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Melissa Cordes

Job Title

  • Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
    Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences

Started at Bethel



  • Wisconsin Lutheran College - B.S., 2007
  • University of Wisconsin - Ph.D., 2015

Research interests

Dr. Cordes is interested in the neural integration of social cues and communication in European starlings as well as the possible rewarding properties of androgens.


Dr. Cordes recently completed her PhD program, focusing on the neuroscience involved in the social cues that affect communication in starlings. This research will ideally affect the way we understand autism and the missing cues for effective communication. Her projects have included investigating the steroid hormone receptor role in resource dependent behavior via immunohistochemistry, as well as molecular work examining gene expression profiles between dominant and subordinate individuals. She is also pursuing hormonal manipulations to determine the effects of steroid hormones on the opioid and dopamine systems. Dr. Cordes is also interested in the rewarding properties of androgens, and post transcriptional modifications of hormone receptor genes, e.g. methylation.

Courses Taught

  • BIO118 General Biology
  • GES309 Biology of the Mind
  • BIO/PSY130 Introduction to Neuroscience
  • BIO216/217 Human Physiology
  • BIO399 Introduction to Research


Cordes, M.A., Stevenson, S.A., Driessen, T.M., Eisinger, B.E., Riters, L.V. (2014). Sexually motivated song is predicted by androgen-and opioid-related gene expression in the medial preoptic nucleus of male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Behavioral Brain Research.

Cordes, M.A., Stevenson, S.A., Riters, L.V. (2014). Status-appropriate singing behavior, testosterone and androgen receptor immunolabeling in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Hormones and Behavior.

Riters, L.V., DeVries, M.S., Cordes, M.A., Rodriguez, J. D., Stevenson, S.A. (accepted pending revision). Neural endocannabinoid CB1 receptor expression, social status, and behavior in male European starlings. Neuroscience.

Kelm-Nelson, CA., Stevenson, S. A., Cordes, M.A., and Riters, L.V. (2013). Modulation of male song by naloxone in the medial preoptic nucleus. Behavioral Neuroscience.

Riters, L.V., Ellis, J.M.S., Angyal, C.S., Borkowski, V., Cordes, M.A., Stevenson, S.A. (2013). Links between breeding readiness, opioid immunolabeling, and the affective state induced by hearing male courtship song in female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) Behavioral Brain Research.

Riters, L.V., Stevenson, S.A., DeVries, M.S., Cordes., M.A., (2014). Reward associated with singing behavior correlates with opioid-related gene expression in the medial preoptic nucleus in male European starlings. PlosOne.

Merullo, D., Cordes., M.A., Stevenson, S.A., Riters., L.V., (2015). Neurotensin immunolabeling relates to sexually-motivated song and other social behaviors in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) Behavioral Brain Research.

DeVries, M.S., Stevenson, S.A., Cordes, M.A., Riters., L.V., (2015). Differential relationships between D1 and D2 dopamine receptor expression in the medial preoptic nucleus and sexually-motivated song in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) Neuroscience.

Merullo, D., Cordes, M.A., Stevenson, S.A., Riters., L.V., (2015). Neurotensin neural mRNA expression correlates with vocal communication and other highly-motivated social behaviors in male European starlings Physiology & Behavior.

Professional Organizations, Committees, and Boards

Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Society for Neurosceince