Notable Faculty & Student Achievements
During spring and summer 2020, Professor of Biology Romi Burks was selected as a member of a Faculty Mentoring Network (Make TRUBLE) within the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) consortium. QUBES represents a community of math and biology educators who share resources and methods for preparing students to use quantitative approaches to tackle real, complex biological problems. The FMN group Make TRUBLE, or Make Teaching with R to Undergraduates Be Less Excruciating, helped Burks contribute to an ongoing emphasis in the natural sciences at Southwestern to increase quantitative literacy and to use the open-source R language and software with students. As part of teaching Methods in Ecology and Evolution and Ecology, her lesson, which focuses on an element of statistical analysis, can be found online .
Biology major Rebecca Chastain ’20 presented a poster coauthored with Professor of Biology Ben Pierce at the Texas Academy of Sciences meeting in Nacogdoches, TX, February 28–29. Chastain’s poster on Texas chirping frogs won first place in the terrestrial ecology section of the meeting.
Professor of Biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair Ben Pierce authored the seventh edition of Genetics: A Conceptual Approach, which was published by Macmillan Learning. This new edition emphasizes active learning and updates the book with the latest research in genetics.
Professor of Biology Romi Burks, Lauren Muskara ’20, Esther Nyaberi ’21, and Kaitlin Galassini ’21 attended the Texas Conservation Symposium, January 9–10th. Each gave a presentation. All three students received financial acknowledgments of the quality of their undergraduate research talks. The research on environmental DNA started during SCOPE 2018 and 2019 and will hopefully soon contribute to submissions to peer-reviewed journals. Their talk titles included the following:
- “Looking at and beyond the Horizon: Studying Nonnative Apple Snails in Texas and Diversity across the Globe” by Burks.
- “Indicating Invasion with eDNA: Detecting Apple Snails along Oyster Creek” by Muskara, coauthored by Shellsea Miller ’20, Burks, and Matthew Barnes ‘’06, assistant professor of natural resources management at Texas Tech University.
- “Old School or New School: Comparing the Efficiency of eDNA Sampling by Hand and with the ANDe™ eDNA Backpack” by Galassini, coauthored by Nyaberi, Burks, and Barnes.
- “Effect of the Degradation of eDNA in the Presence of Microplastics” by Nyaberi, coauthored by Galassini, Burks, and Barnes.
Professor of Biology Ben Pierce, the Williamson County Conservation Fund (WCCF), and Southwestern University cosponsored the symposium, which attracted 118 attendees and featured 25 talks.
Assistant Professor of Biology Kim McArthur was awarded the ADInstruments Educator Scholarship to attend the CrawFly neurophysiology course at the University of the Incarnate Word, January 9–12. This course provides intensive hands-on training for undergraduate educators developing laboratory courses in neuroscience to encourage integration of high-impact research experiences into the undergraduate curriculum. McArthur plans to develop a course in neurobiology that can incorporate modules from this training course.
Assistant Professor of Biology Kimberly McArthur coauthored a chapter in a recently released comprehensive reference book about zebrafish as a model organism in biomedical research. The chapter titled “Zebrafish as a Model for Revealing the Neuronal Basis of Behavior” appears in The Zebrafish in Biomedical Research: Biology, Husbandry, Diseases, and Research Applications(Elsevier).
During the first week of December, Professor of Biology Romi Burk s traveled to Bahia Blanca, Argentina, for the triennial congress of the Argentinean Malacological Society, also known as 3CAM. While there, Burks met with past collaborators and attended special 3CAM symposia. These symposia on Pomacea (a genus of apple snails) and the molecular ecology of mollusks facilitated a better understanding of research done in the last 10 years since she first started working on apple snail diversity in South America. Burks gave a talk titled “Genetic ABCs—COI to eDNA: Using Barcoding IDs to Develop Applications for Species Detections of Nonnative Apple Snails from Water Samples” that provided an overview of her most recent research direction of environmental DNA and how Burks and collaborator Dr. Matthew Barne s ’06 used diversity data from South America to address the applied issues of detecting nonnative species. Undergraduates Lauren Muskara ’20, Shellsea Miller ’20, Esther Nyaberi ’21, and Kaitlin Galassini ’21 provided data for the talk and earned positions as coauthors. Attending the meeting and subsequent travel to meet research partners in Uruguay will also push forward the remaining manuscripts from the South America project.