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Department of Biology, West Chester University Print

The main office for the Department of Biology is located in Room 175 on the first floor of Schmucker Science North. If you have questions, you may contact us at: 610-436-2538

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Department of Biology, 730 South Church Street, West Chester University, West Chester, PA, 19383. 

 
Arctic Sedge Under Investigation Print

sedges

 

Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer received a Research Opportunity Award from the National Science Foundation to study the effects of climate change on a dominant sedge species in the Alaskan tundra in a project titled "An investigation of photosynthetic optima in locally adapted Eriophorum vaginatum ecotypes exposed to elevated temperature".  This research was a collaboration with scientists from Wilkes University, the Marine Biological Laboratory's Ecosystems Center, and the University of Texas at El Paso.

 

Dr. Schedlbauer and Biology undergraduate student Katherine Hood spent the summer of 2016 north of the Arctic Circle working on this project. The pair were based out of the Toolik Field Station, part of the University of Alaska Fairbank's Institute of Arctic Biology.  The station provides a summer home for arctic biologists from around the world in a remote part of Alaska that is shared by caribou, grizzly bears, and musk ox.

 

 
Biology Highlights 2016 Print

Dr. Frank Fish, presented a talk “Is there a hydrodynamic limit to the swimming speed of cetaceans?” at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology mid-Atlantic regional meeting of the Divisions of Vertebrate Morphology and Comparative Biomechanics that was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ on October 22, 2016.

Biology graduate student William Gough presented a talk “Micro-CT scanning the cetacean tail fluke” at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology mid-Atlantic regional meeting of the Divisions of Vertebrate Morphology and Comparative Biomechanics that was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ on October 22, 2016.

Biology graduate student Danielle Adams presented a talk “Density patterns within the tail flukes of the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)” at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology mid-Atlantic regional meeting of the Divisions of Vertebrate Morphology and Comparative Biomechanics that was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ on October 22, 2016.

Biology graduate student Kelsey Tennett presented a talk “The plight of the giant inchworm: Kinematics and energetics of the terrestrial locomotion of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)” at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology mid-Atlantic regional meeting of the Divisions of Vertebrate Morphology and Comparative Biomechanics that was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ on October 22, 2016.

Dr. Frank Fish, co-authored a paper “Hydrodynamic properties of fin whale flippers predict rolling performance” that was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, volume 219, pp. 3315-3320 (2016). The paper was published with Dr. Jeremy Goldbogen of Stanford University. 

Dr One Pagán published the following with former biology students DJ Bach, M Tenaglia, DL Baker, S Deats, and E Montgomery: Cotinine antagonizes the behavioral effects of nicotine exposure in the planarian Girardia tigrina. Bach DJ, Tenaglia M, Baker DL, Deats S, Montgomery E, Pagán OR. Neurosci Lett. 2016 Oct 6;632:204-8. 

Dr. Josh Auld and 9 other faculty were recognized at the first annual Spotlight on Research event held at the University Foundation on November 17, 2016.  West Chester University and APSCUF leadership in conjunction with State Senator Dinniman, celebrate the outstanding research contributions of faculty, who despite having significant teaching and service loads, are contributing nationally and internally to advancing scholarship and research in their fields of study. 

Dr. John Pisciotta was awarded the following grants: (1) College of Sciences and Mathematics Student Engagement Award to work with students to develop diagnostic metabolite transfer devices; and (2) Triano Faculty Development Award to study the effect of illumination and photosensitizers on microbial biofilm development

Dr. John Pisciotta and former WCU biology graduate student Jim Dolceamore Jr. published the following “Bioelectrochemical and Conventional Bioremediation of Environmental Pollutants” in the Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology. 8(4): 327-343.

Dr. John Pisciotta presented the following posters: (1) “Antibacterial Action of Copper Plus Blue Light” with former WCU biology undergraduate Nichole Russo; and (2) “Effect of Cathode Depth on Sediment Microbial Fuel Cell Performance” with WCU biology graduate student Paige Minka on June 19 & 20th, 2016 at the ASM Microbe National Meeting in Boston MA.

