Department Chair Assistant Chair Graduate Coordinator Administrative Assistant

Dr. Casotti
Email
610-436-2856

Dr. Auld
Email
610-436-0046

Dr. Turner
Email
610-436-3009

Melissa Griffin
Email
610-436-2538

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

Faculty office hours for Fall 2021 .

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News & Highlights Archive

Alumni

  •  Nicole Havrilchak
  • Carly Farrell

  • Michael Mercadante

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  • Scott Musser

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  • Greg Barren

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College of Science and Mathematics Antiracism Statement

We in the College of the Sciences and Mathematics are heartbroken and outraged by recent events, including the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. We mourn with the families and friends of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many other Black persons who have lost their lives to senseless violence. We grieve with our students, staff, and faculty of color who face injustice. We stand with a nation that is ready to end racism and create a just and equitable society.

Click here to read the full statement

We in the College of the Sciences and Mathematics are heartbroken and outraged by recent events, including the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. We mourn with the families and friends of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many other Black persons who have lost their lives to senseless violence. We grieve with our students, staff, and faculty of color who face injustice. We stand with a nation that is ready to end racism and create a just and equitable society.

This time of national crisis, the tragic deaths of Black Americans, the incitement of violence directed at racial/ethnic minorities, and xenophobic hatred have again brought attention to this country’s systemic inequities on the basis of race, ethnicity, and skin color. These events highlight the present-day structural oppression of racism that influences nearly all aspects of our society. These realities of our nation involve deep injustice, pain, suffering, and loss—but also a strong movement towards change, justice, and equity. Recognizing the hope that can arise from actions and desires for societal change, the West Chester University College of the Sciences and Mathematics seeks to foster a shared commitment to the work we do as educators, researchers, scholars, support staff, and students---work that has the power to make the invisible visible and to give voice to important issues, including those related to ending racism, promoting social justice, and upholding the values of dignity and human rights.

As scientists and mathematicians, we are dedicated to evidence-based learning, community engagement, and personal and societal change. As citizens in a global society, we encourage our faculty, staff, and students to take advantage of opportunities for personal and collective action:

  • The CSM administration, faculty, and staff commit to holding each other accountable to the college’s mission to support the success of the whole student—academic, social, personal, and emotional, and to promote critical thinking, evidence-based problem-solving, timely approaches to current issues, professional and ethical conduct, and cultural competence.
  • We encourage our students to help us identify ways in which we can better meet this mission and make the College ever more representative of and responsive to our students and their needs.
  • We call for a College-wide commitment to social change that promotes equity, social justice, and respect for human rights, and that eliminates all forms of systemic and institutional racism, injustice, and inequity, while empowering our students to be well-informed agents of social change.
  • We strongly encourage members of our college—faculty, staff, and students—to learn more about issues of structural inequality and systemic injustice, including the historical antecedents, its causes and symptoms, and evidence-based solutions. For students, this might mean taking advantage of the many related courses offered in CSM departments such as Anthropology and Sociology, Political Science, and Psychology. For all, this may include participating in the training and educational opportunities provided by the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and many other groups on campus. In addition, CSM faculty and staff will curate a collection of informational materials available to all members of the college. We encourage everyone to visit the site regularly, to contribute and share widely.
  • If you are a member of the college experiencing or witnessing harassment, discrimination, or other forms of injustice on campus, please reach out to the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
    May we collectively choose to be the change we want to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi).

 
2021 Announcements

Winter 2021 Biology Course Offerings

Biology will be offering 3 courses this winter term.  They are as follows:

BIO 435: Animal Conservation Biology (Dr. Maresh)

In this course, we will discuss interesting case studies of situations where understanding some aspect of an animal’s biology was key in conservation efforts for that species. We will explore the biology itself, but also delve into the human dimensions of the original and oftentimes continuing problem: What are the socio-political barriers or inertia that put this species’ persistence into jeopardy in the first place? Has the problem been solved, or is it ongoing, and why? 

