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Choosing Biology

The department encourages participation in the Honors College, the Zoological Society, and other opportunities for individualized educational enhancement. Several student clubs are sponsored by Biology faculty members and allow students with common interests to take field trips and hear talks about career planning and other important topics. The Biology Aid Program (ZAP) is composed of undergraduate students who volunteer to tutor other students in Introductory Biology. It is a rewarding experience for both the ZAP volunteers and those with whom they work.

The department strongly recommends that each student work closely with their adviser on a regular basis since not all courses are offered every semester. Majors or prospective majors should also work with the biology advisory office to plan a program that will meet their career goals. The advisory office can furnish information on courses, curricula and careers available to majors and will facilitate the assignment of a faculty adviser.

The Biology Department is actively involved in the Honors Program, and many undergraduate students carry out independent research projects under the guidance of faculty members with national and international reputations in their fields.

Biology majors may work also for the standard secondary teaching certificate in science. For information consult an academic adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences office.

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

In our department, undergraduate students have an array of opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research with professors who are internationally recognized experts in their fields. Research spans across multiple areas, including cellular/molecular biology, neurobiology, ecology, and evolution. Importantly, when students become members of our professors’ research teams, these students become involved in ongoing research at very high levels of participation, often designing and executing their own original research projects, or being put in charge of key projects within larger collaborative efforts. As a result, our undergraduate students routinely present their research findings at national and international scientific meetings. More impressive is the fact that many of these students ultimately become authors of peer-reviewed publications in top-tier scientific journals. Since 2010, undergraduates have authored numerous articles in highly-respected journals. In several of these publications, undergraduate students were the first author on the paper – a major accomplishment that indicating student was the main contributor to the work.

Peer-reviewed Publications with Undergraduate Authors

Undergraduate authors underlined

Ashford K, Blankenship R, Carpenter W, Wheeler I, Gaffin DD (2018) Response of the desert grassland scorpion to air movement from moth analog. Journal of Arachnology 46:226–230.

Bergey, E. A., Figueroa, L. L., Mather, C. M., Martin, R. J., Ray, E. J., Kurien, J. T., . . . Suriyawong, P.  2014). Trading in snails: plant nurseries as transport hubs for non-native species. Biological Invasions, 16(7), 1441-1451.

Bergey, EA and LL Figueroa. 2016. Residential yards as designer ecosystems: effects of yard management on land snail species composition. Ecological Applications 26: 2538–2547.

Bergey EA, Whipkey BE. 2020. Climate gradients, and patterns of biodiversity and biotic homogenization in urban residential yards. PLOS ONE 15(8): e0234830.

Bonnet, BL, NJ Czaplewski, and KS Smith. 2019 (dated 2018). Miocene proboscidean tooth found in evaporite karst sinkhole near Gate, Oklahoma. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 98:1-5.

Bright, EG, M Gill, A Barrientes and EA Bergey. 2016. Fire resilience of aquatic crustacean resting stages in playa wetlands. Fire Ecology 12: 29-36.

Braun, JK, SB González-Pérez, GM StreetJM Mook, and NJ Czaplewski. 2013. Phenacomys ungava(Rodentia: Cricetidae). Mammalian Species45(899):18-29. 

Broughton, R. E., Vedala, K. C., Crowl, T. M., & Ritterhouse, L. L. (2011). Current and historical hybridization with differential introgression among three species of cyprinid fishes (genus Cyprinella). Genetica, 139(5), 699-707.

Czaplewski, NJ, KJ Rogers, and C Russell. 2018. Late Pleistocene vertebrates from Three-Forks Cave, Oklahoma Ozark Highland. Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 80(2):92-107.

Davis, D. R., A. D. Geheber, J. L. Watters, M. L. Penrod, K. D. Feller, A. Ashford, J. Kouri, D. Nguyen, K. Shauberger, K. Sheatsley,  C. Winfrey, R. Wong, M. B. Sanguila, R. M. Brown & C. D. Siler. Description of a new species of Philippine Slender Skink of the Brachymeles bonitae Complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) from Tablas Island. Zootaxa.

