Department of Biology

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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 two focused, yet overlapping, graduate training programs: Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology (MCEB) and Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology (EEOB).


Oecologia special edition honors James Ehleringer

July 16 2018 - The opening paper in this Special Issue of Oecologia by Jim Ehleringer and his former student and long-time collaborator Darren Sandquist tells the story of what they have discovered and learned about E. farinosa in an unprecedented multi-decadal demographic analysis. The paper is the first of 16 papers dedicated to Jim’s distinguished career and its impact on plant and ecosystem ecology writ large, including stable isotope ecology, desert ecology, photosynthetic adaptation, global change biology, urban ecology, paleobiology, forensic science, and atmosphere–biosphere interactions. This special issue of Oecologia is a fitting venue within which to honor Jim.

Congrats to Shannon Nielsen-Staff Excellence Award

July 9, 2018 - This prestigious award program recognizes superior service and ongoing contributions by full-time staff employees.  To be nominated is a high honor, and a sign that your commitment and contributions are truly valued by your colleagues. See Full Story...

Fires are white-hot signs of climate change

June 28, 2018 - Dr. William Anderegg, Biology Assistant Professor has published an article in the Denver Post. Scientists have been studying fires and trying to predict fire risk for decades. The drivers of fires are complicated and there’s a lot of random chance involved in any given fire, but there are some crystal clear big-picture patterns. First, the West has been warming due to human greenhouse gas emissions coming from our cars, power plants, and other sources. Hotter temperatures mean lower snowpacks, earlier snowmelts, and drier forests – sound familiar from this year? All of these factors are associated with years with lots of big fires. See Full Story...

College of Science Faculty Spotlight

June 13, 2018 - Dr. Bryn Dentinger, Associate Professor of Biology, focuses his research on fungal diversity and coevolution. He also is the Curator of Mycology at the Natural History Museum of Utah where he has established a fungus collection already numbering about 500 specimens. His goal is to build a permanent collection with thousands of specimens to document fungi in Utah and worldwide.“Fungi are fundamental agents in the environment with enormous impact on ecosystem processes and human well-being,” says Dentinger. “In fact, fungi are the primary agent of decay, ubiquitous symbionts of plants and animals – including humans – and the source of important medicines and enzymes in industry,” says Dentinger.  See Full Story...


May 14, 2018 - It’s not easy to catch an Egyptian vulture.  Evan Buechley of the Şekercioğlu lab knows. He’s hunkered down near garbage dumps from Ethiopia to Armenia, waiting for the highly intelligent birds to trigger a harmless trap. But no matter how well he and other researchers hid the traps, he says, “somehow the birds could always sense that something was up.”  Eventually Buechley, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah and HawkWatch International, and his colleagues caught and tagged a total of 45 vultures. The Egyptian Vulture is an endangered species, and by tracking them Buechley and colleagues were able to learn more about where they eat, breed and migrate. See Full Story...


April 23, 2018 - Biology professor Nalini Nadkarni has been awarded the 2018 Women of Discovery Lifetime Achievement Award by WINGS WorldQuest. She and four other award winners will be induced as WINGS WorldQuest fellows on April 25, 2018, in New York City. From WINGS WorldQuest’s website: “For three decades, Dr. Nalini Nadkarni has used mountain-climbing techniques, construction cranes, and hot air balloons to explore life in the treetops of Costa Rica and the Pacific Northwest, documenting biota that are rarely or never seen on the forest floor. She also studies the effects of forest fragmentation on biodiversity, and has published over 110 scientific articles and three scholarly books.” See Full Story...

When Animals go Wild

April 2, 2018 - Featured in a new PNAS article, Biologist Wayne Potts of the University of Utah has been encouraging natural behavior in his study animals since the late 1980s. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Florida, Potts wanted to understand how natural selection and sexual selection affect the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), a collection of genes that helps the immune system identify bacteria and other foreign substances. He built a barn-like structure to house wild strains of mice so he could watch these forces play out naturally, and he found that female mice preferred males with MHC genotypes different from their own. But he also realized that the “mouse barn” offered a powerful way to study mice under more natural conditions. Since then, Potts has conducted many experiments that he calls organismal performance assays (OPAs) in structures that function much like barns. He uses strains of genetically diverse house mice (Mus musculus) that breed outside of family groups, unlike classic inbred lab strains. See Full Article...

Citizen Science Birding Data Passes muster

March 9, 2018 - As long as there have been birdwatchers, there have been lists. Birders keep detailed records of the species they’ve seen and compare these lists with each other as evidence of their accomplishments. Now those lists, submitted and aggregated to birding site eBird, can help scientists track bird populations and identify conservation issues before it’s too late. Joshua Horns (Şekercioğlu lab) is an eBird user himself and a doctoral candidate in biology at the University of Utah. In a paper published today in Biological Conservation, Horns and colleagues report that eBird observations match trends in bird species populations measured by U.S. government surveys to within 0.4 percent. See Full Story...

