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

Chair: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  | Assistant Chair:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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

Sigma Xi BioSeminar: Why Predators Matter Print

Dr. James Estes

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of California Santa Cruz

Why Predators Matter: The Ecological Legacy of Sea Otters and Other Charismatic Species
7:30 PM, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Room 151 SSL (Schmucker Science Center)

Dr. Estes is a wildlife biologist, specializing in the ecology of marine mammals. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Estes is the author of the book Serendipity. His work has been involved in ecology of sea otters in Alaska and their interaction with the environment through trophic cascades.

Students, faculty, staff and the general public are welcome to attend. Refreshments will be served before the seminar. For more information, contact Dr. Frank Fish (Biology) at 610-436-2460 or email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Biology Highlights 2018 Print
Dr. Oné R. Pagán published the book: Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life. BenBella Books, 2018.
Dr. Frank Fish published the book chapters “Locomotion. Terrestrial” Pp. 552-554 and “Streamlining” Pp. 951-954 in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, Ed. 3. 2018 (W. F. Perrin, B. Würsig, and J. G. M. Thewissen, eds.) by Academic Press, San Diego.

Dr. Jen Maresh published the following book chapter: Costa, D.P. and J.L. Maresh. 2018. Energetics in Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, 3rd ed. (W.F. Perrin, B. Wursig, J.G.M. Thewissen, eds). Academic Press. Pp. 329-335.

Dr. Frank Fish presented the paper “Fluke flexibility during propulsion in neonate and adult humpback whales” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Francisco, CA, January 3-7, 2018. The paper was co-authored with Ramya Muthukrishnan, Henderson High School student, and Nan Hauser of the Cetacean Research Institute in the Cook Islands. In addition, Dr. Fish co-authored a presentation “Properties and functions of tendons in the cetacean peduncle” that was presented by Danielle Adams, biology graduate student, and Dr. Fish was co-authored a presentation “The role of flippers, flukes, and body flexibility in blue whale maneuvering performance” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in San Francisco, CA, January 3-7, 2018.
New BioFaculty: Fall 2017 Print
Dr. ChandlerWe welcome Dr. Jennifer Chandler as a new assistant professor in the Department of Biology.  Dr. Chandler received her B.A. in Business Management from Transylvania University in 2004, her B.S. in Biology from Northern Kentucky University in 2009, and her Ph.D. from West Virginia University in 2016.
Dr. Chandler’s background is in herbaceous plant response to both discrete disturbances that prompt acute, short-lived responses and to chronic disturbances that occur on longer timescales and elicit long-lasting “legacy” responses.  She is interested in the effects that both natural disturbances and anthropogenic disturbances have on plant populations.  Recent research has investigated the response of the medicinal plant, American ginseng, to both timber harvest and natural canopy disturbances in the eastern deciduous forest, as well as the response of a dominant tundra sedge, cottongrass, to climate change in northern Alaska.  Dr. Chandler will continue this work at WCU, but also plans to incorporate new research that focuses on the harvest of wild American ginseng, and the development of new harvest criteria that bridges the gap between science and policy to promote sustainable harvest.
Dr. Chandler is looking forward to working with undergraduate and graduate students at WCU both in class and in research, and is excited to get students interested in the outdoors, in ecology, and in the conservation of our natural resources.
Tropical Ecology of Puerto Rico Print

Puerto Rico


Nine Biology majors spent their 2017 Spring Break exploring the island of Puerto Rico in Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer's Tropical Ecology of Puerto Rico class.  

Students visited and learned about tropical rainforests, dry forests, and coastal ecosystems, and they also met with local conservation ecologists to learn about methods used to protect and restore degraded ecosystems.  

The class visited the University of Puerto Rico, Utuado and learned from both students and faculty about agroforestry systems, as well as sustainable agriculture on the island.

Biology Highlights 2017 Print
Former WCU graduate student Peter Hornbach and Dr. John M. Pisciotta presented a poster titled "Arsenic Bioremediation via Mineral Adsorption and Fungal Biomethylation" at the Partnerships in Biocontrol, Biostimulants & Microbiome Conference, November 2nd-3rd, 2017 in Philadelphia, PA.

