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The main office for the Department of Biology is located in Room 175 on the first floor of Schmucker Science North. 

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Dr. Casotti

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Melissa Griffin

News & Highlights Archive

2018 News

Strange Survivors

Dr. Oné R. Pagán published the book: Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life. BenBella Books, 2018.

In the evolutionary arms race that has raged on since life began, organisms have developed an endless variety of survival strategies. In Strange Survivors, biologist Oné R. Pagán takes us on a tour of the improbable, the ingenious, and the just plain bizarre ways that creatures fight for life.

Strang Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life

Biology Highlights 2018

Dr. Frank Fish, contributed a chapter, The Physics of Flukes, to the edited book Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend, which won the William Mills Prize that is given to the best polar book over a two year period.

Dr. Frank Fish made a presentation with co-authors graduate students, Danielle Adams and William Gough, titled “Control of the flexibility of cetacean flukes for high efficiency propulsion” at the 8th World Congress of Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland, July 8-12, 2018, he was a co-author on a presentation “The performance of a sea lion’s foreflipper as a static wing” with Dr, Megan Leftwich of George Washington University at the  8th World Congress of Biomechanics, Dublin, Ireland, July 8-12, 2018.

Dr. Fish was a co-author on the paper “Disentangling the relation between the planform shape and swimming gait in cetacean propulsion” with Dr. Keith Moored of Lehigh University, which was published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, DOI: 10.2514/6.2018-2914

Dr. Jen Maresh was awarded a grant from the Elise Triano Biology Research Fund in support of her project, “Detecting the eco-evolutionary responses of mesopredators to release from top-down control.” This award will fund a pilot study with two WCU undergraduate students to detect evidence of the ecological ascension of mesopredators in North American wildlife communities as a response to the extirpation of apex predators.

Dr. Jen Maresh presented a paper entitled “Predictors of metabolic rates in aquatic mammals” at the 98th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists at Kansas State University on June 26, 2018. The paper was co-authored by PhD student Chris Law and Dr. Dan Costa of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Dr. Ammon Corl of the University of California, Berkeley.

Koch, K.G., Donze-Reiner, T., Baird, L.M., Louis, J., Amundsen, K., Sarath, G., Bradshaw, J.D. and Heng-Moss, T., 2018. Evaluation of Greenbug and Yellow Sugarcane Aphid Feeding Behavior on Resistant and Susceptible Switchgrass Cultivars. BioEnergy Research, pp.1-11.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, published the article, Experimental measurement of dolphin thrust generated during a tail stand using DPIV in the journal Fluids 2018, 3, 33; doi:10.3390/fluids302003. The article was co-authored with Dr. Terrie Williams of the University of California Santa Cruz and Dr. Timothy Wei of the University of Nebraska.

Dr. John M. Pisciotta was awarded a $10,000 grant from PepsiCos Zero Impact College Sustainability Fund. For this project, researchers will build and test a novel solar photovoltaic mini-split HVAC system designed to partly offset conventional energy usage at the WCU Office of Sustainability.

Dr. Oné Pagán delivered the 2018 keynote talk of the WCU Chapter of Sigma Xi Society on April 24: The adventures of a scholar: From flatworm pharmacology to popular science writing.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented an invited seminar, Biomimetics and the development of advanced technologies from charismatic marine megafauna at the American Museum of Natural History SciCafe in New York City on May 2, 2018.

Dr. Schedlbauer published the following article: Schedlbauer, J.L., N. Fetcher, K. Hood, M.L. Moody, & J. Tang. 2018. Effect of growth temperature on photosynthetic capacity and respiration in three ecotypes of Eriophorum vaginatum. Ecology & Evolution 8 (7): 3711-3725.

Dr. Jennifer Chandler was awarded a Provost Research Grant for her project Consequences of age-based vs. size-based harvest criteria on the sustainability of the American ginseng trade. The purpose of this work is to bridge the gap between science and policy by identifying size-based harvest criteria that are biologically meaningful and conservation oriented, that are easily measured by harvesters, and that are verifiable by authorities.

Dr. Frank Fish published the article, Kinematics of swimming of the manta ray: three-dimensional analysis of open-water maneuverability, in the Journal of Experimental Biology (2018) 221, jeb166041, dot:10.1242jeb.166041. The article was co-authored with Dr. Allison Kolpas and Dr. Andrew Crossett (Mathematics), Michael Dudas from the West Chester diving shop, Dudas Diving Duds, Dr. Keith Moored from Lehigh University, and Dr. Hilary Bart-Smith from the University of Virginia.

