Biology

Notable Faculty & Student Achievements

June 2019

  • Shellsea Miller ’20 and Lauren Muskara ’20 presented their research on environmental DNA (eDNA), “A Snail out of Water: Hitting the Target on Primer Optimization for Apple Snails,” as a poster presentation at the annual meeting of the Society of Freshwater Science in Salt Lake City, UT. Their work uses a molecular ecology application to detect the presence of nonnative apple snails. The research started with SCOPE 2018 and continued through the 2018–2019 academic year, during which both Miller and Muskara completed a number of novel experiments using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction thermocycler in the Keck Molecular Biology Center. This work represents part of the ongoing collaboration between Professor of Biology Romi Burks and SU alumnus Dr. Matthew Barnes ’06 of Texas Tech University.





April 2019

  • Professor of Biology Romi Burks coauthored a paper in the “Academic Practice in Ecology and Evolution” section of the open-access journal Ecology and Evolution. This collaborative peer-reviewed publication, titled “Students as Ecologists: Strategies for Successful Mentorship of Undergraduate Researchers,” developed from a special session at the 2018 Ecological Society of America meeting, where Burks gave a five-minute InspireTalk-style presentation on how to continue to work and publish with undergraduates after graduation.





March 2019

  • Professor of Biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair Ben Pierce presented a talk at the Texas Academy of Science, March 1–2, titled “Body Condition in Natural Populations of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia).”





  • Eight members of Professor of Biology Romi Burks’s molecular ecology lab attended the Texas Academy of Science meeting at Howard Payne University, March 1–2.

    • Hannah Winkler ’19 presented a talk titled “Unraveling the Mystery: Genetic Identification of Nonnative Asian Mysterysnails, Cipangopaludina chinensis and C. japonica,” coauthored by Nicole Kelly ’21 and Shannon Odell ’21, alumna Shannon Walsh ’18, and collaborator Dr. Russell Minton of Gannon University.  
    • Kelly and Odell also presented the poster “Highway to Shell: Troubleshooting Methods of Genetic Detection and Identification in two invasive species, Cipangopaludina chinensis and C. japonica,” coauthored by the same research team. Kelly and Odell’s work highlighted their results from their participation in the 2018 SCOPE Program.
    • Lauren Muskara ’20 presented a talk titled “A Snail out of Water: Apple Snail Detection along Oyster Creek (Missouri City/Sugarland, TX),” coauthored with Shellsea Miller ’20 and collaborator and SU alumnus Dr. Matthew Barnes ’06 from Texas Tech University.  
    • Miller also participated in the Freshwater Science poster session with work titled “Bullseye! Hitting the Target on Primer Optimization,” which illustrated the process of arriving at species-specific targets for environmental DNA.
    • Madison Granier  ’19 also attended the meeting and worked with Dr. Barnes on data analysis for her capstone manuscript.  
    • Esther Nyaberi  ’21 and Kaitlin Galassini  ’21 (future 2019 SCOPErs with Dr. Burks) also attended and discussed eDNA with Dr. Barnes.  




February 2019

  • Professor of Biology and Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair Ben Pierce published a paper in the Journal of Herpetology titled “Frequency and Ecology of Tail Loss in Populations of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia).” The paper was coauthored with former Southwestern University student Daniel Gonzalez ’17.





December 2018

  • Eleven Southwestern University faculty members have won Sam Taylor Fellowship grants to support their research, with award amounts ranging from $1,000 to $1,600. Sam Taylor Fellowships are selected through a competitive application process and are provided by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. This year’s recipients are

    • Professor of Physics Steven Alexander, “Generating Energy from Hot Sidewalks” (awarded $1,200)
    • Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Lamiyah Bahrainwala, “The Politics of Stealth Halal: Re-Presenting the Islamic Origins of U.S. Meat Products” (awarded $1,600)
    • Associate Professor of German Erika Berroth , “Nature Education in the German Classroom: Possibilities for Integration and Inclusion?” (awarded $1,400)
    • Professor of Biology Romi Burks, “Unravelling the Mystery: Genetic Differentiation of Chinese and Japanese Mysterysnails Using 16S” (awarded $1,400)
    • Assistant Professor of History Jethro Hernandez Berrones, “With Indigenist Spirit: Doctors on Spiritual Practices in Post-Revolutionary Mexico” (awarded $1,500)
    • Professor of Anthropology Melissa Johnson, “Human–Jaguar Becomings and Racial Capitalism in Belize” (awarded $1,000)
    • Associate Professor of French Francis Mathieu, “Research on Claire de Duras’s Avant-Garde Novella, Ourika” (awarded $1,400)
    • Associate Professor of French Aaron Prevots, “Gestures toward the Sacred: Guillevic, Vargaftig, Tellermann, Michel” (awarded $1,400)
    • Associate Professor of Communication Studies Valerie Renegar, “Contemporary Modes of Parenting: Disrupting the Representation of Stepmothers in Popular Culture” (awarded $1,500)
    • Associate Professor of Spanish Maria De Los Angeles Rodriguez Cadena, “Cultural Memory and Historical Fiction: Women of the Past on Television and Film by Four Contemporary Mexican Women Directors” (awarded $1,400)
    • Assistant Professor of Political Science Emily Sydnor, “Researching Attachments to American Political Institutions” (awarded $1,600)