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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New study-abroad course, Spring 2015 Print

Tropical Biology

BIO 435: Course Topics in Biology - Tropical Ecology: An intensive field-based exploration of Puerto Rico's ecosystems.

The Department of Biology is offering a new, 3 credit, study-abroad course next spring for junior and senior Biology majors who have successfully completed BIO 270, General Ecology. 

The course will be offered by Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer and will consist of four 2-hour course meetings on the WCU campus, as well as a 7-day trip to Puerto Rico over Spring Break 2015. 

The Puerto Rico trip will very intensive, often requiring 10+ hours of student time in the field per day.  Students will visit and learn about a variety of ecosystems on the island and also learn about local conservation in practice.

Contact Dr. Schedlbauer ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) if you are interested or have any questions.

New BioFaculty: Fall 2014 Print


 We welcome Dr. Jessica Sullivan-Brown as a new assistant professor in the Department of Biology. She received her Bachelor's degree in Biology from James Madison University in 2000 and her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University in 2008.

Her research interests include studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of embryonic development and how defects in development result in disease. As a postdoctoral researcher at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she studied the genetic components involved in neural tube defects, a common and severe type of birth defect.  

She will continue this research at West Chester University using both the worm Caenorhabditis elegans and the frog Xenopus laevis as model systems.  She is excited about teaching biology classes at West Chester University and working with students to develop independent research projects.  In addition to her interests in research and teaching, she enjoys communicating science to a broad audience through science outreach activities.

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.

Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium Print

Student research conducted by Zack Signora, Kenda McMillin, Kelly Ryan, Lauren Neel, Dana Charitonchick, Julie Storm, Jessica Bondy, Bill Collins, and Jesse Armine was presented at the annual Sigma Xi Student Research Symposium on April 12, 2014 at St. Joseph's University.  Student research presented at the Symposium was conducted in collaboration with Biology faculty members Drs. Josh Auld, Jessica Schedlbauer, Win Fairchild, Greg Turner, and Xin Fan. Posters presented include:

  • Jesse Armine (undergraduate student) and DrJessica Schedlbauer. Effect of trail type on the diversity of native and invasive plant species in the Bull Mountain Wilderness, Maryland.
  • Jessica Bondy (undergraduate student), Julie Storm (undergraduate student), and DrXin Fan. The pathogenesis of Haemophilus influenzae LicB in vivo.
  • Dana Charitonchick (graduate student) and DrJessica Schedlbauer. Determining the seed bank composition of an eastern deciduous forest fragment in southeast Pennsylvania.
  • Bill Collins (undergraduate student) and DrWin Fairchild. The effects of light and age on phenotypic plasticity in an invasive vine species, Celastrus orbiculatus (oriental bittersweet).
  • Lauren Neel (undergraduate student) and DrJosh Auld. When to mate when death is on the line in Physa acuta.
  • Kelly Ryan (undergraduate student) and DrGreg Turner. Forest health status at the Gordon Natural Area.
  • Zack Signora (undergraduate student), Kendra McMillin (undergraduate student), and DrGreg Turner. An assessment of white ash (Fraxinus americana) as part of an emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) management plan for the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area.
WCU Biology Students take Silver for Algal Biofuel Experiment. Print
On December 23, 2013, Biology Undergraduate Students Joe R. Mossman and William (Billy) Schultz and Graduate Student Zehra Zaybak took the Silver Medal at the international science competition sponsored by Bluesens Company of Germany for their entry: “Enhanced waste-to-fuel conversion with a bioelectrochemically controlled autotrophic bioreactor”. Oil rich algae are considered by many companies to be an ideal domestic replacement feedstock for imported petroleum. Algae are also rich in protein and can be used as an animal feed after oil extraction. However, in conjunction with light intensity, the very low concentration of CO2 in the air (0.04%) can severely limit algal growth rates. Their invention used a mild voltage to bacteriologically accelerate the release of CO2 during the treatment of organic waste in order to facilitate the growth of green algae.  With their prize money, the WCU team plans to further develop this promising technology for overcoming limitations imposed by low CO2 concentrations. The silver medalist team worked under the guidance and direction of Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. John M. Pisciotta. Funding for initial device construction and testing was provided by a WCU College of Arts and Science Faculty Development Grant.
Biology Highlights 2014 Print

Dr. Oné R. Pagán published the following book chapter: Why do Plants Contain Biologically Active Compounds?.  In: Kratom and Other Mitragynines: The Chemistry and Pharmacology of Opioids from a Non-Opium Source. (2014) Edited by Dr. Robert B. Raffa.  CRC Press. 

Dr. Josh Auld is the Principle Investigator for a grant from the Directorate for Biological Sciences, Evolutionary Processes Cluster, National Science Foundation entitled "RUI: A theoretical and empirical investigation of optimal mating strategies in a hermaphrodite: $213,858. Co-PI: Allison Kolpas." (2014-2017).

