Iris Levin joined the Biology Department in 2019 following faculty appointments at Agnes Scott College and Grinnell College and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Colorado - Boulder. Levin received her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri - St. Louis, where she worked in the Galapagos Islands studying seabirds and their parasites. Levin is an integrative biologist, and she and her students currently study the behavior and evolutionary ecology of barn swallows.

Levin's current research tests hypotheses about how phenotypic traits (e.g., plumage color) structure social interactions and social networks, and how social feedback affects aspects of physiology (e.g., stress response, androgen levels). Research in the Levin lab involves a combination of local field work on barn swallows during the spring and summer and lab work during the academic year. Levin and her collaborators are about to start a large project investigating how social interactions, migratory behavior, phenotype and genomic ancestry contribute to reproductive isolation in two barn swallow hybrid zones in Asia.

Areas of Expertise

Behavioral ecology, evolutionary ecology, disease ecology. 


2012 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ of Missouri- St. Louis

2005 — Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College

Courses Recently Taught

This is the first laboratory course a student takes and is a prerequisite for all upper-division laboratory courses- required for the major. Students are introduced to the processes of investigative biology and scientific writing. Laboratories cover topics presented in the core lecture courses, BIOL 115 and 116, and introduce a variety of techniques and topics, including field sampling, microscopy, PCR, gel electrophoresis, enzyme biochemistry, physiology, evolution and population biology. The course emphasizes the development of inquiry skills through active involvement in experimental design, data collection, statistical analysis, integration of results with information reported in the literature and writing in a format appropriate for publication. The year culminates in six-week student-designed investigations that reinforce the research skills developed during the year. Evaluation is based on short reports, quizzes, lab performance and scientific papers, as well as oral and written presentations based on the independent project. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y and 115 or equivalent.

This course is a general introduction to animal behavior. We examine behavior within the framework of Tinbergen’s four areas of inquiry: causation (mechanisms), development, function and evolution (phylogeny), with an emphasis on behavioral ecology and the process by which questions in animal behavior are answered. An important part of class is the reading and discussion of primary literature. This counts toward the upper-level environmental biology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: BIOL 115 or 116.

This course is an introduction to the study of animal behavior by observation and experimentation. Strong emphasis is placed on hypothesis formation, experimental design, testing and communicating findings in professional science writing. We work with a number of different animal species in both the field and the lab. Students should be aware that animals do not always "behave" in discrete, three-hour time periods, and that some work may have to be arranged outside of the regularly assigned class period. This counts toward the upper-level laboratory requirement. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y–110Y. Prerequisite or corequisite: BIOL 261.

This combined discussion and laboratory course aims to develop abilities for asking sound research questions, designing reasonable scientific approaches to answer such questions, and performing experiments to test both the design and the question. We consider how to assess difficulties and limitations in experimental strategies due to design, equipment, organism selected and so on. The course provides a detailed understanding of selected modern research equipment. Students select their own research problems in consultation with one or more biology faculty members. This course is designed both for those who plan to undertake honors research in their senior year and for those who are not pursuing honors but want practical research experience. A student can begin the course in either semester. If a year of credit is earned, it may be applied toward one laboratory requirement for the major in biology. This course is repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y–110Y and 116 and permission of instructor.

This course offers an in-depth research experience. Prior to enrollment in this course, students are expected to complete at least one semester of BIOL 385 and participate in the Summer Science Scholars program. Two semesters of BIOL 385 are recommended. Emphasis is on completion of the research project. Students also are instructed in poster production and produce one or more posters of their honors work for presentation at Kenyon and possibly at outside meetings. There are oral progress reports, and students draft the introduction and methods section of the honors thesis. The letter grade is determined by the instructor and project advisor in consultation with the department. Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.33 and a GPA of 3.33 in biology. Permission of instructor and department chair required. Prerequisite: BIOL 385 and permission of project advisor and department chair.

Hosts, pathogens and vectors are parts of complex ecosystems. To understand the impacts of disease, this course examines the effects of disease on ecosystems (including humans) and explores the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive disease dynamics. Diseases do not follow national boundaries, but disease incidence and mitigation approaches differ dramatically by country and continent. Thus, exploring ecological systems and disease dynamics requires a global approach. This course includes case studies, problem-based learning and discussions that focus on the global aspects of disease. Also emphasized are global change (climate change; urbanization and development; movement of people, animals and pathogens; and habitat loss and alteration) and impacts on emerging and re-emerging diseases. This counts toward the upper-level environmental biology requirement in the biology major and as an additional living systems elective in the environmental studies major. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. Prerequisite: BIOL 115 or ENVS 112 and sophomore standing.