U CO2 Sensor Network shows effects of metro growth

March 6, 2018 - In February 2001, before the Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City roared to life and focused the world’s spotlight on Utah, scientists at the University of Utah placed the first of several carbon dioxide (CO2) sensors atop a building on campus. In a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by atmospheric scientists Logan Mitchell and John Lin report that suburban sprawl increases CO2 emissions more than similar population growth in a developed urban core. Congratulations to David Bowling, Diane Pataki, Susan Bush and Jim Ehleringer on the publication of this article that is the culmination of a decades long study. See Washington Post Story... See Full Story...

Ecological Society of America announces 2018 Fellows

March 1, 2018 - Congratulations to Biology faculty Phyllis D. Coley and Fred Adler on being elected as ESA Fellows. Congratulations also to William Anderegg elect as ESA Early Career Fellow. See Full Story...

Transfer Students in Biology - March 7 Focus Group

Come share your experience about transferring to the U of U in the Department of Biology. Lunch will be provided. This meeting is March 7 at noon. Please RSVP to Dr. Belinda Otukolo Saltiban at or 801.585.5994

Biology number one in UnderGrad majors

February 14, 2018 - According to the University of Utah's Winter 2018 Imaginagion Report, Biology is the now number one in the top 10 undergraduate majors at the U.


February 12, 2018 - Professor Çağan Şekercioğlu brown bear research is in a documentary on PBS and BBC this week and Şekercioğlu will give a talk on his bird ecology and conservation work at National Geographic in DC on February 15. Şekercioğlu has been studying the brown bears of Turkey since 2006. In collaboration with the BBC’s “Animals with Cameras” series, he got to see life from a bear’s-eye view. One bear found himself in a fight with another bear and was later chased for 45-minutes by yet another bear. The episode airs on KUED 7 at 7 p.m. on February 14. See Full Story... See NatGeoDC Feb 15... See PBS Animals with Cameras... See BBC Animals with Cameras...

Biology Coordinator wins award

February 12, 2018 - Congratulations to Amy Sibul, the Biology Department's Community Engaged Learning and Internship Coordinator.  Amy has won the 2018 Alta Sustainability Community Partnership Award.  The U will be honoring her achievement at the Environment and Sustainability Research Symposium on Thursday, February 15.

Beckerle receives National Cancer Institute Award

January 9, 2018 -  Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah, is this year’s recipient of the Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Beckerle will receive the award and present the award lecture, “Interface Between Cytoskeletal Dynamics and Tumor Biology” at the NCI today in Maryland.

“It’s a tremendous honor to have the cancer research accomplishments of my laboratory recognized by the National Cancer Institute” says Beckerle. “I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with many talented graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and colleagues at HCI, the University of Utah, and around the world as we have worked to understand fundamental aspects of cell biology with the goal of improving cancer treatments.” In addition to leading HCI, Beckerle is a distinguished professor of biology and oncological sciences and holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair at the University of Utah. Beckerle is the 22nd Knudson award winner. Past recipients of the award include Nobel laureates J. Michael Bishop, Robert Horvitz, Harold Varmus, Leland Hartwell, and Elizabeth H. Blackburn.

Snail Venom replaces opiods?

November 29, 2017 - A handful of University of Utah researchers for years have investigated the venom of marine snails and how it might be transformed into a safer alternative to opioid painkillers. Now, they have new backing to expand their research. The U. this week said it has received $10 million from the Department of Defense to further study cone snail venom and search for similar compounds from the venom of other marine organisms. “We’re going back to natural sources to find the next generation of pain drugs,” said Dr. Russell Teichert, a research associate professor in the Department of Biology. Dr. Michael McIntosh and another U. researcher, Dr. Baldomero Olivera, have isolated and studied portions of the cone snail venom for decades. The small organisms use the venom to stun and consume prey, including small fish, and it turned out that portions of the venom, known as peptides, were effective as painkillers. See Tribune Story... See YouTube Video...

Biology Newsletter - Our DNA

November 15, 2017 - Just released “Our DNA” News! The Department of Biology’s Fall 2017 issue. Check out our “Faculty Spotlight”, Sophie Caron: How sensory input is remembered; Ryan Watts of Denail: Quest to conquer neurodegenerative illnesses; and “Alumni Spotlight”, Randy Rasmussen of Biofire, and much more! If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please email Cathy Green PR/Advancement Director for the Biology Department. See Fall 2017 Newsletter

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