Dr. Frank Fish presented two invited symposium talks at the 7th World Congress of Biomechanics in Boston, MA, July 6-11, 2014. (1) The Evolution of Swimming and Its Associated Hydrodynamics by Advanced Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates, which was presented in the symposium “The evolutionary biomechanics of animal locomotion” and (2) "Kinematics and Hydrodynamics of Mobuliform Swimming" which was presented in the symposium “How swimmers generate and use flow.”

Dr. Frank Fish received a grant for $17,078 from the National Science Foundation to fund a symposium titled “Unsteady Aquatic Locomotion with Respect to Eco-Design and Mechanics” to be held at the 2015 Annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology on January 3-7 in West Palm Beach, FL.

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 entitled "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. 

Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer published the following paper: Malone, S.L., C.L. Staudhammer, H.W. Loescher, P. Olivas, S.F. Oberbauer, M.G. Ryan, J.L. Schedlbauer, & G. Starr. 2014. Seasonal patterns in energy partitioning of two freshwater marsh ecosystems in the Florida Everglades. Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences. In press

Dr. Josh Auld and biology undergraduate student John Henkel published the following: Auld, J. R. & J. F. Henkel. 2014. Diet alters delayed selfing, inbreeding depression, and reproductive senescence in a freshwater snail. Ecology & Evolution in press

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation is pleased to announce that West Chester University Graduate Student Veronica Pistoia (’13, M.S.) is among the first 50 Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellows, announced today by Governor Chris Christie at the New Jersey State House in Trenton. The highly competitive program recruits both recent graduates and career changers with strong backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and math—the STEM fields—and prepares them specifically to teach in high-need secondary schools. Each Fellow receives $30,000 to complete a specially designed, cutting-edge master’s degree program based on a year-long classroom experience.

Dr. Frank Fish published the paper “Limitations on swimming speed: How can natural technologies be utilized?” in the Proceedings of the XIIth International Symposium on Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming. Pp. 20-26 (2014). 

Dr. Josh Auld published the following two papers: (1) Auld, J.R., P. Jarne, V. Sarda, H. Jourdan-Pineau, T. Lamy, B. Pelissie & P. David. 2014. Evaluating the contributions of change in investment and change in efficiency to age-related declines in male and female reproduction.  Journal of Evolutionary Biology in press and (2) McClain, C. R., R. Filler & J. R. Auld. 2014. Does energy availability predict gastropod reproductive strategies?  Proceedings of the Royal Society B in press

Dr. Frank Fish presented the keynote address "Limitations on swimming speed: How can natural technologies be utilized" at the Twelfth Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming Conference in Canberra, Australia on April 29, 2014; Dr. Fish also presented the invited seminar “Embracing the dolphin: Redefining the sport of swimming” to the Australian Institute of Sport Smart Talk Seminar Series in Canberra, Australia on May 5, 2014. 

Dr. Giovanni Casotti published the following case study (online): "Lost? Ask a Turtle: Navigation and Migration in Loggerheads." National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. 2014. This case study is from a graduate Biology course: Case Study's in Physiology.

Dr. Frank Fish presented two invited seminars at the University of California Berkeley. (1) “Biomimetic designs: Advances in technologies based on marine megafauna” for the Center for Interdisciplinary Biological-Inspiration in Education and Research (CiBER)– Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) seminar on April 10, 2014 and (2) “Extraordinary maneuvers by rolling and spinning animals” as part of the Biomechanics Seminar Series on April 11, 2014. 

Dr. Frank Fish presented three invited seminars for the Goldstein Lecture Series to the Technion Autonomous Systems Program at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel on March 4 and 5, 2014. (1) “Lessons from animals and the development of a highly maneuverable AUV” and (2) “Biomimetics: Determining engineering opportunities from nature for efficient AUV propulsion,” and (3) “The humpback whale flipper for application of bio-inspired tubercle technology” at the Interuniversity Institute of Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel an March 13, 2014.

Biology Undergraduate Student Joseph R. Mossman and Dr. John M. Pisciotta made the following presentation "Antiviral Water Filtration System" at the American Society for Microbiology’s annual Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting in Washington DC on January 29th, 2014. 

Dr. Oné R. Pagán published the following book "The First Brain The Neuroscience of Planarians". 2014. Oxford University Press.

Dr. Frank Fish, published two papers: (1) “Measurement of hydrodynamic force generation by swimming dolphins using bubble DPIV” in the Journal of Experimental Biology 217(2): 252-260 (2014) with Drs. Paul Legac, Terrie Williams, and Tim Wei, and (2) “Hydrodynamic performance of the flippers of large-bodied cetacean in relation to locomotor ecology” in Marine Mammal Science 30(2): 413-432 (2014) with Drs. Paul Weber, Laurens Howle, Mark Murray, and Joy Reidenberg. 

Dr. Frank Fish and Dr. John T. Beneski published the book chapter “Evolution and bio-inspired design: Natural limitations” in Biologically Inspired Design: Computational Methods and Tools. 2014. (A. Goel, D. A. McAdams and R. B. Stone, eds.), Springer-Verlag, London, pp. 287-312. 

