Biology Highlights 2017

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 (

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

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.