Sofia Ortega

Assistant Professor- Reproductive Physiology




Office Location

Animal Sciences

1675 Observatory Drive, Office 758

Madison, WI 53706

Dr. Ortega is originally from Honduras where she completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Sciences at Zamorano Agricultural University in 2003. For the next five years she worked managing the first bull stud in Honduras owned by the Cattlemen Fund of Honduras. From 2009-2011 she completed a Master of Sciences in Animal Sciences from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile studying Kappa-Casein genotypes and their effects in milk and cheese production in Montbeliarde-Holstein cattle. She later moved to the US and did a Ph.D.  in Animal Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Florida from 2012-2016, focusing on the genetic control of reproduction and embryonic development in dairy cattle. In 2017, she joined The University of Missouri as a postdoctoral fellow studying mechanisms involved in pregnancy establishment in cattle using systems biology and genetic engineering approaches. She continued at the University of Missouri from 2019-2022 as an Assistant professor of Reproductive Physiology, studying male influences on pregnancy establishment. In August 2022, Dr. Ortega was recruited to the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Assistant Professor of Reproductive Physiology to continue with her line of research. Her program focuses on the genetic regulation of fertility with an emphasis in preimplantation embryonic development and placentation in the bovine. She uses novel genomic approaches including gene editing, to investigate the effect of reproduction-related genes on development and physiology. The long-term goal of her program is to identify key variants and mechanisms associated with pregnancy establishment and use that information to improve reproduction and genetic selection for fertility in cattle.


Selected Peer Reviewed Articles 

Ortega MS, Bickhart DM, Clark KN, Null DJ, Hutchison JL, McClure, Cole JB. (2021) Truncation of IFT80 causes early embryonic loss in cattle. doi: Journal of Dairy Science.2022-21853

Jeensuk S, Ortega MS, Saleem M, Hawryluk B, Scheffler TL, Hansen PJ. (2022) Actions of WNT family member 5A to regulate characteristics of development of the bovine preimplantation embryo. Biology of Reproduction.

Ortega MS*, Rizo JA, Drum JN, O’Neil EV, Pohler KG, Kerns K, Schmelze A, Green JA, Spencer TE. (2022) Development of an improved in vitro model of bovine trophectoderm differentiation. Frontiers in Animal Science.

Drum JN, Madureira G, Macedo MC, Rosa C, Seneda M, Campos D, Wiltbank MC, Sartori R, Ortega MS* (2022) Sexual dimorphism of in vitro derived conceptus at day 32 of pregnancy. Frontier in animal sciences. doi: 10.3389/fanim.2022.807217.

Simintiras CA, Drum JN, Hongyu L, Stoecklein KS, Ortega MS, Spencer TE (2021) Uterine lumen fluid is metabolically semi-autonomous. Communications Biology COMMSBIO-21-1882A.

Sosa F, Carmickle AT, Jiménez-Cabán E, Ortega MS, Dikmen S, Negrón-Pérez V, Jannaman EA, Baktula A, Rincon G, Larson CC, Pagán-Morales M, Denicol AC, Sonstegard TS, Hansen PJ. (2021) Inheritance of the SLICK1 allele of PRLR in cattle. Anim Genet. 2021 Oct 12. doi: 10.1111/age.13145.

Stoecklein KS, Ortega MS*, Spate LD, Murphy CN, Prather RS. (2021) Improved cryopreservation of in vitro produced bovine embryos using FGF2, LIF, and IGF1. PloS ONE.

Ortega MS*, Kelleher AM, O’Neil EV, Benne J, Cecil R, Spencer TE. (2020). NANOG is required to form the epiblast and maintain pluripotency in the bovine embryo. Molecular Reproduction and Development. 87: 152-160.

O’Neil EV, Brooks K, Burns GW, Ortega MS, Denicol AC, Aguiar LH, Pedroza GH, Benne J, Spencer TE. (2020) Prostaglandin-endoperoxidase synthase 2 is not required for preimplantation ovine conceptus development in sheep. Molecular Reproduction and Development. 87: 142-151.

Ortega MS, Moraes JGN, Patterson DJ, Smith MF, Behura SK, Poock S, Spencer TE. (2018) Influences of sire conception rate on pregnancy establishment in dairy cattle. Biology of Reproduction. ioy141.

Ortega MS, Kurian JJ, McKenna R, Hansen PJ. (2017) Characteristics of candidate genes associated with embryonic development in the cow: Evidence for a role for WBP1 in development to the blastocyst stage. PLoS One. 12:e0178041.

Ortega MS, Denicol AC, Cole JB, Null DJ, Taylor JF, Schnabel RD, Hansen PJ. (2017) Association of single nucleotide polymorphisms in candidate genes previously related to genetic variation in fertility with phenotypic measurements of reproductive function in Holstein cows. Journal of Dairy Science. 100:3725-3734.

