The Biology Department at James Madison University is dedicated to offering an outstanding educational experience that includes opportunities for undergraduates to do real research in biology.
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Biology on Display Fund
We are happy to announce the establishment of a new fund called "Biology on Display". This fund will enable the purchase of artwork and displaysthat support the Bioscience Building's theme of Biology on Display. Two contributions have already been made. For more information, see the "Giving" page.
Selected work of this semester's Biological Illustration students will be on display in the Bioscience second floor foyer on Wednesday December 4th, 1:30-3:30. The exhibition will include paintings, illustrations of JMU Biology faculty research projects and 3D printed designs. Come by, have a cookie, and see what they've done.
Funding from the JMU Office of Diversity is supporting 5 IdLS students to work with Dr. Kerry Cresawn and Diane Secord, literacy teacher at Skyline Middle School, to design and implement culture and literacy-integrated science lessons for the English Language Learners (ELLs) at SKMS. The first of these centered on Volcanoes including the science of volcanic eruption, the geography and impact of volcanoes in their native country, and interpreting and creating nonfiction text features.
Research students from Dr May's team recently visited the Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center near Marion Virginia to learn about freshwater mussel conservation and propagation of several endangered species. Pictured: undergraduate Corey Swanson administering an anti-fungal agent to a hell bender.
Did you know that undergraduate students in Biology do research over the summer too? Thanks to several generous gifts to the Department and the College, a small group of students has the opportunity to immerse themselves in research for several months each summer. The summer research scholarships can make all the difference to a student’s undergraduate experience. [Pictured: Shvan Kareem, who worked with Drs Slekar & Bloss this summer]. Read about their research.
This fall, JMU will be hosting Mountain Stream Symposium II, a one-day symposium with the theme "Continuing Challenges for Critical Ecosystems". The symposium is sponsored by the 4-VA consortium and will feature 14 invited speakers and contributed posters. Date: Saturday September 21st, 2013; Time: 8:45am-5:30pm. More information
Research on bed bugs done by BIO 380 students in collaboration with SRI is being published in the journal Entomologica Americana. The students investigated claims that bed bugs are able to transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria from one person to another. Read more ...
Spotlight on Alumni: Stephen Taylor
Stephen Taylor (’11) is working with the Peace Corps in rural Mozambique. After a crash course in Portuguese and teaching skills, he is teaching children biology in a small village 85 miles via unpaved road from the nearest city. While the town has no electricity or running water, the school is brand new and has solar power. The photo shows Stephen teaching computer skills to one of the local English teachers.
The work of recently graduated Master’s students Molly Bletz and Andy Loudon is featured in the May/June 2013 issue of American Scientist Magazine. Their research, conducted in Dr Reid Harris’ lab, looks at the use of probiotic bacteria to combat the decline in amphibians caused by a pathogenic fungus. Molly also recently created and launched a website about the conservation work they are starting in Madagascar: frogprobiotics.org.
BIOLOGY ON DISPLAY
Billy Flint found this bullfrog in one of the drainage ponds near the Bioscience Building last week.
Biology is all around us!
Happy graduation to all our graduating seniors!
Spotlight on Graduate Students: John Marafino
Amphiphiles are fast becoming a new tool in combating bacteria; thus fully exploring how amphiphile structure determines its function allows us to expand our "toolbox". In Dr. Caran's lab, we are constructing amphiphiles then testing them against various bacteria. The aim of my research will include synthesizing novel amphiphiles, investigating the mechanism of action, and determining how they will affect bacteria.
More grad student profiles
Biosymposium is coming up on April 18th-19th in Bioscience rooms 2007 and 2009. This year's keynote speaker is Francis X. Farrell, PhD ('82), Adjunct Assistant Professor, Drexel University College of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology. Dr. Farrell graduated from JMU in 1982 and is a member of JMU's Executive Advisory Council. He publishes in the field of oncology and kidney disease. His talk title is "Biotherapeutics: Designing Novel Molecules to Treat Chronic Diseases"Please join us!
