Department of Biology

The Department of Biology offers exceptional opportunities to learn, work, and collaborate across levels of biological organization and styles of research. Faculty research interests span the complete spectrum of biological phenomena and disciplines, from biochemistry to global environmental change. This breadth of research interests has led to development of three focused, yet overlapping, graduate training programs: Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology (MCEB), Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB), and Microbial Biology.

Biology Development Brochure


Drought’s lasting impact on forests

July 30, 2015 – In the virtual worlds of climate modeling, forests and other William Andereggvegetation are assumed to bounce back quickly from extreme drought. But that assumption is far off the mark, according to a new study of drought impacts at forest sites worldwide. Living trees took an average of two to four years to recover and resume normal growth rates after droughts ended, researchers report today in the journal Science.“This really matters because in the future droughts are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change,” says lead author William R.L. Anderegg, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “Some forests could be in a race to recover before the next drought strikes.” See U Press Release... See Full Science article...


The migratory journey is a dangerous and difficult and songbirds need good Cagan Sekerciogluquality stop over and refueling sites along the way.  But climate change is affecting many of the diverse habitats migratory birds depend on. Çağan Şekercioğlu is concerned that climate induced change increases the chance that migrants will be negatively affected at some stage of the annual cycle. By the end of this century, 25 percent of all bird species may be extinct. Dr. Şekercioğlu's ornithological research on bird population biology, community ecology at Aras River wetlands of eastern Turkey and effects of climate change on songbirds has been featured in a major new documentary on songbirds. See information about The MESSENGER a cinematic full length film.

Tenure Track Position

Biodiversity, the richness of life on Earth, past and present, is declining at unprecedented rates, accelerated by human activity. The need for outstanding research and broad-reaching public education related to biodiversity and its preservation is urgent. The University of Utah is establishing a faculty cluster where biodiversity research is combined with learning research for a novel interdisciplinary emphasis that strongly supports the University’s commitment to sustainability. Each faculty position will be jointly hired between the Natural History Museum of Utah and any of the following departments/institutes participating in the cluster: Anthropology, Biology, etc. Application.

Molecular Medicine PD Fellow Position

A postdoctoral scientist is needed to study how small GTPases that control intracellular trafficking can regulate classic cancer signaling pathways. Use a variety of approaches and tools including genetic, biologic, and small molecules to manipulate these pathways both in vitro and in vivo. Application

Climate-vulnerable pikas may be resilient to wildfire

July 23, 2015 - As the West transforms into a tinderbox defined by hotter Pikasummers and drier winters, we Homo sapiens will have to rethink our relationship with fire. But how will other animals weather our fire-prone future? Research suggests that at least one species is well prepared to survive the flames — and it’s probably not the creature you would expect.  The new study, published last month in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, comes courtesy of Johanna Varner, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the University of Utah working in the Dearing Lab. Pikas, an adorable, baseball-sized relative of the rabbit, have a notoriously poor tolerance for heat; as a result, they’re widely considered among the species most susceptible to climate change. See Full Story...


June 23, 2015 – The same gene that creates elaborate head crests in domestic Crestsrock pigeons also makes head and neck feathers grow up instead of down in domesticated doves to give them head crests, although theirs are much simpler and caused by a different mutation, University of Utah researchers found. Unlike pigeons, which can have any of four kinds head crests – peaks, manes, shells and hoods -- the ringneck doves have only peak crests, which is the simplest form of head crest in pigeons. But the new study by biologist Michael Shapiro found that a different mutation of the gene that causes head crests in pigeons also does the same thing in doves. “This shows that different species use the same gene to similar effect.” See Full Story...

U’s conservation ecology lab

May 28, 2015—Utah is well-known for its breathtaking mountain landscape, Sekergioclu Labworld-class skiing and easy access to the great outdoors. University of Utah’s Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology lab, led by assistant professor Çağan Şekercioğlu, has created an avenue by which U students, and other community members alike can take further advantage of the state’s famed outdoors and face wildlife head-on through bird banding in Red Butte Canyon. The project is a good example of “citizen science” where regular people volunteer to help collect data and contribute to science through working with professional scientists. See Full Story...

U Biologist on SL Trib "I LOVE" Series

May 14, 2015 - A study conducted by Johanna Varner, a U biologist in the Pika-Dearing Lab Dearing lab, found that American pikas living in the Columbia River Gorge near Portland, Ore., have adapted to much lower elevations by eating nutrient-poor mosses that cover the boulder fields they live in near sea level. The moss also acts like a "swamp cooler" to keep the warm mammals cool.  See her story in the latest video in The Tribune's "I Love" video series, which features people with a passion.

Biology Professor starts Jail Program

May 3, 2015 - A field of weeds at the Salt Lake County Jail has been Jail Programtransformed into a fish pond designed to save a threatened species, as well as provide science education and job training to inmates. On Friday, 5,000 least chub, a small minnow found only in Utah, were introduced into the newly created half-acre pond. The fish later will be introduced at Mona Springs, in Juab County, which has one of the six remaining wild populations of least chub, and used as broodstock for future sites similar to the pond.  Sheriff Jim Winder said inmates and the environment will get a boost from the pond, which was created in partnership with University of Utah INSPIRE (Initiative to Bring Science Programs to the Incarcerated) and the Division of Wildlife Resources. "We're doing this to change human beings, to change the world," Winder said of the project. Nalini Nadkarni , a U. biology professor, said one of the most powerful features of INSPIRE is that it provides an opportunity "to contribute to something as big as the health of Utah's streams and waterways." See SL Trib Article... See KUER Article...

What's new at NSF

April 29, 2015 - Our thanks to Dr. Diane Pataki for her presentation about what's new at NSF. See the PowerPoint Presentation here....


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