Davis, D.R., A.D. Geheber, J.L. Watters, M.L. Penrod, K.D. Feller, A. Ashford, J. Kouri, D. Nguyen, K. Shauberger, K. Sheatsley, C. Winfrey, R. Wong, M.B. Sanguila, R.M. Brown and C.D. Siler. 2016. Additions to Philippine slender skinks of the Brachymeles bonitae complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) III: a new species from Tablas Island. Zootaxa 4132: 30–43. Doi:

Davis, D. R., J. L. Watters, G. Kohler, C. Whitsett, N. A. Huron, R. M. Brown, A. C. Diesmos & C. D. Siler. 2015. Redescription of the rare Philippine slender gecko Pseudogekko brevipes (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae) and description of a new species. Zootaxa. 4020:357-374.

Diesmos, A. C., J. L. Watters, N. A. Huron, D. R. Davis, A. C. Alcala, R. I. Crombie, L. E. Afuang, G. Gee-Das, R.V. Sison, M. B. Sanguila, M. L. Penrod, M. J. Labonte, C. S. Davey, E. A. Leone, M. L. Diesmos, E. Y. Sy, L.J. Welton, R. M. Brown & C. D. Siler. 2015. Amphibians of the Philippines, Part I: Checklist of the Species. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 62:457-537.

Dubose, Traci P., Kathryn Ashford and Caryn C. Vaughn. 2019. Freshwater mussels increase survival of largemouth bass in drying pools. Ecology of Freshwater Fish, 29 (2), DOI: 10.1111/eff.12508.

Durica, D. S., Das, S., Najar, F., Roe, B., Phillips, B., Kappalli, S., & Anilkumar, G. (2014). Alternative splicing in the fiddler crab cognate ecdysteroid  receptor: Variation in receptor isoform expression and DNA binding properties in response to hormone. General and comparative Endocrinology, 206, 80-95.

Elson, M. S., & Berkowitz, A. (2016). Flexion Reflex Can Interrupt and Reset the Swimming Rhythm. The Journal of Neuroscience, 36(9), 2819-2826. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.3587-15.2016

Eskridge, B. E., Valle, E., & Schlupp, I. (2015). Emergence of Leadership within a Homogeneous Group. PLoS  ONE, 10(7), e0134222.

Frazee, S.R., A.R. Harper, M. Afkhami, M.L. Wood, J.C. McCrory, and J.P. Masly. (2021) Introgression reveals a role of male genital morphology during the evolution of reproductive isolation in DrosophilaEvolution doi: 10.1111/evo.14169.

Gaffin DD, Muñoz MG, Hoefnagels, MH (2021) Evidence of learning walks related to scorpion home burrow navigation. bioRxiv preprint

Gaffin DD, Shakir SF (2021) Synaptic interactions in scorpion peg sensilla appear to maintain chemosensory neurons within dynamic firing range. Special Issue “Insect Senses: From Perception to Cognition”

Gaffin, D. D., Bumm, L. A., Taylor, M. S., Popokina, N. V., & Mann, S. (2012). Scorpion fluorescence and reaction to light. Animal Behaviour, 83(2), 429-436.

Geheber, A. D., D. R. Davis, J. L. Watters, M. L. Penrod, K. D. Feller, C. S. Davey, E. D. Ellsworth, R.L. Flanagan,  B. D. Heitz, T. Moore, M. D. C. Nguyen, A. Roberts, J. Sutton, M. B. Sanguila, C. W. Linkem, R. M. Brown & C. D. Siler. In press. Description of a new species of Philippine Slender Skink of the Brachymeles bonitae Complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae: Brachymeles) from Lubang Island. Zootaxa.

Geheber, A.D., D.R. Davis, J.L. Watters, M.L. Penrod, K.D. Feller, C.S. Davey, E.D. Ellsworth, R.L. Flanagan, B.D. Heitz, T. Moore, M.D.C. Nguyen, A. Roberts, J. Sutton, M.B. Sanguila, C.W. Linkem, R.M. Brown and C.D. Siler. 2016. Additions to Philippine slender skinks of the Brachymeles bonitae complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) I: a new species from Lubang Island. Zootaxa 4132: 1–14. Doi:   

Gill, H, KJ Rogers, B Rehman, JP Moynihan, and EA Bergey. 2018. Cigarette butts may have low toxicity to soil-dwelling invertebrates: evidence from a land snail. Science of the Total Environment 628-629: 556-561.

