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.

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News

DOVES SHARE PIGEON GENE FOR HEAD CRESTS

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....

Biology Professor recognized for social Justice

April 17, 2015 - Dr. Nalini Nadkarni has been named as the recipient of the Nadkarni4th William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice by the President of Washington State University. The award selection committee stated that they recognized: "your truly significant work that brings respect to prison inmates. In particular, your work as a co-Founder of the Washington State–based Sustainbility in Prisons Project, an endeavor that has brought science, along with respect and job-training, to incarcerated men and women. The Committee felt you have done much to raise public awareness of social exclusiveness and injustice while promoting respect for all people regardless of their class, race/enthnicy, income, or social isolation, key things the award seeks to recognize." See Award Page...

Denise Dearing named Distinguished Professor 

Dr. Denise Dearing-Distinguished ProfessorMarch 26, 2015 - Congratulations to Biology Professor and Chair Denise Dearing who has been named one of three new Distinguished Professors. “The rank of Distinguished Professor is reserved for selected individuals whose achievements exemplify the highest goals of scholarship as demonstrated by recognition accorded to them from peers with national and international stature, and whose record includes evidence of a high dedication to teaching as demonstrated by recognition accorded to them by students and/or colleagues.”

Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

March 30, 2015 - The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered Sperry/Anderegga widespread die-off of forests around the region. A Carnegie-led team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling aspen forests died as a result of this drought. Their work aimed to address a longstanding disagreement over how climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses will affect forest ecosystems. Most current models of forests under climate change cannot predict when or where forests might die from temperature and drought stress. The model created by the team including Carnegie's William Anderegg (now at Princeton University), Joseph Berry, and Christopher Field fills this gap by accurately simulating the widespread aspen mortality caused by the 2000-2003 drought. Their findings are published by Nature Geoscience. The team also included John Sperry of University of Utah. See Carnegie Story... See NSF Story...

Molecular ruler sets bacterial needle length

March 16, 2015 – When a salmonella bacterium attacks a cell, it uses a Dr. Kelly Hughesnanoscopic needle to inject it with proteins to aid the infection. If the needle is too short, the cell won’t be infected. Too long, and the needle breaks. Now, University of Utah biologists report how a disposable molecular ruler or tape measure determines the length of the bacterial needle so it is just right. The findings have potential long-term applications for developing new antibiotics against salmonella and certain other disease-causing bacteria, for designing bacteria that could inject cancer cells with chemotherapy drugs, and for helping people how to design machines at the nanoscopic or molecular scale. The study by University of Utah biology professor Kelly Hughes and doctoral student Daniel Wee is set for online publication the week of March 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See Full Story...

Early herders’ grassy route through Africa

March 9, 2015 – A University of Utah study of nearly 2,000-year-old livestock Kendra Chritzteeth show that early herders from northern Africa could have traveled past Kenya’s Lake Victoria on their way to southern Africa because the area was grassy – not tsetse fly-infested bushland as previously believed. “We studied the chemical signature of teeth in wild antelopes and domestic plant-eating animals – cows and sheep or goats – and found they all were eating a lot of grass in the Lake Victoria Basin,” says Kendra Chritz, first author of the study published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “That means Lake Victoria could have been an area through which people passed while migrating southward to southern Africa,” adds Chritz, a paleoecologist and University of Utah doctoral student in biology in the Cerling Lab. See Full Story...

Biology faculty win governor’s science medals

March 16, 2015 – The University of Utah, the state’s flagship research institution, Eric JorgensonDr. Lissy Coleytoday swept up half of the latest batch of Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology, with faculty members winning four of the eight awards. Among the U’s winners are professors Phyllis D. Coley and Erik M. Jorgensen in biology. The Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology is Utah’s highest honor in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The new awards are the 2014 medals even though they are just being announced. In addition, Dr. Christine Fogarty Celestino, Juan Diego Catholic High School, won in the education division. Christine was a Ph.D. student in Neil Vicker's lab where she discovered a passion for teaching. See Full Story...

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