OU Biology News


News Archive for 2010                                                            return to current news


November 2010

  • Congratulations to Pascal Irmscher (a graduate student with Caryn Vaughn) on receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service to study unionid mussel dispersal on the Little River Wildlife Refuge.


October 2010

  • The Department of Biology is pleased to invite outstanding applicants for a neurobiology faculty position at the rank of Associate or tenure-track Assistant Professor to be the inaugural holder of the endowed Case-Hooper Professorship of Biology. Screening of candidates will begin on December 15, 2010. (link)

  • Award: Congratulations to Dr. Bill Shelton! At the recent 140th Annual meeting in Pittsburg, PA, Dr. Bill Shelton received the Golden Membership Award for 50 years of service to the American Fisheries Society

  • Oliver’s Woods: Ecologists’ local playground

  • Recent research in Dr. Bing Zhang’s lab was highlighted by OU’s news: OU public affairs news release and OU Daily News

  • Craving for salts? Dr. Mike Kaspari’s research reveals that road salts may benefit ants.
    Scientists have long known that about 25 chemical elements from the periodic table are necessary to manufacture just about any living thing. Only relatively recently have ecologists begun to look at that list, element by element, to ask how each is distributed in nature, and if that map may tell us something about where organisms are found and in what abundance and health. Dr. Mike Kaspari’s lab has recently found that where sodium is scarce (and most of the world is not very salty), many soil insects, particularly ants and termites, crave it. Most recently, in an article covered by Science at the Smithsonian , the Kaspari lab showed that road salting, a common practice where snow and ice accumulate in winter, impacts ant cravings for sodium. Close to a salted highway in Massachusetts, ants pretty much ignored salty baits and only used sugar baits. Deep into the forest (1 km away), however, they began to use sodium baits nearly as much as sugar. These observations suggest that throughout these forests, insect communities may be sodium limited, and that road salt may be impacting how these ecosystems behave.


September 2010

  • Eve Marder will give a public talk at the SNOMNH on Sept. 9 at 7 PM as the first speaker in the Neuroethology Presidential Dream Course series. Dr. Marder is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Head of the Division of Science at Brandeis, and was recently president of the 40,000-member Society for Neuroscience. She will talk about how nervous systems can produce reliable behaviors even when the nuts and bolts differ significantly between individuals and within an individual under different conditions.


August 2010

  • Mingzi Xu (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology-Biology PhD candidate) has been awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution, to continue some of her thesis research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. This fellowship funds her research at STRI for Fall 2010 and Fall 2011. Mingzi will be studying the UV reflectance of the male giant damselfly's wing patch as a signal of fighting ability in territorial contests and the body-condition dependence of this wing signal.

  • Biology major Elise Knowlton won the best student presentation at the Congress of the International Society of Neuroethology held in Salamanca, Spain from August 2-7. Elise earned the award competing against a field of more than 100 graduate students and post-docs from around the world. Her paper, “Hasty tasting of chemical information: functionally redundant peg sensilla on the scorpion pecten,” highlights work she is conducting as part of her honors thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Doug Gaffin. Her presentation described a new method for studying how scorpions sense chemicals in their environment. She used this method to test hypotheses about how the sensory system functions. Elise has already published two articles about this work in peer-reviewed journals.

  • Associate Professor Bing Zhang recently received two large grants from the National Science Foundation. He and his postdoc Rudi Bohm received a new 3-year $440,000 grant to study "A flippase recombination method to map relevant brain circuits underlying different fly behaviors in Drosophila." He is also a co-PI on a 5-year RUI grant awarded to his collaborator Dr. Andrea Holgado (PI) at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

  • Congrats to our recent graduate students on their new positions:
    • Mingyan Lin (MS with Larry Weider) - PhD student, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Yeshiva Univ. in New York City.
    • Tim Colston (MS with Laurie Vitt) - PhD student, Univ. Mississippi, Oxford.
    • Parker Holman (MS with Regina Sullivan) - Teacher, High School for Environmental Studies, New York City
    • Jeff Wesner (PhD student with Bill Matthews) - Postdoc, Brigham Young Univ.
    • Chunjing Qu (PhD student with Randy Hewes) - Postdoc, Purdue Univ.
    • Rüdiger Riesch (PhD student with Ingo Schlupp) - Postdoc, North Carolina State Univ.