Undergraduate research students Will Shoemaker, Rebecca Dickey, Liz Nichols, and Emily Peterman, all from the Harris lab at the Shenandoah Valley Student Chapter of the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting, which was held at Mary Baldwin College April 6th. Emily won a share of the best poster award!
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Jamie Smith
I am interested in the taxonomy and systematics of vascular plants. I will be conducting a survey of vascular plants in an area of the Shenandoah Valley that has not previously been catalogued. By conducting these surveys we gather valuable information about the types, numbers, and distribution of plant species which can greatly contribute to future conservation efforts.
More grad student profiles
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Steven McBride
In the Mott lab we are interested in water quality and the effects of agricultural runoff into local streams. Enterococcus is commonly used as an indicator of fecal contamination. We will be quantifying various species of Enterococcus, using QPCR, in poultry litter, exposed to simulated environmental conditions, and hope to contribute to predictive models.
More grad student profiles
The new Human Anatomy lab was recently featured on The Center for Instructional Technology website’s “High Five!” section as an example of innovation in active learning through the use of technology. The Human Anatomy lab recently had multiple interactive display screens installed – students can look through anatomical images, compare multiple images, annotate them and discuss them in small groups using the new displays. Read the Article
Spotlight on Graduate students: Sarah Auclair (Lantz Lab)
We are investigating the role of interleukin-3 (IL-3) in Plasmodium infection. Plasmodium is the parasite that causes malaria. IL-3 is a type of cell signaling molecule that helps coordinate the immune response to infection. We compare Plasmodium infection in mice lacking the gene for IL-3 to infection in wild type mice to determine the role IL-3 plays in resistance or susceptibility to this disease. Read More
Spotlight on Graduate students: Kyle Snow (May Lab)
Land use changes have increased the amount of sediment carried into our streams and rivers. Much of it becomes embedded between the course sediment of streambeds. Since trout spawn in gravel beds and juveniles use them for velocity cover, sedimentation can severely reduce available habitat. In Dr. May's lab, we are looking at the effects of sedimentation on cover use by trout. Read More
Spotlight on Graduate students: Will Noftz (Gabriele Lab)
The Gabriele lab focuses on the developing auditory system in mice prior to hearing onset. Eph receptors and their corresponding ephrin ligands are proteins that aid in the guidance and formation of developing axonal patterns. Will’s research is focused on their involvement in the establishment of topographic maps and projection patterns in the auditory midbrain. Read More
Spotlight on Graduate students: Dehat Jalil (Rife Lab)
In Dr. Rife’s Lab, we investigate the role of Z-DNA in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. A purine-pyrimidine dinucleotide repeat leads to a change of normal DNA into a zig-zag conformation called Z-DNA. We are interested in whether this conformational change contributes to abnormal gene expression and if there is a certain size of dinucleotide repeats associated with Parkinson's disease. Read More
Spotlight on Graduate students: Molly Bletz (Harris Lab)
The Harris lab's focus is conservation of amphibians threatened by a fungal pathogen known as Bd, by studying the role of amphibian skin microbes in disease resistance and susceptibility. My research investigates methods to transmit beneficial bacteria to amphibians to allow resistance to Bd infection, and to investigate whether probiotic treatment causes non-target ecosystem effects. Read More
On December 19th, Alison Stephen, the artist behind the Mural in the Bioscience Building, and also a JMU Bio Alum and former research student of Dr Jon Monroe’s, came to see her creation for the first time and was interviewed for Madison Magazine. More about Alison and the mural.
Happy Holidays from the Biology Department
We hope you have a relaxing and safe break. See photos of the faculty neighborhood holiday decoration contest! Neighborohood 3016 won with their Festivus display.
Spotlight on Alumni
Mike Graveen graduated from the JMU Biology department in 2011 and studied, among other things, Freshwater Ecology. This past year he has worked as an intern for the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, FL and sent us this photo of jellyfish in a tank. He reports having a great opportunity to do everything from caring for animals to physically building life support systems. He is looking into get more aquarium training and hopes to continue working with marine animals.