Accelerated B.S./M.S. student Jason Miller, under the supervision of Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer, was awarded a 2018 Pennsylvania Academy of Science Research Grant to study how edge effects influence soil carbon cycling at forest edges in a thesis project titled, The influence of edge effects on soil carbon storage and CO2 efflux in temperate deciduous forests of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Dr. Frank Fish co-authored the article, Morphology of the core fibrous layer of the cetacean tail fluke, with William Gough (biology graduate student) in the Journal of Morphology, 2018, DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20808. Additional co-authors included Dylan Wainwright of Harvard University and Hilary Bart-Smith of the University of Virginia. Dr. Fish also presented an invited seminar, Lessons from charismatic marine fauna: Biomimetic applications for the development of advanced technologies, to the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on March 23, 2018.

Dr. Oné Pagán was interviewed by The Cool Science Radio show. To view the interview click here. He was also interviewed at the Ikonokast – A Science advocacy Podcast. The interview can be found here.

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.

Our Primary Mission

The primary mission of the Department of Biology is to provide a high quality educational experience to both undergraduate and graduate students. This is achieved by maintaining small class sizes staffed by full-time faculty. Virtually all courses have a laboratory component, facilitating participatory learning. An integrated core curriculum is intended to strengthen the communication, quantitative and analytical skills of all biology majors. Several focused concentrations within the undergraduate curriculum offer options of either specializing for immediate employment upon graduation, or preparing for postgraduate education. 

Masters students receive training as biological scientists primarily for career advancement. Although most students come from the Delaware Valley region, their educational experience is intended to equip them well for careers anywhere. Biology majors are required to perform independent projects in many courses, and are encouraged to work closely with faculty in collaborative research. The combination of unusually broad course selection and individual attention allows students from very diverse backgrounds to excel within the program. A part of the department's mission is to participate in the process of scientific inquiry.

The department expects its faculty to engage in scholarly activity, and encourages research publication and the acquisition of extramural funding. Scholarship enhances the stature of the Department and University, adds exceptionally current information to lecture material, and has helped to secure technologically up-to-date laboratory equipment. The department's research environment also provides an ongoing framework into which graduate and undergraduate student research projects can beincorporated. A strong record of collaborative faculty-student research is one reason for the successful placement of most Biology Department graduates. 

The Biology Department serves the University by supporting coursework for other disciplines, principally in Nursing, Health, Kinesiology and the Forensic and Toxicological Chemistry program, and is actively involved in maintaining the high quality of the Preprofessional Program. The department is working closely with the School of Education in training Secondary school biology teachers, and is strengthening ties with other departments in environmental science. Department faculty serve the community as consultants to government, non-profit organizations, other schools and industry.

Biology Department Facilities

The Department of Biology occupies ~37,000 ft2 of classroom, office, and research space in Merion Hall and the adjacent Schmucker Science Center. The Biology wing of the Schmucker Science Center has undergone a complete renovation and was re-opened in time for the Spring 2004 semester. Teaching and research laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The equipment available to students includes a single-side band microscope (the world's second), fluorescence microscopes, apparatus for video microscopy, cryostat, tissue culture equipment, liquid scintillation counter, gamma ray counter, patch clamping equipment, ion suppression chromatograph, and scanning and transmission electron microscopes. A fully equipped molecular biology laboratory, funded by the NSF includes equipment for RFLP, PCR, DNA sequencing, and in situ capabilities. Additionally, the department has field inversion electrophoresis equipment for DNA analysis.

Other facilities include: research and teaching greenhouses, a biosafety level 3 facility, a student computer laboratory with full multimedia capabilities, a GIS computer laboratory with a GPS first order community base station and mobile GPS units, the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies, the William Darlington Herbarium, the B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection, and the largest collection of halophilic bacteria in North America.

The Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies consists of about 120 acres of woodland, old field, and wetland habitat located on the university's South Campus. Dedicated in 1973, the area was named for Robert B. Gordon, faculty member and chair of West Chester University's Department of Science from 1938-1963.

The William Darlington Herbarium (DWC) is the second oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the United States. The collection is a highly regarded historical collection of specimens dated primarily from 1815 to 1860. Among the more than 20,000 specimens are those collected by such famous explores as Captain John Freemont, Thomas Nuttall, Sir William Hooker, C.S. Rafinesque, and George Englemann. The herbarium was started by Dr. William Darlington, a prominent West Chester physician, educator, banker, historian and botanist.

The B. Harry Warren Ornithological Collection contains approximately 2000 bird specimens dating back to the late 1800's

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