Bio 436 Virus-host interactions (Dr. Donze-Reiner)

Co-evolution and adaptation between viruses and hosts are often portrayed as a zero-sum biological arms race. Viruses enter host cells equipped with an array of mechanisms to evade the host defense responses and replicate while hosts continually evolve their defense mechanisms to restrict infection. This class will discuss the varied solutions each side has developed as a means for survival. We will use examples that contribute seriously to the global health burden, including HIV, influenza, coronavirus, Zikavirus, rabies virus, poliovirus, dengue virus and many more.  Primary research papers will be discussed to help students learn to pose scientific questions and design and conduct experiments to answer the questions and critically interpret data. This course will be held synchronously online via zoom and attendance is required. The suggested pre-requisites for this course is Bio 210 (formally Bio 230) Genetics and Bio 214: Microbiology.  

BIO 490: Senior Seminar (Dr. Chandler)

This will be the standard course offered in Senior Seminar during the regular semester.

Tenure Track Position in Genomics/Bioinformatics Available

A tenure-track assistant professor position in the Department of Biology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania is available starting August 2022. An earned doctorate in Genetics/Molecular Biology or related discipline is required. Of special interest are candidates who can further the University’s efforts to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. Candidate must be qualified to develop courses in genomics and/or bioinformatics. In addition, candidates must be qualified to teach courses/labs in the fields of molecular or cell biology, as well as introductory level biology and graduate courses/labs as needed.  Candidates with a research interest in genomics/bioinformatics are preferred. 

Apply on Neogov

Prospective Student Video - WCU Experience Day

Video: Prospective Students

If you are a prospective student considering enrolling in Biology at West Chester University in fall 2021, watch this helpful video that provides insight into the programs we offer. Come to WCU Experience Days virtually and a faculty member from Biology will be able to answer any questions you may have. WCU Experience days are on September 21st (5pm), October 12th and November 9th 2020.

2021 News

Dr. Oné Pagán publishes new book

Dr. Oné Pagán has published a new book entitled "Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins" that looks at multiple non-human organisms and their relationships with intoxication.

Dr. Fish Receives Grant from Office of Naval Research

Dr. Frank Fish, biology received a grant of $230,403 from the Office of Naval Research for “Autonomous environmental transitions of an amphibious turtle-inspired robot.”  The grant is in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio of Yale University.

Dr. Sowa Receives Grant for Nematode Hunters Project

Dr. Jessica Sowa received a $35,000 American Society for Cell Biology Public Engagement grant through the Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, for her “Nematode Hunters” project (https://www.ascb.org/grants-awards/ascb-public-engagement-grants/). Nematode Hunters is a classroom-based citizen science project with a remote delivery format that will allow 4th grade teachers at underserved schools in Pennsylvania to engage their students in authentic biological research. Students will become collaborators on a project to discover new intracellular pathogens of nematodes by collecting wild nematodes from any outdoor space, making observations, and submitting the nematodes collected to the West Chester University research team to be tested for the presence of intracellular infections. Check out the progress of the project at: nematodehunters.org or on Twitter @NematodeHunters!

Dr. Fish Awarded Distinguished Research Award

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, was presented with the West Chester University Distinguished Research Award at the 2021 spring graduation ceremony.

Dr. Frank Fish receiving Distinguished Research Award

New Faculty members

Dr. Megan Fork

Dr. Megan Fork will join the Department of Biology as an Assistant Professor in August 2021. Her research asks how freshwater ecosystems like streams and lakes transport and transform nutrients, organic matter, and contaminants. At WCU, Dr. Fork will lead a lab group working to understand how human-induced changes like urbanization, emerging contaminants, and stream restoration affect streams, lakes, and wetlands. She will also teach courses including Freshwater Ecology and Wetlands.

Dr. Fork earned her PhD in Environmental Science from Duke University (2017), M.S. in Biology from Florida International University (2012), and B.S.s in Zoology, Conservation Biology and Theatre & Drama from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2008). She conducted postdoctoral research on the effects of global change in northern streams and lakes at Umeå University and studied urban streams in Baltimore, MD as a postdoctoral scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. She looks forward to teaching and mentoring student scientists in Biology at WCU.