On Nov 8, President Alger visited the Bioscience Building to present four mini-grants to faculty as part of the 4-VA program. 4-VA is a consortium of four Virginia universities, created to foster collaboration. The purpose of the 4-VA grant awards is to support faculty efforts that contribute to developing research capacity and partnerships and shared courses. Biology’s Dr Christine May was one of the recipients. Her proposal was to fund a Mountain Stream Symposium to be held next fall.
On Friday November 2nd, 24 seventh grade students from Thomas Harrison Middle School visited the Bioscience Building to learn about DNA with Dr Kerry Cresawn as part of JMU’s Middle School Visitation Program. A total of 275 students visited JMU and were divided up into different subjects. In the DNA lab, students isolated DNA from strawberries (pictured), loaded DNA into gels and made candy models of the DNA double helix.
They’re at it again! BIO432 Microscopy students are making beautiful images from found items and posting them to the class photoblog. Check it out. Look for an exhibition of the best of the images in the Bioscience hallways after Thanksgiving.
Spotlight on Alumni
Recent JMU Biotechnology graduates Kevin and Mike Fedkenheuer are currently featured on the Virginia Tech website for their PhD project work on plant pathogenesis in the lab of Dr John McDowell. Read the article.
Spotlight on Undergraduate Research
On September 26th, several students and faculty from the Biology Department helped the Harrisonburg Middle School 6th grade science class with their “Plant A Seed Stream Lab” in which the students learned about Riparian zones/Trees, Macroinvertebrates, Water Chemistry, and Hydrology at four stations led by the JMU folk at Riven Rock Park. This is the fifth year that the JMU Biology Department has participated in this event. See the Photos.
Save the frogs!
Graduate students Molly Bletz and Andy Loudon surveying salamanders in the JMU Arboretum. Their projects in the Harris Lab involve ways to use beneficial anti-fungal bacteria (probiotics) to mitigate disease threats to amphibians.
On September 26th, several faculty and students from the Biology Department helped the Harrisonburg Middle School 6th grade science class with their "Plant A Seed Stream Lab" in which the students learned about Riparian zones/Trees, Macroinvertebrates, Water Chemistry, and Hydrology at four stations led by JMU folk at Riven Rock Park.
Undergraduates do research in the summer too. Thanks to eight different scholarships and endowment funds, seven undergraduate students were able to conduct research with faculty in the Biology Department this summer. Pictured here are: Michael Ferras (Brown lab), Pria Chang (Halsell lab) and Kristie Prtorich (Mott lab).
Many spaces in the Bioscience Building were designed with student interaction and collaboration in mind. Spaces like this one are an example. Pictured is Dr Gabriele holding group office hours in one of the seating areas outside the faculty office neighborhoods.
Spotlight on undergraduate research: Kelsey Wilson-Henjum. Kelsey Wilson-Henjum has lost count of how many compounds she has tested in the last two years, but she does know that she’s looked at more than 20 for her honors thesis project alone. Kelsey is working on an antimicrobial project with Dr Kyle Seifert and two chemistry professors who synthesize antimicrobial compounds called amphiphiles. Read more...
The beautiful mural in the main atrium of the Bioscience building was designed and illustrated by JMU Biology alum Alison Stephen ('99). The mural depicts a 3-D rendering of a real DNA sequence from Arabidopsis thaliana - in fact, the sequence that Alison helped to sequence while doing undergraduate research at JMU! The mural also shows different organisms on each floor. You can read what Alison has to say about the mural on her blog and on the creative space site Behance.
We are moving!
During May and June The Biology Department is moving to the East side of campus: to the brand new Bioscience Building, between the Physics/Chemistry building and East Campus Library. While the final touches are being put on the building, only authorized personnel may enter, but please come and visit our new home later in the summer! Until then, feel free to browse photos of its construction
Spotlight on undergraduate research:
Miranda Sowder has spent four semesters and one summer working in Dr Marta Bechtel’s lab on a project trying to artificially engineer a cornea (the clear covering on the front of the eye). She has spent some long hours in the lab, doing two- or three-day long time series analyses of cell cultures, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Read more ...
