Kelly Willemssens

Kelly Willemssens

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Degree PhD in NRES (Applied Ecology)
Address 243b North Hardin Hall
3310 Holdrege Street
Lincoln NE
Phone 402-472-0825
FAX 402-472-2946
Advisor(s) Leon Higley



Selected Presentations

Soil preferences of Nicrophorus beetles and the effects of compaction on burying behavior
  • Presentation Type: Thesis Defense
  • Date: 3/19/2015
  • Abstract:

    The American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus Olivier, is the largest North American member of the Silphidae. It was declared federally endangered in 1989 and many efforts to prevent this species from going extinct are ongoing. The Nicrophorus beetles bury small carcasses for reproductive purposes. They also reside in the soil during times of daily and seasonal inactivity. To better understand why the American burying beetle is in decline, the importance of texture, moisture, vegetation, and gravel, the burial depth, and the effect of compaction on their burying behavior were examined.


  • 2019 – Meritorious Graduate Student awarded by School of Natural Resources, UNL 
  • 2019 – Teaching Assistant Holling Family Award awarded by Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources  IANR and NCTA are proud of their reputation for teaching excellence, and are continually striving to improve their quality. Preparing individuals in the agricultural sciences and natural resources for the 21st century requires continuous academic and extension education program revitalization, educational material development and educational programming enhancement and innovation. The Holling Family Award Program for Teaching Excellence in Agriculture and Natural Resources was established to celebrate imaginative educational programming and innovations (presentation and delivery) in IANR or NCTA educational programs.
  • 2018 – Milton E. Mohr Fellowship awarded by UNL center for Biotechnology  The Milton E. Mohr Awards Program recognizes outstanding students in the sciences of biotechnology and engineering based on their academic performance and potential for accomplishments in their specific field.
  • 2018 – Science Slam - First place awarded by Nebraska MRSEC  Behind the scenes of Yellowstone National Park - Doctoral research on extreme tiger beetles (Cicindela h. haemorrhagica) living near the thermal pools of Yellowstone National Park.
  • 2017 – SNR GSA Travel Grant awarded by School of Natural Resources -Graduate Student Association  The School of Natural Resources Graduate Student Association travel grant supports graduate students traveling to a conference to present their scholarly work OR for research-related travel
  • 2016 – UNL Science Slam - Finalist awarded by Nebraska MRSEC  Title: "Why Science is Cool: Pollution in Greenland" Topic: Undergraduate research on the effect of the melting of polar ice caps on the lakes and macro-invertebrates in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
  • 2016 – Elevator Speech Contest - Ph.D. First Prize awarded by School of Natural Resources  Title: Feeding in 160°C, How do they do it? Topic: Ph.D. research on the ecology of Cicindela haemorrhagica in the extreme environments of the thermal pools in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Professional Organizations

Notable Websites

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