Ben Pierce

Notable Achievements

During the last weekend of February, Professor of Biology Romi Burks and Professor of Biology Ben Pierce took eight biologists to the Texas Academy of Sciences (TAS) Annual Meeting in Clear Lake, Texas. Southwestern student contributions included two posters and two oral presentations as well as an exciting second-place team finish in “Science Jeopardy.”

    • Two of Pierce’s research students, Sydney Cole ’23 and Claire Bason ’23, won second place for best undergraduate poster in the terrestrial ecology and management section for their work on chirping frogs and mites titled “Chigger Mite Prevalence in Texas Chirping Frogs Based on Citizen Science.” Additional student coauthors included Emma Kesterson ’23 and Gina Rameriz ’23. 
    • In the freshwater science section, Lillian Dolapchiev ’23 gave a talk titled “Filter Me … If You Can: Using Size Fractionation to Separate, Measure, and Determine the Size of Pomacea maculataeDNA.” Her coauthors included Cynthia Bashara ’23, Matthew Barnes ’06, and Burks. Dolapchiev earned first place for best undergraduate oral presentation within the freshwater science section.
    • In the same section, Bashara gave an oral presentation titled “Snail ( Pomacea maculata ) Days of Summer: Associations Between Reproductive Output, Snail Removal Efforts, and Environmental DNA (eDNA) Concentration,” which included Dolapchiev, Barnes, Burks, and Chris Vaughn from the San Antonio River Authority as coauthors. Bashara took the second place award in the category.
    • Together, Bashara and Dolapchiev presented their specific research objectives completed over the summer during SCOPE as a poster presentation titled “Stop Escargo in San Antonio: Developing Best Methodology for Detecting Pomacea maculataUsing Environmental DNA (eDNA).” This poster won second place for best undergraduate poster in the freshwater science section.
    • Two more research students of Burks, Kate Henderson ’25 and Abby White ’25, also presented a poster in the freshwater science section titled “Keep Austin Snail-Free: Ongoing Removal of Pomacea maculataand Evaluation by eDNA.” The poster was coauthored by Bashara, Dolapchiev, and Dave Christie, who owns a home in Austin that has been invaded by apple snails. Henderson and White put together this poster based on just a semester of lab involvement.
    • In addition to collaborating with Burks and coauthoring presentations with Bashara and Dolapchiev, Barnes, an associate professor at Texas Tech University, served as vice president of the academy and transitioned into his 2022–2023 role as president-elect. He will oversee the program at next year’s TAS meeting at San Angelo State University. His own undergraduate and graduate students from Texas Tech also won a poster presentation and a research grant award, respectively. 
    • Photos from the Awards Banquet can be seen on the TAS website
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Expertise

Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, Amphibians

Benjamin Pierce, Professor of Biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair teaches and conducts research in the areas of genetics, evolution, and the biology of amphibians.

He received a B.S. in Biology from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. He has taught at Connecticut College (1980-1984), Baylor University (1984-2005), and Southwestern University (2005-present).  

Ben conducts genetic, ecological, and evolutionary research on amphibians. He has authored 44 articles in research journals and four books, including Genetics: A Conceptual Approach, a general genetics textbook that is now in its 6th edition. His genetics textbooks have been adopted at over 300 colleges and universities and have been translated into 5 foreign languages.

Serving as President of the Texas Academy of Science from 2010-2011, Ben is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, and is a Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science. He serves on the editorial board of Bioscience. He has received $900,000 in research and teaching grants from the National Science Foundation, the 3M Foundation, the W. M. Keck Foundation National Geographic Society, the US National Park Service, and the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. 

Ben was Associate Dean for Sciences at Baylor from 1996-2002, during which he coordinated planning and programming for Baylor University’s new $105 million multidisciplinary sciences building. At Southwestern University, Ben coordinated academic planning for a new addition and renovation to the Fondren Jones Science Building. He conducts research with his undergraduate students on development of better sampling techniques for amphibians, the ecology and evolution of the endemic Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia), and the ecology of Texas chirping frogs. He teaches courses in genetics, evolution, methods in ecology and evolution, and biology capstone.

Awards:

Mundy Award for Exemplary Service, Southwestern University (2020)

Exemplary Teaching Award at Southwestern University, Division of Higher Education of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, United Methodist Church (2012)

Phi Beta Kappa

Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science

  • Benjamin Pierce, Professor of Biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair teaches and conducts research in the areas of genetics, evolution, and the biology of amphibians.

    He received a B.S. in Biology from Southern Methodist University and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. He has taught at Connecticut College (1980-1984), Baylor University (1984-2005), and Southwestern University (2005-present).  