Dr. Josh Auld published the following: Auld, J. R., A. D. Helker & A. Kolpas. 2016. Consequences of mating and predation risk for longevity in a freshwater snail: Abstinence makes the heart beat longer. Journal of Evolutionary Biology in press

Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner published the following: (1) Frazier, T., Palmer, N., Xie, F., Tobias, C., Donze-Reiner, T., Bombarely, A., Childs, K., Shu, S., Jenkins, J., Schmutz, J., Zhang, B., Sarath, G., Zhao, B. (2016). Identification, characterization, and gene expression analysis of nb-lrr type resistance genes homologues in switchgrass. Accepted BMC Genomics. in press and (2) Scully, E., Donze-Reiner, T., Wang, H., Eickhoff, T., Baxendale, F., Twigg, P., Kovacs, F., Heng-Moss, T., Sattler, S. and Sarath, G., (2016). Identification of an orthologous clade of peroxidases that respond to feeding by greenbugs (Schizaphis graminum) in C4 grasses. Functional Plant Biology. in press

Dr. Frank Fish presented an invited symposium talk “Secondary evolution of aquatic propulsion in higher vertebrates: Validation and prospect” at the International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (ICVM11 11), held in Washington D.C., June 29-July 3, 2016. Dr. Fish co-organized the symposium with Dr. Alexandra Houssaye of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. In addition at the International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology, Dr. Fish co-authored a presentation with Will Gough (biology graduate student) on “Physical properties of the sub-dermal fibrous layers in cetacean tail flukes.” 

Dr. Frank Fish published an invited article “Hydrodynamic performance of aquatic flapping: Efficiency of underwater flight in the manta” in the on-line journal Aerospace (2016; 3(3): 20; doi:10.3390/aerospace3030020), which was part of a special issue on Flapping Wings.  The article was co-authored with  Christian Schreiber (former WCU undergraduate) of the Georgia Aquarium, Keith Moored of Lehigh University, and Geng Liu, Haibo Dong and Hilary Bart-Smith of the University of Virginia.

Dr. Frank Fish presented an invited seminar "Natural swimmers and the development of advanced biomimetic technologies" to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Moss Landing, CA on May 11, 2016. Dr. Fish also presented an invited talk, “Sea lion propulsion: Advantages and feasibility of bio-inspired sea lion AUV” at the Office of Naval Research Bio-Inspired Autonomous Systems Review in Arlington, VA on June 6, 2016. 

Dr. Josh Auld published the following: Auld, J. R. & P. Jarne. Sex and recombination in snails. In: Kliman, R.M. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology. vol. 4, pp. 49-60. Oxford: Academic Press. 

Biology Graduate Student Jon Klein and Dr. Greg Turner presented a poster entitled "Urban forest community structure, health, and carbon sequestration" at the 27th Annual Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium held at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, April 15th, 2016. 

Biology undergraduate Cheryl Mauch, Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer, and Biology undergraduate Lukas Bernhardt presented "Baseline soil pH and texture at the Mount Cuba Center’s experimental reforestation experiment, Hockessin, DE" at the 2016 Virtual Poster Showcase, American Geophysical Union, March 30-April 28.

Biology Undergraduate Student Nicole Bishop was awarded a grant from the WCU College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Fund to support her project, “Effects of Lead Toxicity on Hatching Success and Embryonic Development in a Freshwater Snail (Physa acuta).”

Dr. Frank Fish hosted program review meeting for the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) on “Bio-inspired flexible propulsors for fast, efficient swimming: What physics are we missing?” at West Chester University, PA on March 8-9, 2016.

Dr. Frank Fish and biology graduate student William Gough presented a talk “Morphological design and flexibility in the flukes of cetaceans” at the ONR-MURI Program Review Meeting: Hydrodynamics of non-traditional propulsion bio-inspired flexible propulsors for fast, efficient swimming: What physics are we missing? held at West Chester University, PA on March 8-9, 2016.

Dr. Frank Fish made a presentation “Natural swimmers and the development of advanced biomimetic technologies” to the 7th grade class of the Village Community School in New York City, NY on March 10, 2016.

Dr. Frank Fish has his research on the Humpback whale tubercles and Mantabot on exhibit in “The Machine Inside: Biomechanics” that is currently at the Boston Museum of Science. The exhibit, which was created by the Field Museum, Chicago, will be on display at various location through 2020. 

Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer published the following: Schedlbauer, J.L., L. Nadolny, & J. Woolfrey. 2016. Practising conservation biology in a virtual rainforest world. Journal of Biological Education DOI:10.1080/00219266.2015.1117510

Dr. Frank Fish published a book chapter titled “Hydrodynamics” in the book  Marine Mammal Physiology: Requisites for Ocean Living  from CRC Press (2016). The chapter was co-authored with Dr. Jeremy Goldbogen of Stanford University and Jean Potvin of St. Louis University. 