IDLS students Emily Quinn and Rachel Kinkaid (GSCI 166- The Environment in Context) teaching photosynthesis and how it relates to CO2 levels in the atmosphere to children at Building Bridges Preschool (shown here with Cadyn Lucas). The children went on a leaf walk, made posters, looked at stomata under the microscope and made dioramas about CO2 in the environment.
JMU alum Tom Buckley, Sonoma State University Biology Department , will be the keynote speaker at this year's Biosymposium, which will be held on April 12th & 13th. His talk is entitled "The poetry of nature is written in calculus: Why biologists need intensive immersion in applied mathematics and computation." More on Biosymposium
Undergraduate research student, Ben Stanley, in the May Lab samples Cerion on San Salvor Island, the Bahamas. Ben is pursuing the legacy of Stephen Jay Gould as he explores spatial variation in shell morphology of the land snail Cerion sp.
Undergraduate researcher Matt Wallace (pictured here with his adviser, Mark Gabriele) recently won top prize for Best Presentation at the 24th annual CVCSN (Central Virginia Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience) Symposium held at Virginia Commonwealth University on March 16th 2012. The theme of the meeting was "Wiring the Nervous System: Mechanisms of Synaptic Targeting."
This week, JMU’s Relay for Life team is holding a fundraiser. Biology professors who have donated will be wearing Relay for Life t-shirts, and further donations can be given to them or put in the jar in the Biology Department office. Please do your bit to help fund cancer research this week!
Students in Geology and Ecology of the Bahamas field course (BIO/GEO 400) spent spring break at the Gerace Research Center on San Salvador Island. The group investigated geologic evidence for historic sea level changes and contemporary coral reef environments.
Graduate student Molly Bletz and her adviser Dr Reid Harris sampling newts in the George Washington National Forest. The Harris lab does research on the microbial ecology of amphibian skin, especially in the context of bacterial interactions with the lethal skin fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which is causing many amphibian populations to decline or go extinct.
Spotlight on graduate students: Marcus Skaflen. Malaria infects hundreds of millions of people every year and is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, which has an extremely rapid replication rate. My research focuses on a P. falciparum gene, which, when disabled, reduces the number of new parasites produced in a 48 hour cycle from 20 to 12. Together with SRI, I will be studying how the protein made by this gene affects the parasite's growth. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on graduate students: Caylin Murray. The unfolded protein response is a stress-induced cellular response initiated when proteins are improperly managed by the ER. The main function of this response is to maintain cellular homeostasis, but it can also initiate a caspase cascade that leads to apoptosis. We aim to understand this apoptotic pathway via manipulation of the unfolded protein response in C. elegans. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on graduate students: Andy Loudon. Chytridiomycosis is a cutaneous amphibian disease that threatens global amphibian diversity. The causal agent is the fungal pathogen which has been shown to be inhibited by skin bacteria. I will look at the effects of seasonality and climate change on the dynamics of microbial communities and presence of anti-fungal bacteria on amphibians. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on graduate students: Jade Irby. My research focuses on the development of novel amphiphiles with unique activity against pathogenic microbes. Previous work has shown that activities of bicephalic amphiphiles were affected by chain length of the hydrophobic tail and the head group positioning. My research expands on this work, using novel amphiphiles with substitutions in the head group and/or a hydrophobic tail. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on graduate students: Matthew Eddy. Joint pain is a common symptom of Dengue fever. My research looks at the interactions between chondrocytes and the viral E protein of the Dengue virus to better understand the relationship between the virus and joint pain. We aim to identify what genes are being expressed in response to the E protein and, secondly, to see if E protein influences macrophages, which, in turn, effect chondrocyte gene expression. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on graduate students: Marc Carpenter. In the Mott lab, our research interests include water quality, soil micro, survival of pathogens in the environment, antibiotic resistance, and Vibrio vulnificus. My current research is looking at persistence of the fecal bacteria, enterococci, in agricultural soils under different environmental conditions because soils have been shown to be a source of contamination and may pose threats to the water quality. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on graduate students: Molly Bletz. In the Harris lab our goal is to contribute to the conservation of amphibians threatened by a fungal pathogen. We investigate the cutaneous microbial ecology of amphibians and how this plays a role in disease resistance and susceptibility. My research will explore two questions: (1) How are beneficial microbes maintained on the amphibian skin? and (2) Can these microbes be transferred between conspecific individuals? More Grad student profiles.