    Ben conducts genetic, ecological, and evolutionary research on amphibians. He has authored 44 articles in research journals and four books, including Genetics: A Conceptual Approach, a general genetics textbook that is now in its 6th edition. His genetics textbooks have been adopted at over 300 colleges and universities and have been translated into 5 foreign languages.

    Serving as President of the Texas Academy of Science from 2010-2011, Ben is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, and is a Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science. He serves on the editorial board of Bioscience. He has received $900,000 in research and teaching grants from the National Science Foundation, the 3M Foundation, the W. M. Keck Foundation National Geographic Society, the US National Park Service, and the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. 

    Ben was Associate Dean for Sciences at Baylor from 1996-2002, during which he coordinated planning and programming for Baylor University’s new $105 million multidisciplinary sciences building. At Southwestern University, Ben coordinated academic planning for a new addition and renovation to the Fondren Jones Science Building. He conducts research with his undergraduate students on development of better sampling techniques for amphibians, the ecology and evolution of the endemic Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia), and the ecology of Texas chirping frogs. He teaches courses in genetics, evolution, methods in ecology and evolution, and biology capstone.

    Awards:

    Mundy Award for Exemplary Service, Southwestern University (2020)

    Exemplary Teaching Award at Southwestern University, Division of Higher Education of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, United Methodist Church (2012)

    Phi Beta Kappa

    Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science

  • Population genetics, ecology, and evolution; amphibian biology; science education

    Grants:

    Ecological Studies of the Georgetown Salamander, Eurycea naufragia. $131,557. Williamson County Conservation Foundation, 2010-2015.

    Student-Community Collaborative Research and Creative Works for the San Gabriel River Trail (with Michael Kamen and Laura Hobgood-Oster). $50,000. 3M Foundation, 2006-2010.

    Equipment for Bioinformatics and Biochemistry Programs at Baylor University. $500,000. W. M. Keck Foundation, 2000.

    Development of a Science Leadership Course for Community-Based Research (With Larry Lehr, Dan Wivagg, Ray Wilson, and Joe Yelderman) $49,500. 3M Foundation, 1999-2001.

    Development of an Integrated, Multidisciplinary Science Literacy Course for Comprehensive Universities. (With Ann Rushing) $101,620. National Science Foundation, 1995.

    Laboratory Activities for an Integrated, Multidisciplinary Science Literacy Course. (With Ann Rushing) $80,000. National Science Foundation, 1996.

    Acid Sensitivity of Eggs and Larvae of Pothole-dwelling Amphibians From Canyonlands National Park. $3985. National Park Service, 1990-1992.

    Geographic Variation in Acid Tolerance of Wood Frogs. $4,125. National Geographic Society, 1984.

  • Author of :

    Genetics: A Conceptual Approach, a leading college textbook in genetics, now in its 7th edition.

    Genetics Essentials: Concepts and Connections, another college textbook in genetics, now in its 5th edition.

    Transmission and Population Genetics, a college textbook.

    The Family Genetics Sourcebook, a tradebook about genetics.

    Author of 44 research articles in peer-reviewed journals.

    Recent Representative Publications:

    Pierce, B. A. and D. R. Gonzalez. 2019. Frequency and ecology of tail loss in populations of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia). Journal of Herpetology 53:81-86.

    Gutierrez, A. M., S. T. Guess, and B. A. Pierce. 2018. Within-spring movement of the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 13:383-390.

    McEntire, K. D. and B. A. Pierce. 2015. Eurycea naufragia (Georgetown salamander). Behavior. Herpetological Review 46:209.

    Pierce, B. A., K. D. McEntire, and A. E. Wall. 2014. Population size, movement, and reproduction of the Georgetown Salamander, Eurycea naufragiaHerpetological Conservation and Biology 9:137-145.

    Hua, J. and B. A. Pierce. 2013. Lethal and sublethal effects of salinity on three common Texas amphibians. Copeia 2013:563-567.

    Pierce, B. A. and A. S. Hall. 2013. Call latency as a measure of calling intensity in anuran auditory surveys. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 8:199-206.

    Biagas, T. D., A. S. Hall, A. L. Ritzer, and B. A. Pierce. 2012. Time of day does not affect detection in visual encounter surveys of a spring-dwelling salamander, Eurycea naufragiaSouthwestern Naturalist 57:162-165.

    Pierce, B.A., J. L. Christiansen, A. L. Ritzer, and T. A. Jones. 2010. Ecology of Georgetown salamanders (Eurycea naufragia) within a spring flow. The Southwestern Naturalist 55:291-297.2008. .

