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.

News

The right poop helps packrats eat poisonous plants

July 21, 2014 - Biology professor Denise Dearing and postdoctoral researcher Woodrats study by Prof DearingKevin Kohl in the University of Utah laboratory demonstrated how gut microbes play a crucial role in allowing woodrats and certain other mammals to eat and thrive on toxic plants such as creosote and juniper.  Poop, packrats and poisonous plants may seem like a repellent combination for University of Utah biologists to study. But the results could help feed livestock in developing countries, improve care for endangered species and even tackle the spread of unwanted juniper plants in Utah. The key? Gut bacteria in the fecal transplants, according to the authors of the study, published Monday in the journal Ecology Letters. See SL Trib Article...

Legler obituary published

Dr. John M. Legler's family has placed an obituary in the Sunday, July 13th issue of the Salt Lake Tribune. They have requested any donations go to the Legler Lecturer in Human Anatomy fund.

New Plant Species from the Heart of Texas

July 9, 2014 – Collectors found the first two specimens of the prickly plant in Dr. Lynn Bohs, Solanum Project1974 and 1990 in west Texas. Then, for two decades, the 14-inch-tall plant was identified wrongly as one species, then another and then a third. Now – after a long search turned up a “pathetic, wilted” third specimen – a University of Utah botanist and her colleagues identified the spiny plant as a new, possibly endangered species and named it “from the heart” in Latin because it was found in Valentine, Texas. Most new plant species are found in the tropics, and it is uncommon for a new one to be found in the United States, says University of Utah biology professor Lynn Bohs, senior author of a new study describing and naming Solanum cordicitum See full story...

2014 MERRIAM AWARD - DENISE DEARING

June 24, 2014 - The 2014 recipient of the Merriam Award is Professor Denise Dearing from the University of Utah. Dr. Dearing has pioneered the Denise Dearingdevelopment of new theoretical frameworks in ecology by combining biochemical and molecular tools from pharmacological science with hypothesis-driven investigations from an ecological perspective. Professor Dearing is particularly well known for her transformative and cross-disciplinary research on the ecological factors and physiological constraints that influence mammalian foraging behavior and the evolution of diet breadth in mammalian herbivores, both of which clearly demonstrate the central role mammalian herbivores play in the structure and functioning of ecological communities. See full story...

Silent mutations speak up

June 5, 2014 – So-called silent DNA mutations earned their title because, Dr. Kelly Hughes, Geneticistaccording to the fundamental rules of biology, they should be inconsequential. Reported in PLOS Genetics online, University of Utah researchers experimentally proved there are frequent exceptions to the rule. The work was conducted in the bacteria, Salmonella enterica, used to study basic biological mechanisms that are often conserved in humans. “In this post-genomic era, where a patient’s DNA sequence can be used to diagnose predisposition to diseases, silent mutations are usually ignored,” said senior author Kelly T. Hughes, professor of biology at the University of Utah. “Our data argue that they shouldn’t be.” See full story...

Human face evolved to take a punch

June 3, 2014 - The human face evolved to withstand being hit by a fist, two NutCracker Man-Carrier LabUniversity of Utah researchers contend, expanding on their controversial theory that human hands evolved to punch. A protruding jaw, a thick brow ridge above the eyes, robust bones around the nose and upper jaw and large molars and premolars are defining characteristics of early human ancestors examined by Biology professor David Carrier and Michael Morgan for a study published Monday in the journal Biological Reviews. See BBC Story..., See full article...

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