Students in BIO432/526 (Microscopy) have been uploading images to a photoblog all semester. They find interesting looking objects at home or on their travels, bring them in and take photos of them on the microscopes, using the various microscopy techniques they learn in class. This one is an autofluorescing insect leg, seen under three different colors of light. See the rest.
On September 3, a group of JMU Biology students, led by Billy Flint embarked on the annual South River Cleanup. They divided into two groups and each group very thoroughly cleaned a 1-2 mile section of the South River in Waynesboro - from Canoes. As always, this resulted in canoes piled high with an astonishing array of trash and debris. See the photos.
Students in Freshwater Ecology (BIO 459) sample freshwater mussels at the Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center during a weekend field trip to southwest Virginia. Freshwater mussels are one of the most endangered groups of organisms in North America, and our region hosts great diversity in these amazing organisms.
The research of Dr Reid Harris and his students will be featured in a documentary airing on the Smithsonian Channel in October. The documentary follows one of the causes of massive population decline in amphibians, and some of the solutions that are being developed. The program will go to air on October 12th and 13th. Watch the trailer.
Undergraduate research assistant, Ben Stanley, investigates freshwater mussels in a northern California river. Ben is working with Dr. Christine May to develop an understanding of how flood disturbance affects the western pearlshell mussel (Margaritifera sp.).
Rising senior Katy Holmes has been doing an internship at the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi for 12 weeks this summer. She has been assisting with research on wild dolphin populations, stranding responses, animal care and rehab, and necropsies. Watch a video of a TV news story of a turtle release in which she participated.
Biology graduate student Julia Stutzman is featured in an article on the JMU website describing her research on plants of the Galapagos Islands.
Meet the Biology Department's newest recruits! Pictured: Dr Alex Bannigan with Hamish (2 weeks old), Dr Heather Griscom with Adeline and Genevieve (8 weeks old) and Dr Patrice Ludwig with Frankie (14 weeks old), all born this spring.
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Stephanie Wolf. I am working with Ring-tailed lemurs and Coquerel's sifakas in Dr Wunderlich's lab, measuring postcranial morphology and locomotor behavior through ontogeny. I anticipate graduating in May 2011. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Julia Stutzman. My thesis project is on some of the endemic members of the Cordia plant family in the Galapagos Islands. I am very passionate about plants, but also species and habitat conservation in general, particularly of fragile environments, like those found on the Galapagos Islands and other tropical areas. I really enjoy teaching, and I plan to pursue teaching at the collegiate level. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Kristina Silke. I am studying the influence of sex hormones and exercise on the risk for sports related injuries in college athletes in the Wunderlich Lab. I measure how ankle laxity and plantar pressure change across weeks of the menstrual cycle as well as before and after muscular fatigue. I plan to graduate in May 2011 and then attend physical therapy school. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Bryan Saunders. Our research works with the immune response to parasitic diseases. In particular, I focus on how a cytokine know as interleukin-3 influences host immunity when infected with Leishmania parasites. The Lantz lab hopes to establish the functions of interleukin-3 and use them in the development of therapeutic and prophylactic treatments. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Carley Muletz. Chytridiomycosis, an emerging infectious disease, is decimating amphibian biodiversity worldwide. In Dr. Harris's lab, amphibians' mutualistic bacteria have been shown to mitigate chytridiomycosis. For my thesis, I am testing the efficiacy of using soil bioaugmentation (the introduction of beneficial microbes into the environment) to prevent further amphibian declines driven by chytridiomycosis. More Grad student profiles.