June-July 2010

  • Philip Vanlandingham, a postdoc in the Zhang lab, was accepted into the highly competitive and renowned Neurobiology of Drosophila course held at Cold Spring Harbor Lab in New York

  • Associate Professor Bing Zhang co-edited book, Drosophila Neurobiology: A Laboratory Manual, has been published by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

  • Associate Professors Edie Marsh-Matthews and Rosemary Knapp's research on the masculinizing effect of the stress hormone cortisol on female mosquitofish has been published in Biology Letters, a journal of the Royal Society. Two undergraduate honors students, Luanne Vo and Sarah Rosencrans are co-authors on this paper that reports the surprising finding that adult females exposed to elevated levels of cortisol have masculinized anal fins and are induced to display male-typical copulatory behavior. A video that was part of the supplemental online material for this article can be viewed here. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65_YlhibQYU)

May 2010

  • The May issue of the journal Ecology contains two papers from faculty and graduate students in our department, as well as artwork by Debby Kaspari. PhD candidate Jeff Wesner reports on "Aquatic predation alters a terrestrial prey subsidy." PhD candidate Rüdiger Riesch and Associate Professor Ingo Schlupp report on "Toxic hydrogen sulfide and dark caves: life-history adaptations in a livebearing fish (Poecilia mexicana, Poeciliidae)". Debby Kaspari's artwork in Rüdiger and Ingo's article depicts a male and female of this cave-adapted species.

  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (Biology) PhD candidate Rich Zamor has been awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation for his research on understanding the factors underlying the invasion success of the toxigenic golden algae in freshwater lakes and reservoirs throughout the southern US.

  • Professor Ari Berkowitz has received a National Science Foundation award of $180,000 for 2 years to study "Selection and generation of limb movements by a combination of multifunctional and specialized spinal interneurons."

April 2010

  • Doug Gaffin (Joseph Brandt Professor, Presidential Professor and Dean, University College) was named a David Ross Boyd Professor at this year’s Tribute to the Faculty. This lifetime professorship is named for the first President of the University. To qualify for a David Ross Boyd Professorship, a faculty member must have consistently demonstrated outstanding teaching, guidance, and leadership for students in an academic discipline or in an interdisciplinary program within the University.

  • Biology junior Elise Knowlton has received a Goldwater Scholarship. Elise is one of 278 awardees from a nationwide field of 1,111 mathematics, science, and engineering sophomores and juniors. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. Elise is currently conducting research on scorpion sensory biology with Dr. Doug Gaffin. She plans to pursue a PhD in Biological Sciences conducting neuroethological research in invertebrate sensory physiology.

February 2010

  • Presidential Professor Mike Kaspari has co-authored a paper showing that how insect societies use energy parallels how nonsocial animal species do. In a paper published online in the February 2 Early Edition of Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Kaspari and colleagues took the mathematical models that predict lifespan, growth and reproduction in individual (unitary) organisms and used them to predict these features in whole colonies of social insects. By analyzing data from 168 different social insect species including ants, termites, bees and wasps, the authors found that the lifespan, growth rates and rates of reproduction of whole colonies when considered as superorganisms were nearly indistinguishable from those for individual organisms. This research has been featured on US News’ website, Live Science, Science Daily and several other websites that cover new developments in science.

  • Associate Professor Rosemary Knapp begins a 2-year term as an Associate Editor of Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B Biological Sciences. She joins OU's Presidential Professor Rich Cifelli (Biology and School of Geology and Geophysics), who is continuing his service as an Associate Editor for the journal. Proceedings B is the Royal Society's flagship biological research journal, dedicated to the rapid publication and broad dissemination of high-quality research papers, reviews and comment and reply papers. The scope of the journal is diverse and is especially strong in organismal biology.

January 2010

  • PhD Candidate Sunetra Das has won the arward for best student poster in the Division of Developmental & Cell Biology at the 2010 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology.



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