Hao, Z. Z., Meier, M. L., & Berkowitz, A. (2014). Rostral spinal cord segments are sufficient to generate a rhythm for both locomotion and scratching but affect their hip extensor phases differently. J. Neurophysiology, 112(1), 147-155.

Hao, Z.-Z., Spardy, L.E., Nguyen, E.B.L., Rubin, J.E., and Berkowitz, A. (2011) Strong interactions between spinal cord networks for locomotion and scratching. J. Neurophysiol. 106: 1766-1781.

Heitz, B. B., E. D. Ellsworth, N. A. Huron, A. D. Geheber & C. D. Siler. 2015. Geographic range note on Sonora semiannulata. Herpetological Review. 46(4):577.

Heitz, B. B., E. S. Freitas, A. M. Anwar, E. G. Gorgone, M. L. Penrod, C. Whitsett & C. D. Siler. 2015. Geographic range note on Kinosternon subrubrum. Herpetological Review. 46(4):565{566.

Holmes, J. R., & Berkowitz, A. (2014). Dendritic orientation and branching distinguish a class of multifunctional turtle spinal interneurons. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 8.

Hopkins, P. M., Durica, D., & Washington, T. (2010). RXR isoforms and endogenous retinoids in the fiddler crab, Uca pugilator Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology a-Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 151(4), 602-614.

Hughes KL, Gaffin DD. (2019) Investigating sensory processing in the pectines of the striped bark scorpion. Invertebrate Neuroscience 19:9

Johnson, K. P., Tran, S. M., Siegrist, E. A., Paidimarri, K. B., Elson, M. S., and Berkowitz, A. (2017) Turtle flexion reflex motor patterns show windup, mediated partly by L-type calcium channels. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 11: 83, doi: 10.3389/fncir.2017.00083.

Kelley S, Yut K, Kulkarni R, Gaffin DD (2019) Avoidance of rosemary oil by scorpions. Journal of Arachnology 47(1):159-161.

Knowlton, E. D., & Gaffin, D. D. (2010). A new tip-recording method to test scorpion pecten chemoresponses to water-soluble stimulants. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 193(2), 264-270.

Knowlton, E. D., & Gaffin, D. D. (2011). Functionally redundant peg sensilla on the scorpion pecten. Journal Of  Comparative Physiology A-Neuroethology Sensory Neural And Behavioral Physiology, 197(9), 895-902.

Knowlton ED, Gaffin DD (2009) A new approach to examining scorpion peg sensilla: the mineral oil flood technique. Journal of Arachnology 37(3):379–382.

Lakiza, O., Miller, S., Bunce, A., Lee, Eric M.J., McCauley, D. W (2011). SoxE gene duplication and development of the lamprey branchial skeleton: Insights into development and evolution of the neural crest. Developmental Biology 359 (2011) 149–161.

Lee,E.M., Yuan, T., Ballim, R.D., Nguyen, K., Kelsh, R.N., Medeiros, D.M., and McCauley, D.W. (2016). Functional constraints on SoxE proteins in neural crest development: the importance of differential expression for evolution of protein activity. Developmental Biology. 418 (1): 166-178.

Makowicz, A.M., Murray, L. & Schlupp, I. (2020) Size, species, and audience type influence heterospecific female-female competition. Animal Behaviour (159) 47 – 58.

Makowicz, A.M., Muthurajah, D.S. & Schlupp, I. (2017) Host species of a sexual-parasite do not differentiate between clones of Amazon mollies. Behavioral Ecology (29) 387-392. (

Makowicz, A.M., Tiedemann, R., Steele, R.N., Schlupp, I. (2016) Kin Recognition in a Clonal Fish, Poecilia formosa. PLoS One (

Marhanka, E.C., J.L Watters, N.A. Huron, S.L. McMillin, C.C. Winfrey, D.J. Curtis, D.R. Davis, J.K. Farkas, J.L. Kerby, and C.D. Siler. 2017. Detection of high prevalence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in amphibians from southern Oklahoma, USA. Herpetological Review 48: 70–74.   

Markham MR, Ban Y, McCauley AG, Maltby R. 2016. Energetics of Sensing and Communication in Electric Fish: A Blessing and a Curse in the Anthropocene? Integrative and Comparative Biology 56(5):889-900.

Martin, R. J., & Bergey, E. A. (2013). Growth plasticity with changing diet in the land snail Patera appressa (Polygyridae). Journal of Molluscan Studies, 79, 364-368.

