WELCOME FROM THE CHAIR
Greetings from the Fort! In the flashiest of flashes, we find ourselves in mid-year already, after having welcomed an almost record-size first year class in August (532). We’re now at a total enrollment of 1,731 Biological Science and Zoology majors! This is a highly diverse group, with 510 (30%) identifying as students of color in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), 484 first generation students (26%), and 643 (37%) from out of state (that means 1,088 from Colorado, so there’s that). We also have 171 students in our department in Honors. All told, we have LOTS of students who come from all kinds of places and backgrounds, making for a vibrant community. We can feel it every day in our classrooms and in the study spaces in the new(-ish) Biology building!
And, congratulations to our Fall commencement graduates. This year I had the pleasure of celebrating at the ceremony with three strong women who completed their degrees after taking my genetics class this fall (BZ 578 Genetics of Natural Populations). Congratulations to Brianna Ruiz, Mikayla Wilde, and Sandra Perez. Thanks for being our students!
In other news, Professor Janice Moore has retired as of January 2020, after 37 years. Many will remember her as a stalwart student of animal behavior and parasites, especially for her seminal work on how parasites manipulate their hosts’ behavior to make transmission to new hosts more likely. For many years she taught the major’s course in animal behavior, eventually authoring a textbook on the topic. Congratulations on a brilliant career, and all the very best wishes for the next chapters!
We continue to strive to ever greater achievements by both our students (read about award-winning graduate students in the Professional Masters students in Zoo, Aquarium and Animal Shelter Management) and our faculty, including new funding from the National Science Foundation Career Award for Assistant Professor Kristen Ruegg to study bird migration, as well as for Professor Don Mykles (molting in land crabs, and the CRAB LAB!). We have successful undergraduate clubs for Biology, Zoology, and the Aquarium!
Best wishes for the New Year, and let us know what you’re doing and when you’ll next be visiting Fort Collins. We’d love to show you what’s new (ask about the grizzly bear)!
EXPERIMENTS ILLUMINATE KEY COMPONENT OF PLANTS’ IMMUNE SYSTEMS
Plants, like humans and animals, have over millions of years evolved complex immune systems that fend off invading pathogens. But unlike many animals, plants lack adaptive immunity conferred by antibodies. This means each plant cell must defend itself against all potential pathogens – a daunting task.
Hiding inside each plant cell, protein complexes encoded by disease resistance genes are like sleeping armies, waking up and activating defenses when harmful pathogens such as fungi or bacteria are detected. Such genes encode traits used by agricultural biotechnologists to generate disease-resistant crops, and plant biologists are striving to illuminate every aspect of how they work – much of which remains shrouded in mystery.
In new research published in the journal Science, a team of biologists, including Colorado State University Assistant Professor of Biology Marc Nishimura, has shed new light on a crucial aspect of the plant immune response. Their discovery, revealing how plant resistance proteins trigger localized cell death, could lead to new strategies for engineering disease resistance in next-generation crops.
A NEW SPACE TO STORE AND PERSERVE OUR COLLECTIONS
Under the leadership of Dr. Shane Kanatous, Graduate students Ashley Larson and Dominique Montaño have organized and developed the Biology Department’s central collections space, also known as the prep room. In the prep room, all of the department’s collections can be stored together for use in teaching and research – and in controlled conditions for monitoring and maintenance.
In addition to their own research, writing, and teaching, Larson and Montaño curate collections, host and attend outreach events with undergraduate students and prospective students, and lead undergraduate volunteers in their work with the collections in the prep room.
MEET MARLEY WEBBER
Fourth-year student and Breckenridge native Marley Webber has enjoyed her Colorado State University academic career so much that she’s spent the summer of 2019 passing that enthusiasm on to students just starting out.
Webber, a biology major with a concentration in human anatomy and physiology interned in the Biology/Zoology student advising office, offering assistance in planning that ever-important moment in first-year students’ lives: orientation.
As the office’s summer intern, Webber worked with incoming biology students during their first few days on campus, presenting information about what different credits mean; helping them make decisions about fall schedules; and offering advice and resources as someone who’s already been through it all.
PROFESSOR COLLEEN WEBB JOINS GRADUATE SCHOOL LEADERSHIP
Dr. Colleen Webb, a longtime professor, researcher, and mentor to students has stepped into a new leadership role as the associate dean of the Graduate School. Webb will lead the Graduate School’s professional development, mentoring, and diversity and access programs for graduate students and postdoctorates. Webb will closely work with the directors of CSU Writes and the Graduate Center for Inclusive Mentoring to further support the graduate community and will provide administrative leadership for the graduate student admissions and graduate appeals.
UNRAVELING GENETICS: INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM AWARDED FOR RESEARCH ON SPLICING OF GENE PRODUCTS
At this year’s Celebrate! Colorado State Awards, Dr. Anireddy SN Reddy received the team Interdisciplinary Scholarship Award granted by the CSU Vice President for Research. Reddy studies how plants sense and respond to environmental and hormonal signals that regulate their cellular processes, growth and development. He collaborated with Dr. Asa Ben-Hur, who looks at how to use machine learning to help biologists understand complex data sets. Together, they are working to understand the process of alternative splicing in plants.
ZOOLOGY ALUMNA STUDIES GENOMIC DATA IN ENDANGERED SPECIES AT SAN DIEGO ZOO
Aryn Wilder says she always knew what she wanted to do. An early interest in animals and a career researching animal genomics brought Wilder, a zoology alumna, to one of the dream workplaces for zoologists – the San Diego Zoo, where she is now a researcher in conservation genetics. At the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, Wilder fights species extinction by using DNA sequencing to study vital genomic information.
Welcome to the Department of Biology’s Newsletter collection! We hope that this page will become a living record of the achievements, milestones, awards, honors and other news from our outstanding students, faculty and staff. Enjoy!
Send your Biology news, events, and story ideas to CSUBio@colostate.edu