Dr. Megan Fork joining the Biology Department

Biology Highlights 2021

Dr. Benjamin Chambers published the following article: Froggatt, H. M., Burke, K. N., Chaparian, R. R., Miranda, H. A., Zhu, X., Chambers, B. S., & Heaton, N. S. (2021). Influenza A virus segments five and six can harbor artificial introns allowing expanded coding capacity. PLoS pathogens, 17(9), e1009951.

Dr. Megan Fork published a manuscript titled "Creating community: A peer-led, adaptable postdoc program to build transferrable career skills and overcome isolation" (2021, Ecosphere). E.C. Anderson, A.A. Castellanos, I.R. Fischhoff, A.M. Matsler, C.L. Nieman, I.A. Oleksy, and M.Y. Wong were co-authors. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.3767 

Dr. Megan Fork co-authored a manuscript titled "A framework for assessing hydrological and biogeochemical synchrony and asynchrony" (2021, Ecosystems). E.C. Seybold led the manuscript and A.E. Braswell, J.R. Blaszczak, M.R. Fuller, K.E. Kaiser, J.M. Mallard, and M.A. Zimmer were co-authors. DOI: 10.1007/s10021-021-00700-1 

Dr. Megan Fork published a manuscript titled "Dosing the coast: Leaking sewage infrastructure delivers large annual loads and dynamic mixtures of pharmaceuticals to urban rivers" (2021, Environmental Science & Technology). J.B. Fick, A.J. Reisinger, and E.J. Rosi were co-authors. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c00379  The paper was covered extensively in the news - you can read more from Gizmodo, ScienceDaily, E&E News (Politico), U.S. News & World Report, Baltimore Sun, National Science Foundation, and Eos 
 
Dr. Megan Fork presented an invited seminar titled "Global changes beyond climate and their impacts on freshwater ecosystems" at the State University of New York at New Paltz, 23 September 2021.

Dr. Megan Fork was awarded a Research in Mathematics and Science from the College of Science and Mathematics for $3990 to research how spring snowmelt influences the amount of microplastics in Pennsylvania streams.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, was a co-author on the paper “Bio-inspired design, modeling, and control of robotic fish propelled by a double-slider-crank mechanism driven tail” that was published in the Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement and Control 143(12): 121005 (2021).

Ariel Leahy, biology graduate student, published the paper “The role of California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) hindflippers as aquatic control surfaces for maneuverability” in the Journal of Experimental Biology, volume 224 (2021). The paper was co-authored with Dr. Frank Fish, biology, Sarah Kerr, biology graduate student, and Kaitlyn Cardenas, biology undergraduate student.

Dr. Michael Rosario presented an invited seminar "Make do with what you have: studying elasticity as an integrative biologist" at New Mexico State University, Nov 1st, 2021.

Dr. Michael Rosario was awarded at the 2021 Virtual Teaching with Technology Excellence Showcase for use of YouTube livestreaming in the classroom.

Dr. Michael Rosario was invited to speak at the Center for Engineering Mechanobiology Friday Seminar Series.

Dr. Michael Rosario was presented with the Honors College Outstanding Faculty Award.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, published the paper ”The role of the tail or lack thereof in the evolution of tetrapod aquatic propulsion” in Integrative and Comparative Biology, volume 61(2): 398-413 (2021). Co-authors on the paper included former WCU biology graduate student, Christina Duff, Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature, and George Lauder of Harvard University.

Dr. Jessica Sowa presented an invited seminar “Investigating host-virus interactions in C. elegans” to the Penn Worm Group, University of Pennsylvania, April 1st, 2021

Dr. Jessica Sowa presented an invited seminar “Investigating host-virus interactions in C. elegans” to the Molecular Biology Institute, San Diego State University, October 7th, 2021

Dr. Jessica Sowa, along with former undergraduate Katie Byrnes, Barbara Chen, Emily Cooper, and graduate student Nicolas Martinez co-authored the poster “Nematode hunters: a citizen science approach to identifying new systems for the study of host-virus interactions” which was presented at the 23rd International C. elegans Meeting in June 2021

Dr. Jessica Sowa, along with former undergraduates Barbara Chen and Emily Cooper, co-authored the poster “Evaluating the effects of individual Orsay virus proteins on the C. elegans Intracellular Pathogen Response” which was presented at the 23rd International C. elegans Meeting in June 2021

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, was a co-author on the presentation “Bubble PIV technique to measure the velocity field of a free-swimming California sea lion” that was delivered at the 14th International Symposium on Particle Image Velocimetry that was held in Chicago, IL on August 1-4 (2021). The presentation was co-authored with Drs. Megan Leftwich and Gino of George Washington University.