Dr. John M. Pisciotta and a WCU student team of Nik Cassidy, Peter Hornbach, Deveon Barbieri, Archana Chungapally, Enrique Mentado-Sosa and Enzo Kerr presented a "Wind-Actuated Vibrating Electrochemical (WAVE) Digester" at the EPA's People Planet Prosperity (P3) Tech-Connect Conference, May 15-16, 2017 in Washington DC. 
Dr. Jen Maresh presented a paper entitled, "Mammalian reproductive investment strategies: an emergent property of the interplay between maternal body size and environmental productivity?" at the 12th International Mammalogical Congress in Perth, Australia in July 2017. WCU graduate student Danielle Adams was a co-author.

Dr. Jen Maresh co-authored a paper entitled, "Maternal investment strategies in marine and terrestrial mammals: the effects of ecology and phylogeny on patterns of reproductive energetics" for the 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in Halifax, Canada in October 2017. The poster was presented by WCU graduate student Danielle Adams as first author. 

Dr. Oné R. Pagán gave an invited talk: “Of planarians and brains: some of the things I want to know”, as part of his participation in the workshop “Liquid Brains, Solid Brains” held at the Santa Fe Institute for Complexity in New Mexico, Dec 4-5, 2017.

Dr. Frank Fish contributed a chapter “The Physics of Flukes” to the book Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend edited by W. W. Fitzhugh and M. T. Nweeia and published by IPI Press & Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.. The book is the companion to the Smithsonian Institution exhibit on the Narwhal that is currently on display in the National Museum of Natural History (https://naturalhistory.si.edu/exhibits/narwhal/).

Dr. Frank Fish published a review article “Control surfaces of aquatic vertebrates in relation to swimming modes” in the Journal of Experimental Biology 220: 4351-4363 (2017). The article was co-authored with Dr. George Lauder of Harvard University. 
Dr. Frank Fish published an article “Swimming kinematics of mobuliform rays: Oscillatory winged propulsion by large pelagic batoids” in the Marine Technology Society Journal (2017; 51:35-47), which was co-authored with Drs. Haibo Dong, Joe Zhu, and Hilary Bart-Smith from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Frank Fish presented an invited talk “Mechanics and hydrodynamics of acrobatics and aquabatics by whales and dolphins” in the mini-symposium “Flying fish and Diving Birds” at the American Physical Society 64th Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics in Denver, Colorado on November 20, 2017.
Dr. Oné Pagán published to following: O.R. Pagán (2017) Planaria: an animal model that integrates development, regeneration and pharmacology. Int. J. Dev. Biol. 61: 519 - 529.

Dr. Frank Fish presented a talk “How smooth is a dolphin? Ridged texture and hydrodynamics from skin molds on live animals” at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Marine Mammalogy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, October 22-27, 2017. In addition, Dr. Fish was a co-author with biology graduate student William Gough on the presentation “Morphology and physical properties of the sub-dermal fibrous layers in odontocete tail flukes” at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Marine Mammalogy.

Dr. Frank Fish was a co-author on a presentation “How do blue whale maneuver?” that was presented at the 6th International Bio-logging Science Symposium. Lake Constance, Germany, September 25-29. 2017.

Dr. Frank Fish was a consultant for the exhibit “ Whales Beneath the Surface” on the biology of cetaceans that is currently on display at the at the British Natural History Museum, in London, England.
Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner presented an invited seminar at Villanova University entitled "Insights into plant defense mechanisms in switchgrass against greenbug aphids" (September 2017).
Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner was awarded a 2017 Research in Mathematics and the Sciences (RIMS) Award in the amount of $5676.
Dr. Frank Fish co-authored an article “On rules for aquatic locomotion” in the journal Physical Review Fluids, volume 2: 083102 (2017). The paper was co-authored with Medhi Saadat, Valentina Di Santo, and George Lauder from Harvard University and Hossein Haj-Hariri from the University of South Carolina.
Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer and former WCU graduate student Nicole Havrilchak published the following: Havrilchak, N.A. and J.L. Schedlbauer. In press. Plant physiological changes along an encroachment gradient: an assessment of U.S. Mid-Atlantic serpentine barrens. Journal of Plant Ecology  https://doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtx040
Dr. Frank Fish presented an invited paper "Kinematics and hydrodynamics of mobuliform swimming: Oscillatory winged propulsion by large pelagic batoids" at the Marine Technical Society Tech Surge: Fish Swimming Research and Bio-inspiration for Marine Design event in Norfolk, VA, July 19-21, 2017.
Dr. John Pisciotta published the following article: Pisciotta JM, P. Scholl, J. Shuman, V. Shualev and DJ Sullivan. 2017. Quantitative characterization of hemozoin in Plasmodium berghei and vivax. Int. J. Parasitol: Drugs and Drug Resistance. Apr 7(1):110-119.