Dr. Frank Fish presented the paper “Flexibility of the flukes of free-swimming cetaceans” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology that was held in Portland, OR on January 3-7, 2016. The paper was co-authored with WCU graduate students Will Gough and Kelsey Tennett, WCU, undergraduate student Danielle Adams, and Dr. Judy St Leger of SeaWorld. Also at the meeting, Dr. Fish co-authored the papers “Assessment of swimming records for thunniform propulsors”, which was presented by WCU undergraduate student Danielle Adams and co-authored with WCU undergraduate student Griffin Lewis, “ Physical properties of the sub-dermal fibrous layers in cetacean tail flukes”, which was presented by WCU graduate student Will Gough, “Kinematics of terrestrial locomotion of northern elephant seals”, which was presented by WCU graduate student Kelsey Tennett and co-authored with Daniel Costa of the University of California Santa Cruz, and “Effects of fluke flexibility on flow modulation in orca’s steady swimming”, which was presented by Yan Ren and co-authored with Dr. Haibo Dong of the University of Virginia.

Cool Previous Biology Highlights (2015)

 
New BioFaculty: Fall 2016 Print
mareshWe welcome Dr. Jennifer Maresh as a new assistant professor in the Department of Biology. She received her B.S. in Biology from West Chester University in 2003, her Master's in Coastal Environmental Management in 2005 from Duke University, and her Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 2014.
 
Dr. Maresh's background is with swim behaviors and mechanics as they relate to foraging in marine mammals and her research has included work with wild bottlenose dolphins, North Atlantic right whales, Weddell seals and northern elephant seals. As a postdoctoral researcher at UCSC her research focused on animal bioenergetics which is an understanding of how energy flows through living systems from ingestion of prey up through the building of an animal and its offspring. She is interested in the decisions animals make while foraging and the energetic costs and pay-offs of those decisions under both natural and 'disturbed' conditions, as a way of understanding how resilient they might be to a rapidly changing environment.
 
Dr. Maresh is excited to return to her alma mater where she will continue her bioenergetics work with marine mammals. She would like to develop an additional research program directed at understanding the role of terrestrial mesopredators in both disturbed and intact ecosystems from a bioenergetics perspective. She looks forward to working with students to develop independent research projects in her lab, and to teaching Physiology and other biology classes at West Chester University.

The Department of Biology also welcomes Dr. Eric Sweet as a new assistant professor. Dr. Sweet received his B.S. in Biology from Virginia Tech in 2002 and his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2011.
 
Dr. Sweet is a neuroscientist and electrophysiologist interested in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. As a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, his research focused on the role mutations in the Parkinson’s disease associated gene encoding LRRK2 play in learning and memory. He also worked on identifying new molecular factors that influence learning and memory. He is excited to join the WCU community and will continue to investigate the role that genetic and environmental factors play in the substantial non-motor deficits experienced by those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
 
Dr. Sweet is looking forward to working with students while they learn and perform research in the fields of neuroscience, cell biology, and neurodegenerative diseases. 
 
Faculty Position Available: Veterinarian Print

Tenure track ASSISTANT PROFESSOR position available January 2017.  Doctorate in veterinary medicine required; research interest is open. The successful applicant must be qualified to manage an NIH certified lab animal facility for rodents and rabbits, and to teach courses in anatomy, physiology, parasitology, and general biology. Candidate is expected to establish an active, externally funded research program involving graduate and/or undergraduate students. Finalists must successfully complete an interview process that includes a research seminar and teaching demonstration.

To apply, upload a letter of application, statements of teaching and research philosophies, curriculum vitae, and all unofficial university transcripts to http://agency.governmentjobs.com/wcupa/default.cfm. Have three evaluators send a letter of reference by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by mail to Dr. Judith Greenamyer, 750 S. Church St., Department of Biology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383. Review of completed applications begins on September 15, 2016 and continues until position is filled. For more details and full ad visit the website above or contact Dr. Greenamyer at the email above.

The filling of this position is contingent upon available funding. All offers of employment are subject to and contingent upon satisfactory completion of all pre-employment criminal background checks. Developing and sustaining a diverse faculty and staff advances WCU’s educational mission and strategic Plan for Excellence. West Chester University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply. 

 
2016 Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium Print

sigma xi 2016

Student research conducted by Undergraduate Student Brett Pugliese, Graduate Student Jon Klein, and Undergraduate Student Dina Torjman was presented at the 27th Annual Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium held at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, April 15th 2016.  Student research presented at the Symposium was conducted in collaboration with Biology faculty members Dr. Erin Gestl and Dr. Greg Turner.