Biology Graduate Student Steven Bukowski and Dr. Josh R. Auld published the following article: Bukowski, S.J. & J.R. Auld. 2014. The effects of calcium in mediating the inducible morphological defenses of a freshwater snail, Physa acuta.  Aquatic Ecology 48:85-90.  

Dr. Josh R. Auld published the following two articles: (1) Murren, C.J., H.J. Maclean, S.E. Diamond, U.K. Steiner, M.A. Heskel, C.A. Handelsman, C.K. Ghalambor, J.R. Auld, H.S. Callahan, D.W. Pfennig, R.A. Relyea, C.D. Schlichting & J.G. Kingsolver. 2014. Evolutionary change in continuous reaction norms. American Naturalist in press; and (2) Willis, C.G., C. Baskin, J. Baskin, J.R. Auld, D.L. Venable, J. Cavender-Bares, K. Donohue & R. Rubio de Casas. 2014. The evolution of seed dormancy: environmental cues, evolutionary hubs, and diversification of the seed plants.  New Phytologist in press.

Dr. Frank Fish presented the following three invited seminars: (1) "Biomimetic applications from the natural technologies of whales, at the STEM Education Series – Innovative Concepts in Engineering Design (ICED-T)" held at Bentley Systems in Lionville, PA on February 19, 2014; (2) "Biomimetic designs: Advances in technologies based on marine megafauna" at the Mechanical Engineering Department of Clarkson University on February 7, 2014; and (3) “Biomimetic applications from the natural technologies of whales for efficient propulsion” as the EvMorph Speaker of the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy of the University of Chicago January 23, 2014. 

Dr. Frank Fish made the following four presentations at the  Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Austin, TX, January 3-8, 2014: (1) “The ‘dog paddle’: Stereotypic swimming gait pattern in different dog breeds” with co-author Nicole DiNenno (biology undergraduate); (2) “Body density of batoids in relation to ecology: Morphological control of buoyancy” with co-authors Janet Fontanella (biology undergraduate), Molly Gabler (biology graduate student) and, Medhi Saadat of the University of Virginia; (3) “Pectoral fin muscular architecture of batoids in relation to ecological lifestyle” with Molly Gabler (biology graduate student) and Dr. David Coughlin; and (4) “Aquatic burst locomotion by hydroplaning and running in Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima)” with William Gough and Stacy Farina of Cornell University. 

Cool Previous Biology Highlights (2013) 

Careers in Biology Print

aibs logoAccording to the AIBS website "Pursuing a career in biology can be immensely rewarding and exciting. Studying biology teaches us to ask questions, make observations, evaluate evidence, and solve problems. Biologists learn how living things work, how they interact with one another, and how they evolve. They may study cells under a microscope, insects in a rainforest, viruses that affect human beings, plants in a greenhouse, or lions in the African grasslands. Their work increases our understanding about the natural world in which we live and helps us address issues of personal well being and worldwide concern, such as environmental depletion, threats to human health, and maintaining viable and abundant food supplies."

For more information visit the AIBS web site to learn about career opportunities, preparation, schools, job outlook, salaries, and much more!

Introducing a new Marine Science concentration Print

marinesciThe B.S. BIOLOGY: MARINE SCIENCE concentration provides the opportunity for interested students to obtain a strong educational background in marine biology and other topics in a field that stretches from marine organisms to biotechnology and even oceanography interests from the coastal waters to deep oceans.

The required core curriculum and electives will allow students the opportunity to draw on educational resources at West Chester University and Marine Field stations, such as the Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium, VA.

Course work emphasizes techniques in biological sciences, oceanography, chemistry, physics and mathematics. Field and laboratory courses form a strong foundation of this program and students are encouraged to engage in directed research projects or internships.

Online video for transfer students. Print
The Biology Department has created an online video for transfer students to view.  The video takes you through the Undergraduate Handbook and what courses you should select when, in order that you graduate in a timely manner.  Please view the video prior to your on campus meeting with the Assistant Chair.  Meeting with the Assistant Chair is mandatory in order that you have access to online scheduling for your classes.  You can schedule an appointment by contacting the Biology Department secretary.

....View the Video

Happy Birthday Darwin! Print

DarwinOn 12 February scientist around the world celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin. Although Darwin's elegant theory of Organic Evolution can be summarized rather simply, it is arguably the most profound tenet of modern biology. Organic Evolution provides a solid, unifying framework for modern biology as well as a unifying thread for continued investigation.

The anniversary of Darwin's birth (February 12, 1809) is widely celebrated as Darwin Day throughout the scientific community. The special significance of Darwin Day has spawned numerous activities and special events throughout the world.

Darwin's book "On the Origin of Species" (first published 24 November 1859) is a seminal scientific publication and a landmark event in evolutionary biology.  In it, Darwin introduced the theory that populations change over time through the process of natural selection. Darwin's book provides evidence that the diversity of life arose through a branching pattern of evolution and common descent.

seemore....the Card....the Publications....the Dangerous Idea


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