Dr. John Pisciotta and recent WCU graduates Enzo Kerr, Nick Galambos and Peter Hornbach led a Mushroom Cultivation Workshop at WCU on May 5th. This workshop was supported by a $3,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections environmental education program (EE-160135).
Dr. Jen Maresh received a Faculty Professional Development Grant from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for $4995 for her project "Determining the energy value of deep-sea forage fishes to apex marine predators". Information from this study will be used to develop predictive bioenergetics and foraging models for elephant seals and other large-bodied marine animals.
Dr. Oné Pagán presented an invited seminar entitled "Behavioral assessment of planarian brain regeneration: Cocaine and nicotine as pharmacological tools" to the Department of Biology of Eastern University, St. Davids, PA. on April 12, 2017.
Biology undergraduate student Alaina Bertoline and Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer presented a poster entitled 'Ecological integrity of edge and interior environments at West Chester University's Gordon Natural Area' at the Pennsylvania Academy of Science Annual Meeting, held at King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA on April 1, 2017.
Dr. John M. Pisciotta received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for $14,950 to to develop a Wind-Actuated Vibrating Electrochemical (WAVE) Digester (EPA Grant SU836778). The objective of this research project is to electrochemically treat wastes while storing renewable forms of energy.
Dr. Frank Fish received a grant from the National Science Foundation for $37,153 for “Collaborative Research: Scaling of unsteady locomotor performance and maneuverability” (IOS-1656676). This grant is to collaborate with Dr. Jeremy Goldbogen of the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University and Dr. Jean Potvin of St. Louis University to study the turning performance of large whales. Dr. Fish also received a grant from the Office of Naval Research for $300,000 for “Investigating sea lion locomotion as the basis for shape changing UUVs” (N00014-17-1-2312). This grant is to collaborate with Dr. Megan Leftwich of George Washington University and Drs. James Tangorra and Harry Kwatny of Drexel University to examine the movements of sea lions as the basis of constructing a biorobotic sea lion.
Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner published the following article: Donze-Reiner, T., Palmer, N., Scully, E., Heng-Moss, T., Bradshaw, J., Twigg, P., Amundsen, K., Sattler, S., Sarath, G. 2017. Transcriptional analysis of defense mechanisms in upland tetraploid switchgrass to greenbugs. BMC Plant Biology, 17(1), p. 46.
Dr. Josh Auld published the following article: Grossenbacher, D. L., Y. Brandvain, J. R. Auld, M. Burd, P.-O. Cheptou, J. K. Conner, A. G. Grant, S. M. Hovick, J. R. Pannell, A. Pauw, T. Petanidou, A. M. Randle, R. Rubio de Casas, J. Vamosi, A. Winn, B. Igic, J. W. Busch, S. Kalisz & E. E. Goldberg. 2017. Self-compatibility is overrepresented on islands.  New Phytologist _:_-_. 
Dr. Frank Fish presented the following papers at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, New Orleans, LA, January 3-7, 2017: (1) "Tail Stands in dolphins: Experimental measurement of force generation using Bubble DPIV" with Dr. Terrie Williams of the University of California Santa Cruz and Dr. Timothy Wei of the University of Nebraska; (2) "Chordwise flexibility of bottlenose dolphin flukes during static exercise" with Dr. Terrie Williams; and (3) "How smooth is a dolphin" with Dylan Wainwright and Dr. George Lauder of Harvard, Dr. Terrie Williams, and Dr. Judy St. Leger of Sea World. 
Dr. Frank Fish, biology graduate student Kelsey Tennett, and Dr. Daniel Costa of University of California Santa Cruz presented "Terrestrial locomotion of a massive amphibious mammal: Constraints of northern elephant seals on land" at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, New Orleans, LA, January 3-7, 2017.
Dr. Frank Fish, biology graduate student William Gough, Gregory Lewis and Dr. Hilary Bart-Smith of the University of Virginia presented "Physical properties and anisotropy in the central tissue layer of cetacean tail flukes" at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, New Orleans, LA, January 3-7, 2017. 
Dr. Frank Fish, biology graduate students Danielle Adams, William Gough and Kelsey Tennett, and biology undergraduate student Erin Gallagher presented "Passive spanwise flexibility of harbor porpoise flukes: Equivalence of dorsal and ventral flexion" at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, New Orleans, LA, January 3-7, 2017.

Cool Previous Biology Highlights (2016)

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.
Can you identify these Birds? Print
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! 


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