 
2016 JEB Calendar Print
 
The 2016 Journal of Experimental Biology Calendar included the above image that was derived from the following article published by WCU Biology graduate student William Gough and Dr. Frank Fish: Gough, W. T., Farina, S. C. and Fish, F. E. 2015. Aquatic burst locomotion by hydroplaning and running in common eiders (Somateria mollissima). Journal of Experimental Biology 218: 1632-1638.
 
 
Bio 387 - Invertebrate Zoology Print

Bio387During the summer of 2015, students from 5 PASSHE Universities (Millersville, West Chester, East Stroudsburg, Kutztown and Lock Haven) experienced the invertebrate fauna of the Chincoteague Bay Field Station (formerly Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium).

The course (BIO 387 – Invertebrate Zoology), was instructed by Dr. S. Anne Boettger of West Chester University. Invertebrate Zoology is the study of animals lacking a backbone, a group that includes more than 90% of all animal species. As part of the course students gained first hand experience with a variety of large equipment that included the RV Parker (a research vessel that was used to examine the Atlantic marine environments on and off the continental shelf), the Flatfish and the Mollusk (two shallow water monitors that were used within Chincoteague Bay), and sea kayaks.

The location of Chincoteague Bay Field Station provides easy access to all environments along the Eastern Shore, the Chesapeake Bay and the deeper waters of the Atlantic Coast including sandy beaches, mudflats, rocky environments, salt marshes and seagrass beds. In addition, its location allowed visits to educational resources such as VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), industrial sites (shedding houses for softshell crabs and oyster/clam farms) and natural preserves (including Indian River Inlet, DE; Assateague Island, VA; Savage Neck Beach, VA and Kiptopeke State Park, VA).

Cool....Bio 387 Image Gallery

 
Can you identify these Birds? Print
birds
 
Have you ever seen a bird and wondered what kind it was or what it was doing? Did you know there are ~30 species to identify on campus alone? Do you already enjoy birding and are looking to meet like-minded people?  If so, come join the fledging West Chester University Student Birding Club!  Any experience level welcome!

Birds are one of the most diverse, strikingly beautiful, and highly visible groups of animals.  Learning to identify birds by sight and sound can provide years of free entertainment.  Whether or not you can tell an American Crow from a Fish Crow, a Northern Flicker from a Pileated Woodpecker, or a House Sparrow from a Song Sparrow, come and join us! 
 

 
Neural Tube Research Funded Print

neural tube

Dr. Jessica Sullivan-Brown was awarded $10,000 by the West Chester University Foundation to study the roles of folic acid metabolism genes in neural tube development.

The neural tube is a precursor to the brain and spinal cord, and neural tube defects, like spina bifida, are common and severe congenital conditions. Dietary supplementation of folic acid decreases the incidence of neural tube defects; however, the effects of folic acid on neural tube development are unclear. Folic acid metabolism has many important cellular roles and is thought to be critical for rapidly growing tissues like the neural tube.

Graduate student Patricia Bianchino will be analyzing the RNA expression of folic acid metabolism genes in the neural tube to determine if expression is enriched in the neural tube.  She will be analyzing the expression of folic acid metabolism genes during neural tube development in the frog Xenopus laevis. Xenopus laevis is a commonly used model system for studying neural tube defects because neural tube development is similar to humans and many genes are conserved.

 
Research on Underwater Propulsion funded by MURI Grant Print

Dr. Frank Fish received a grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for $1,055,297 for the Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) program. The proposed research is a collaboration with the University of Virginia, Princeton University, Harvard University, Lehigh University and West Chester University. Over the next five years, the research team will receive $1.5 million per year to investigate the Hydrodynamics of Non-Traditional Propulsion.

The research team's project is titled "Bio-inspired Flexible Propulsors for Fast, Efficient Swimming: What Physics Are We Missing?" The project will look at fast swimmers with flexible flukes (dolphins, whales, tuna and trout) to explore the possibility of a system that could replace propellers for underwater propulsion.

The Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Office of Naval Research solicited proposals for 24 research projects that directly support the DOD and the military services. Initially, 361 white papers were received, 88 of which were selected for more detailed proposals. The highly competitive MURI program complements other DOD basic research efforts by supporting multidisciplinary teams with larger and longer-term awards in carefully chosen research topics identified for their potential significance and sustainable progress. MURI awards provide strong support for the education and training of graduate students in cutting edge research. The 24 research proposals selected in the fiscal 2014 competition will include participation by 64 different academic institutions.

 

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