be entering sterile tissue.  Despite this, the mucosal sites of hibernators show no signs of inflammatory disease.  We are currently examining whether immunosuppressive mechanisms are upregulated in these tissues during hibernation.

We also collaborate with other laboratories to examine the gut microbes (the microbiota) in hibernators (Dill-McFarland, 2014).  Large numbers of bacteria and other microbes inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of all animals and have significant effects on the immunology and physiology of the host.

More recently, we have also begun to explore the physiology and immunology of white adipose tissue (WAT, i.e., fat) in ground squirrels.  WAT has its own immune population and changes in this population are important for the development of diseases like obesity and metabolic syndrome.  Ground squirrels naturally become obese each active season.  By examining their WAT during this time, we hope to find correlations that will help us better understand human disease.