Ortega MS, Wohlgemuth S, Tribulo P, Siqueira LGB, Null DJ, Cole JB, Da Silva MV, Hansen PJ. (2017) A single nucleotide polymorphism in COQ9 affects mitochondrial and ovarian function and fertility in Holstein cows. Biology of Reproduction, 96:3, 652-663. doi: 10.1093/biolre/iox004.

Ortega MS, Rocha-Frigoni NAS, Mingoti GZ, Roth Z, Hansen PJ. (2016) Modification of embryonic resistance to heat shock in cattle by melatonin and genetic variation in HSPA1L. Journal of Dairy Science, 99:9152–9164. doi:10.3168/jds.2016-11501.

Ortega MS, Denicol AC, Cole JB, Null DJ, Hansen PJ. (2016) Use of single nucleotide polymorphisms in candidate genes associated with daughter pregnancy rate for prediction of genetic merit for reproduction in Holstein cows. Animal Genetics, 47:288-297. doi: 10.1111/age.12420.

Selected Book Chapters

Reproductive Management and Genetic Selection. Giordano JO*, Ortega MS*. (2021) Integrated Management of Intensive Dairy Systems. IRAC. Cordoba, Argentina. ISBN: 978-987-4428-11-0

Production and Culture of the Bovine Embryo. Tríbulo P, Rivera RM, Ortega MS, Jannaman EA, Hansen PJ. (2019) Comparative Embryo Culture. Pages 115-129. Humana, New York, NY.

Ortega MS*. (2018) Identification of Genes Associated with Reproductive Function in Dairy Cattle. Animal Reproduction. 15:923-932.

Selected Conference Proceedings

Drum JN, Madureira G, Macêdo MCG, Rosa C, Seneda M, Campos DB, Wiltbank MC, Sartori R, Ortega MS* (2021) 54 Evidence of sexual dimorphism in transcriptome of in vitro- versus in vivo-derived bovine embryos. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 34, 262-262.

Clark KN, Ortega MS* (2021) 45 Paternal effects on early embryo development in bovine. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 34, 257-258.

Stoecklein KS, Drum NJ, García-Guerra A, Duran BJ, Moraes JGN, Spate LD, Prather RS, Ortega MS* (2021) 79 Cytokine supplementation to improve developmental competence of bovine embryos following slow-rate freezing. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 34, 276-276.

Fallon L, Clark KN, Ortega MS* (2021) 56 Paternal contributions to early embryonic stress affect development in the bovine. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 34, 263-264.

Ketchum JK, Perry GA, Epperson KM, Quail L, Ogg M, Zezeski AL, Rich JJ, Zoca SM, Kline AC, Andrews T, Ortega MS, Smith MF, Geary T (2021) Increased Preovulatory Estradiol Improves Pregnancy Success of Embryo Transfer in Beef Cows. Journal of Animal Science 99 (sup 3), 124-125.

Zoca SM, Walker J, Andrews T, Kline AC, Rich JJ, Epperson KM, Drum JN, Ortega MS, Perry GA (2021) Relationship between sire conception rate, sperm motility, sperm SERPINA5 relative concentration, and in vitro produced embryos in dairy bulls. Journal of Animal Science 99 (sup 3), 310-310.

Franco-Johannsen GA, Pereira MH, Ortega MS, Reese ST, Vasconcelos JL, Spencer TE, Pohler KG (2021) Sire field fertility does not correlate with sire conception rate (SCR) score. Journal of Animal Science 99 (sup 3), 304-305.

Stoecklein KS, Clark KN, Pohler KG, Ortega MS* (2021) Investigating differences in gene expression between in vitro-produced bovine embryos and parthenotes. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 33 (2), 138-138.

Clark KN, Drum JN, Rizo JA, Ortega MS* (2021) Effect of sire conception rate on bovine early embryo development. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 33 (2), 138-139.

Clark KN, Cole JB, Bickhart D, Null D, Hutchison J, Ortega MS* (2021) Validation of the candidate mutation responsible for embryonic lethality in Holstein haplotype 2 carriers Reproduction, Fertility and Development 33 (2), 155-155.

Stoecklein KS, Spate L, Murphy C, Ortega MS, Prather RS (2020) Improvement of bovine oocyte maturation in vitro through cytokine supplementation. Reproduction, Fertility and Development 32 (2), 222-222


University of Florida Research Foundation. License UF#- 12304 entitled, “Identification and Distribution of Slick-Haired Beef and Dairy Cattle”.

Society for the Study of Reproduction, Publications Committee

International Embryo Technology Society, Session Chair

Animal Reproduction Sciences Journal, Associate Editor

CABI Agriculture and Bioscience Journal, Associate Editor

Frontiers in Animal Sciences, Review Editor

Postdoctoral Research Poster Winner- The 14th Annual Gilbert S. Greenwald Symposium (2017)

Trainee competition runner up- SSR-ASAS Triennial Reproduction Symposium (2017)

Graduate Research Award- University of Florida Chapter of Sigma Xi (2017)

Student Research Competition Runner up- International Embryo Technology Society (2017)