Merlyn NielsenPhoto Merlyn Nielsen

Professor, Animal Breeding

A218j Animal Science Building
Lincoln, NE 68583-0908
Phone: (402)472-6406
Fax: (402)472-6362

Website: Small Animal Lab

Mini CV


  • Ph.D., Major Animal Breeding, Minor Statistics; Iowa State University, 1974. Advisor: R. L. Willham
  • M.S., Major Animal Breeding, Minor Statistics; Iowa State University, 1972. Advisor: R. L. Willham
  • B.S., Major Animal Science, Minor Mathematics; University of Nebraska, 1970.


  • Professor (1984-present) University of Nebraska
  • Associate Professor (1978-1984) University of Nebraska
  • Visiting Scientist (1982-1983) University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Assistant Professor (1974-1984) University of Nebraska
  • Graduate Assistant (1970-1974) Iowa State University


  • Pioneer Award, Beef Improvement Federation, 2014
  • Fellow, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, 2012
  • Appointed Kermit Wagner Professor of Animal Science, 2006
  • Holling Family Award for Teaching Excellence, UNL, 2005
  • Gamma Sigma Delta Award of Merit, UNL Chapter, 2003
  • Outstanding Scientist, Nebraska Chapter of Sigma Xi, 2002
  • American Society of Animal Science, Rockefeller Prentice Memorial Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics, 1999
  • Team Effort Award, IANR, UNL, 1993
  • Gamma Sigma Delta Research Award, UNL Chapter, 1992
  • Membership in Sigma Xi, 1976
  • Membership in Phi Kappa Phi, 1971
  • National Science Foundation Graduate Trainee, 1970-1973
  • Membership in Gamma Sigma Delta, 1969
  • Membership in Alpha Zeta, 1969


  • Genetic variation in energy utilization and in reproduction in beef cattle and mice as a laboratory species.
  • Selection to change feed energy requirements for maintenance, including selection to change heat loss using mice as experimental animals.
  • Genetic variation in response to stress and gut-performance parameters.
  • Identification of selection goals and selection methods, including phenotypic and molecular techniques.
  • Selection and crossbreeding strategies to improve efficiency of beef production.


  • ASCI 395D: Research Experience
    Semester: Summer and Fall
    Summary: Students will be placed in industry jobs with specific learning objectives declared before entering into employment. Experience in some aspect of animal agriculture.


  • Leamy, L.J., K. Elo, M.K. Nielsen, S. Thorn, W. Valdar, and D. Pomp. 2014.  Quantitative trait loci for energy balance traits in an advanced intercross line derived from mice divergently selected for heat loss.  PeerJ DOI 10.7717/peerj. 392.
  • Bhatnagar, A.S. and M.K. Nielsen. 2014.  Lifeclycle efficiency of mice divergently selected for heat loss.  J. Anim. Sci. 92:3237-3278.
  • Bhatnagar, A.S. and M.K. Nielsen. 2014.   Body composition and feed intake of reproducing and growing mice divergently selected for heat loss.  J. Anim. Sci. 92:1886-1894.
  • Bhatnagar, A.S. and M.K. Nielsen. 2014.  Lifetime reproductive performance and survival analysis of mice divergently selected for heat loss.  J. Anim. Sci. 92:477-484.
  • Nielsen, M.K., M.D. MacNeil, J.C.M. Dekkers, D.H. Crews, Jr., T.A. Rathje, R.M. Enns, and R.L. Weaber. 2013.  Life-cycle, total-industry genectic improvement of feed efficiency in beef cattle:  Blueprint for the Beef Improvement Federation.  Prof. Anim. Sci. 29:559-565.
  • Sojka, P.A., R.S. Griess, and M.K. Nielsen. 2013.  Locomotor activity and body temperature in selected mice lines differing greatly in feed intake. J. Anim. Sci. 91:3557-3563.
  • Howard, J.T., S.D. Kachman, M.K. Nielsen, T.L. Mader, and M.L. Spangler. 2013.  The effect of Myostatin genotype on body temperature during extreme temperature events. J. Anim. Sci. 91:3051-3058.
  • Murphy, T.W., J.M. McDonald, and M.K. Nielsen. 2013.  Hepatic mitochondrial efficiency in lines of mice differing in feed intake.  J. Anim. Sci. 91:2077-2082.
  • Rolfe, K.M., W.M. Snelling, M.K. Nielsen, H.C. Freetly, C.L. Ferrell, and T.G. Jenkins. 2011.  Genetic and phyenotypic parameter estimates for feed intake and other traits in growing beef cattle and opportunities for selection. J. Anim. Sci. 89:3452-3459.
  • Snelling, W.M., M.A. Allan, J.W. Keele, L.A. Kuehn, R.M. Thallman, G.L. Bennett, C.L. Ferrell, T.G. Jenkins, H.C. Freetly, M.K. Nielsen, and K.M. Rolfe. 2011.  Partial-genome evaluation of postweaning feed intake and efficiency of crossbred beef cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 89:1731-1741.
  • McDonald, J.M., J.J. Ramsey, J.L. Miner, and M.K. Nielsen. 2009.  Differences in mitochondrial efficiency between lines of mice divergently selected for heat loss. J. Anim. Sci. 87:3105-3113.
  • Zhou, Y., S. Zheng, W. Sprout, J. McDonald, and M.K. Nielsen. 2008.  Additional evidence showing an additive effect of glucocorticoid receptor polymorphisms on anxiety-type behavior, stress response and bodey weight in a population of mice with low heat loss backgrond. FASEB. 22:6-8.
  • McDonald, J.M. and M.K. Nielsen. 2007. Renewed selection for heat loss in mice: Direct responses and correlated responses in feed intake, body weight, litter size and conception rate. J. Anim. Sci. 85:658-666.
  • Xu, D., A. Buehner, J. Xu, T. Lambert, L. Meyerle, C. Nekl, M.K. Nielsen, and Y. Zhou. 2006.. A polymorphic glucocorticoid receptor in a mouse population may explain inherited altered stress response and increased anxiety-type behaviors. FASEB J. Express. doi: 10.1096/fj.06-5926fje:E1-E9.
  • Eggert, D.L., and M.K. Nielsen. 2006. Comparison of feed energy costs of maintenance, lean deposition, and fat deposition in three lines of mice selected for heat loss. J. Anim. Sci. 84:276-282.
  • McDonald, J.M, and M.K. Nielsen. 2006. Correlated responses in maternal performance following divergent selection for heat loss in mice. J. Anim. Sci. 84:300-304.
  • Cammack, K.M., M.K. Nielsen, K.A. Leymaster and T.G. Jenkins. 2005. Estimates of genetic parameters for feed intake, feeding behavior, and daily gain in composite ram lambs. J. Anim. Sci.83:777-785.
  • Leamy, L.J., K. Elo, M.K. Nielsen, L.D. Van Vleck, and D. Pomp. 2005. Genetic variance and covariance patterns for body weight and energy balance characters in an advanced intercross population of mice. Genet. Sel. Evol. 37:151-173.