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).

News

New Book from Biology Post Doc

October 6, 2017 - Newborn mammals can weigh as little as a dime or as much as a motorcycle. Some receive milk for only a few days, whereas others nurse for years. Humans typically have only one baby at a time following nine months of pregnancy, but other mammals have twenty or more young after only a few weeks in utero. What causes this incredible reproductive diversity? In Reproduction in Mammals, Virginia Hayssen with Teri J. Orr, of the Dearing Lab present readers with a fascinating examination of the varied reproductive strategies of a broad spectrum of mammals, from marsupials to whales.

Nature imagery in prisons

October 3, 2017 - The Ecological Society of America has published an article by University of Utah biologist Nalini Nadkarni. An estimated 5.3 million Americans live or work in nature-deprived venues such as prisons, homeless shelters, and mental hospitals. Such removal from nature can result in an “extinction of experience” that can further lead to disinterest or disaffection toward natural settings, or even biophobia (fear of the natural environment). People who infrequently – or never – spend time in nature will be deprived of the numerous physical and emotional benefits that contact with nature affords. See ESA Article, See Nature Article..., See UU Story..., See Deseret News Story...

Skolnick Foundation Fellowship

The Skolnick Foundation Fellowship is awarding fellowships in honor of Gordon Lark, Ph.D., the first Department Chair of the Biology Department at the University of Utah, and a champion of undergraduate research. The Fellowship will provide four Biology undergraduates in the Biology Department the opportunity to receive $1,250 to work in a Biology Department research lab Spring Semester, 2018. Application deadline: October 16, 2017 for Spring Semester 2018.

Evolutionary Arms 'Chase'

August 23, 2017 - New research led by the University of Utah challenges the paradigm of an evolutionary arms race. The study analyzed multiple species of Inga, a genus of tropical trees that produces defensive chemicals, and their various insect herbivores. The researchers found that closely related plants evolved very different defensive traits. “This allows us to ask this important question: Is plant relatedness or are plant traits more important for determining which plant species a particular herbivore may feed on?” said senior author Thomas Kursar, professor in the Department of Biology at the U and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “The answer turns out to be that plant traits are more important.” “The fact that there is this asymmetry in the evolutionary interactions is surprising,” adds lead author Maria Jose Endara, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Utah, and associated researcher at Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica in Ecuador. “Herbivores select for the divergence in the chemical defenses in Inga hosts.  See Full Story...

the 'far side' of science

August 14, 2017 - Since Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” cartoons hit newsstands in 1979, Dale Clayton, an evolutionary parasitologist at the University of Utah and appreciator of the wacky, has loved the comic’s tongue-in-cheek representation of the natural world and the scientists who study it. In “The Far Side” universe, anthropomorphic organisms and suburbanites in cat-eye glasses poke fun at all fields of study, from microbiology to astronomy, with wordplay and dark humor. When Clayton discovered a new species of feather louse as a graduate student at the University of Chicago in 1989, he knew exactly what to name it. So began the strange tale of a type of chewing louse that came to be known as Strigiphilus garylarsoni. See Full Story...

Excellence in earth and space science

July 20, 2017 - Please join in congratulating Thure Cerling and Jim Ehleringer, recipients of the American Geophysical Union's Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award. Jim and Thure were given this award for their sustained and pioneering efforts to train generations of students in stable isotope biogeosciences for over two decades. Their course in stable isotope biogeochemistry and ecology known as IsoCamp is a world renowned training experience. This year, the course welcomed 40 students from Argentina, Brazil, Slovenia, Mexico, Colombia, South Korea, Israel, Lebanon, Venezuela, Italy, the Phillipines, and the U.S. Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award

Grad student Anna Vickrey winner of the Fitch Award

July 18, 2017 - Congratulations to Anna Vickrey of the Shapiro Lab who has been awarded the 2017 Walter M. Fitch Award. The Fitch Award honors the best presentation at the Walter M. Fitch symposium, which provides a forum for young investigators to showcase their exemplary research at the annual meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE). See Full Story...

Postdoc receives Childs Fellowship

July 12, 2017 - Congratulation to Emily Maclary of the Shapiro Lab who has been awarded the Jane Coffin Childs (JCC) Memorial Fellowship. The JCC was established in 1937 for the purpose of supporting research into the causes and treatment of cancer. The Fund has taken a broad approach to the study of cell growth and development, emphasizing the study of the basic biology and chemistry of the underlying processes.  See Full Story...

Congratulations to Jose Rojas

July 10, 2017 - The Biology Department Facilities Manager, Jose Rojas, has won the District Staff Excellence Award for 2017. The University Staff Excellence Awards (USEA) program was established in 1992 to recognize superior service and ongoing contributions by the University of Utah's full-time staff employees. The 5 DSEA winners are the pool from which the recipients of the University Staff Excellence Awards are chosen. All will be recognized in their respective areas and at the USEA luncheon hosted by President Pershing.

Spider mites synthesize their own carotenoids

July 6, 2017 - In a new report, University of Utah biologist Richard Clark and graduate students Andre Kurlovs and Robert Greenhalgh, along with collaborators in Europe and Japan, have shown that spider mites can synthesize their own carotenoids using genes acquired by horizontal transfer from fungi. Further, they found that mutations in one of the horizontally transferred genes abolishes the ability of spider mites to enter diapause, a physiological state associated with overwintering. Thus, a gene acquired by horizontal gene transfer underlies a key life history trait in spider mites of relevance to their status as notorious agricultural pests with a global distribution that includes regions with harsh winters. Their results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences See Full Article... (Photo credit: Jan Van Arkel)

Vanishing Vultures

June 29, 2017 - HawkWatch International has partnered with the University of Utah in 2017 to study and conserve vulture populations in the Horn of Africa. This study is being lead by Evan Buechely of the Şekercioğlu lab. They will work primarily in Ethiopia, a country that has the most diverse and abundant vulture community in the world and which is a critically important location to target research and conservation actions. All seven vulture species found in Ethiopia are threatened with extinction. See Full Story...

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