Spotlight on Graduate Students: Sara Heltzel. My research investigates variation in the more vulnerable caudal branches of the external carotid artery. The external carotid artery has a highly variable branching pattern, and gender groups and neck side may exhibit differential frequencies of arterial variation. The results of this study could be used to reduce iatrogenic injury to neck vasculature during emergency surgical interventions. More Grad student profiles.
"Looking Closely" - an exhibition of images by biology students and photography students will be held at JMU's Institute for Visual Studies (208 Roop Hall) Feb 1-Apr 5. More information about the exhibit is available on the IVS website.
JMU students Michael Belovitch, Liz McCalister and Laura Robinson learn about rice production in a village in Eastern Madagascar as part of the JMU in Madagascar program (www.jmu.edu/international)
Students in BIO124 (Ecology and Evolution) Lab, identifying leaf-litter invertebrates that have colonized some cover-boards that they set out and then will calculate community diversity for their different cover-board sizes - the students learn about community diversity, and island biogeography.
Dozens of Biology students are doing research in laboratories in the Biology Department all the time. Students can do independent research in a lab for credit or as part of the Honors program. It's great experience that can provide an insight into what research is really like. Visit the Research page to find out how you can get involved. Or, read profiles on some of the students and their projects: Student profiles
On October 5th, an article appeared in the New York times that describes a field experiment underway in California that is based on a lab study conducted by the Harris lab. The experiment is testing the effectiveness at using a beneficial bacterium to counteract the devastating effects of a parasitic fungus on amphibian populations. Read the article.
The Biology Department will be getting a new home in 2012! Construction is due to begin any day on the East Campus, between the East Campus Library and the Physics/Chemistry building.
An article and video about the project appear on the JMU Office of Public Affairs website.
On Saturday September 11th, 9 students went out on South River with Billy Flint and Chris Rose, to clean it up. They retrieved, amongst other things, shopping carts, car parts, a bed frame and countless plastic bottles. If you would like to be involved in this kind of thing, consider joining TriBeta, the student Biology club. See more photos
An article about research being conducted in Reid Harris' lab appeared in Scientific American on July 12, 2010.
The research investigates the role of a skin bacterium in combating a deadly fungal infection in frogs and salamanders. The work of recently graduated Master's student Brianna Lam is featured. Read the Article.
Gills of the fungus Lepiota lutea, viewed with a dissecting microscope. Image taken by Microscopy student Devon Cowan. Students in BIO427/526 (microscopy) are taking a picture a week and posting them to the class blog. At the end of semester, students will submit their favorite image to a competition. The winner will be decided by popular vote.See more beautiful images taken by students.
Undergraduate student Theresa Russo's ('09) image of antibody-stained pro-apoptotic protein CED-4 in an early C. elegans embryo. In healthy cells not undergoing apoptosis, CED-4 is present and appears localized to the perinuclear region, where it is held inactive. Our research program focuses on correlating the localization of apoptotic proteins with the induction of apoptosis in different genetic backgrounds. Image courtesy of the Bloss lab.
Juvenile steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in streambed gravel. This species spends part of its lifecycle in the freshwater environment and part in the marine environment.
Students in the May lab are studying how accelerated erosion affects egg and juvenile fish survival.
Image courtesy of graduate student Morgan McHugh.
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December 6th: Graduate Proposal: Jamie Smith. "The Relationship Between Riparian Zone Width and Floristic Quality Along Streams in Shenandoah County, Virginia." Fridays 12:20-1:10. Bioscience 1007.
Biology Research in the news
Dr Christine May was recently featured on the local NPR program "Virginia Insight", talking about stream health in the Shenandoah Valley.
Nov 14th: Cafe Scientifique in Harrisonburg!
The next Cafe Scientifique event, hosted by Billy Jacks and the JMU College of Science and Mathematics is on Thursday November 14th. Ollie Hyman will be talking about the global crisis in amphibian populations.