Biology graduate student Sarah Polohovich and Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer presented the poster, Emerging understory dominants in Eastern deciduous forests: quantifying photosynthetic induction and sunfleck responses, at the 106th Virtual Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in August.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, and biology graduate students, Sarah Kerr and Abigail Downs, co-authored a paper “Tunable stiffness enables fast and efficient swimming in fish-like robots” that was published in Science Robotics Vol. 6, issue 57 (2021). The paper was co-authored with Drs. Dan Quinn and Hilary Bart-Smith of the University of Virginia.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, received a grant from the Office of Naval Research, Locomotor Transitions of an Amphibious System: Biological to Robotic, for $300,000.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, received a grant from the Office of Naval Research, Bio-inspired flexible propulsors for fast, efficient swimming: What physics are we missing?, for $100,000.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, co-authored the paper “Future tail tales: A forward-looking, integrative perspective on tail research” in Integrative and Comparative Biology icab082/6276988 (2021).

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented an invited seminar “Bio-inspiration as a driver for an innovative technology from whales” to the Introduction to Soft Robotics class at Yale University, March 23, 2021.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented an invited seminar “Biomimetic engineering: Marine Technology from whales” to the Webb Institute, Glen Cove, NY, April 19, 2021.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented an invited seminar "Sea lions and submersibles” to the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, Hyannis, MA, May 8, 2021.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, is a coauthor on the research article “Scaling of oscillatory kinematics and Froude efficiency in baleen whales”, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, volume 224, jeb237586 (2021).

Dr. John Pisciotta was awarded a Cullen Grant for $3,955.58 to research the "Effect of Metal Containing Nanoparticles on Microbial Communities" (2021).

Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer co-authored the following article, Koyama, A., A.D. Schotzko, J.L. Schedlbauer, R.Pangle, and K. Kavanagh. 2021. Can variation in canopy d13C be attributed to changes in tree height?  An investigation of three conifer species. Trees 35:731-748.

In March 2021, Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer presented an invited webinar for the Natural Areas Association, for an audience of forest managers and practitioners. She led a presentation and discussion entitled, Current and future carbon storage capacity in a southeastern Pennsylvania forest.

Dr. Sean Buskirk published the following manuscript: Buskirk SW, Rokes AB, Lang GI. 2021. Adaptive evolution of nontransitive fitness in yeast. eLife. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62238

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented and invited seminar "A whale of an idea for an innovative technology from bio-inspired design” which was presented to the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Villanova University on February 5, 2021.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented an invited paper “Evolution of the tail and lack thereof for aquatic propulsion in mammals” as part of symposium “The Evolution of Tails and Their Function” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Washington, D.C., January 3-7, 2021.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, was a co-author on the presentation “Impact force of high diving of animals (dolphins, penguins, frogs) and humans” that was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Washington, D.C., January 3-7, 2021.

Dr. Frank Fish, biology, was a co-author on the presentation “Tuna robotics: Caudal fin kinematics and optimization” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Washington, D.C., January 3-7, 2021.

Ariel Leahy, biology graduate student, and Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented a paper “Not to be flip: Anatomy and novel tendon morphology of the California sea lion hindflipper” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Washington, D.C., January 3-7, 2021.

Sarah Kerr, biology graduate student, Dr. Anthony Nicastro, physics, and Dr. Frank Fish, biology, presented a paper “Biomechanical energetics of terrestrial locomotion: California sea lion vs. Northern elephant seal” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Washington, D.C., January 3-7, 2021.

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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