    Granda, J. R., R. M. Pena and B. A. Pierce. 2008. Effects of disturbance, position of observer, and moonlight on efficiency of anuran call surveys. Applied Herpetology 5:253-263.

    Pierce, B. A. 2008. Developing a sustainable research program for tenure. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly 29:23-28.

    Honeycutt, B. B. and B. A. Pierce. 2007. Illustrating probability in genetics with hands-on learning: making the math real. American Biology Teacher 69:533-540.

    Pierce, B. A. and K. J. Gutzwiller. 2007. Interobserver variation in frog call surveys. Journal of Herpetology 41:424-429.

    Pierce, B. A. and K. J. Gutzwiller. 2004. Auditory sampling of frogs: detection efficiency in relation to survey duration. Journal of Herpetology 38:495-500.

    Mullins, M. L., B. A. Pierce, and K. J. Gutzwiller. 2004. Assessment of quantitative enclosure sampling of larval amphibians. Journal of Herpetology 38:6-12.

  • Recent Representative Presentations:

    Chastain R. and B. A. Pierce. 2020. Differentiation of Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides and E. marnockii on the basis of call parameters. Texas Academy of Science, Nacogdoches, TX, February 28-29, 2020.

    Adcock, Z. C, A. R. MacLaren, B. A. Pierce, and K. White. 2020. Heterogeneity in population ecology of two federally threatened central Texas salamanders. Texas Conservation Symposium, Georgetown, TX, January 9-10, 2020.

    Pierce, B. A. Body condition in natural populations of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia). Texas Academy of Science, Brownwood, TX, March 1-2, 2019

    Pierce, B. A. Evolution and ecology of the Georgetown salamander. Invited seminar, Richland College, Dallas, Texas. Nov. 8, 2017.

    Gonzales, D. and B. A. Pierce. 2017. Tail loss in two populations of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia). Texas Academy of Science, Belton, TX, March 3-4, 2017.

    Pierce, B. A. Facilities for inquiry-based learning. Transforming STEM Pedagogy through Active Learning. Georgetown, TX, June 1-3, 2016.

    Pierce, B. A. and S. Guess. Reproduction of the Georgetown salamander, Eurycea naufragia. Eurycea Conference, Georgetown, TX, January 8, 2016.

    Guess, S. and B. A. Pierce. Reproduction of the Georgetown salamander, Eurycea naufragia. Texas Academy of Science, Junction, TX, March 3-4, 2016.

    Gutierrez, A. and B. A. Pierce.  Dispersal of the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia) within two spring sites.  Texas Academy of Science, San Antonio, TX.  March 6-7, 2015.

    McEntire, K. D. and B. A. Pierce.  Nocturnal or diurnal? Day and night activity patterns of the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia).  Texas Academy of Sciences, Kerville, Texas.  February 28-March2, 2013.

    McEntire, K. D., J. W. Harren, A. L. Hill, R. C. Cross, and B. A. Pierce.  Potential use of natural melanophore patterns for recognition of individual Georgetown salamanders (Eurycea naufragia).  Texas Academy of Sciences, Kerville, Texas.  February 28-March2, 2013.

    Pierce, B. A., K. McEntire, and J. Herran.  Population size, movement, and reproduction of the Georgetown salamander, Eurycea naufragia, a species of conservation concern in central Texas.  World Congress of Herpetology, Vancouver, BC, August 8-14, 2012.

    Hall, A. S. and B. A. Pierce.  Call latency in anuran breeding call surveys in central Texas.  World Congress of Herpetology, Vancouver, BC, August 8-14, 2012

    McEntire, K. D., B. A. Pierce, and A. E. Wall.  Reproductive timing of Eurycea naufragia at two spring sites.  Ecological Society of America, Portland, OR, August 5-10, 2012.

    Pierce, B. A. and K. McEntire.  Update on ecological studies of the Georgetown salamander, Eurycea naufragia.  EuryceAlliance, San Marcos, Texas.  May 25, 2012.

    McEntire, K., Wall, A., and B. Pierce.  Reproductive timing of the Georgetown salamander, Eurycea naufragia. EuryceAlliance, San Marcos, Texas.  May 25, 2012.

    McEntire, K., Wall, A., and B. Pierce.  Reproductive timing of Eurycea naufragia at two spring sites. Texas Academy of Sciences, Alpine, Texas.  March 2-4, 2012.

    Wall, A., McEntire, K., and B. Pierce.  Visual encounter surveys show limited movement of the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia).  Texas Academy of Sciences, Alpine, Texas.  March 2-4, 2012.


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