McCoy, E., Syska, N., Plath, M., Schlupp, I., & Riesch, R. (2011). Mustached males in a tropical poeciliid fish: emerging female preference selects for a novel male trait. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 65(7), 1437-1445.

Miller, D.W., A.D. Jones, J.S. Goldston, M.P. Rowe, and A.H. Rowe.  (2016).  Sex differences in defensive behavior and venom of the striped bark scorpion Centruroides vittatus (Scorpiones: Buthidae). Integrative & Comparative Biology 56: 1022-1031.

Mui, J.W., Willis, K.L., Hao, Z.-Z., and Berkowitz, A. (2012) Distributions of active spinal cord neurons during swimming and scratching motor patterns. J. Comp. Physiol. A 198: 877-889.

Musaelian A, Gaffin DD (2020) High-throughput simulations indicate feasibility of navigation by familiarity with a local sensor such as scorpion pectines. PLoS Computational Biology (in review; bioRxiv preprint doi:

Nguyen, K. H., Scheurich, T. E., Gu, T., and Berkowitz, A. (2020) Spinal interneurons with dual axon projections to knee-extensor and hip-extensor motor pools. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 14: 7, doi: 10.3389/fncir.2020.00007.

Niermann, C.N., T.G. Tate, A.L. Suto, R. Barajas, H.A. White, O.D. Guswiler, S.M. Secor, A.H. Rowe, and M.P. Rowe. 2020. Defensive venoms: is pain sufficient for predator deterrence? Toxins 12(4): 260; 

Peterson, T, E A R Welti, M Kaspari. (in press) Dietary sodium levels affect grasshopper growth and performance. Ecosphere. See also Salt of life: High sodium diets produce longer-jumping, smaller grasshoppers" by Peterson, Taylor, Welti, Ellen, Kaspari, Michael in Bulletin of the Ecology Society of America.

Ray, E. J., & Bergey, E. A. (2015). After the burn: factors affecting land snail survival in post-prescribed-burn woodlands. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 81, 44-50.

Rincon-Sandoval, M., E. Duarte-Ribeiro, A. M. Davis, A. Santaquiteria, L. C. Hughes, C. C.  Baldwin, L. Soto-Torres, A. Acero P., H. J. Walker, K. E. Carpenter, M. Sheaves, G. Ortí, D. Arcila, & R. Betancur-R. Evolutionary determinism and convergence associated with water-column transitions in marine fishes. 2020. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI:

Rivera Roldan NM, Gaffin DD (2018) New, sensitive behavioral assay shows scorpions are attracted to multiple wavelengths of light. Journal of Arachnology 46:432–437.

Rodriguez-Silva, R., Torres Pineda, P., Rodríguez C.M. & Schlupp, I. (2020) Distribution range extension of Yaguayal Limia, Limia yaguayali (Teleostei: Poeciliidae) from north of the Dominican Republic. Novitates Caribaea 15 127 – 133.

Rodriguez-Silva, R., Josaphat, J., Torres Pineda, P. & Schlupp, I. (2021) Annotated list of livebearing fishes (Cyprinodontiformes: Poeciliidae) from Lake Miragoane in southwestern Haiti. Novitates Caribaea (17) 147-162.

Savic, M., Kothapalli, N. R., Lanier, H. C., Freeman, E. K., Ratliff, L., Hillerman, E., Martin, C. (2021). Positioning humanity before progress; students’ and mentors’ perceptions on the COVID-19 response to undergraduate research. Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research, 5(1), 31-38. doi: 10.18833/spur/5/1/10

Siler, C.D., E.S. Freitas, S.N. Maguire, D.R. Davis, J.L. Watters, A.C. Diesmos, and R.M. Brown. 2020. Additions to the Philippine slender skinks of the Brachymeles bonitae complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) IV: Resurrection and redescription of Brachymeles burksi. Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology 14(2): 1–12.  

Smith, S.N., J.L. Watters, E.C. Marhanka, S.L. McMillin, D.R. Davis, J.K. Farkas, and C.D. Siler. 2019. Investigating seasonal variation of ranavirus in central Oklahoma, USA, amphibians. Herpetological Review 50(3): 508–512.

Siler, C.D., B.B. Heitz, D.R. Davis, E.S. Freitas, A. Aowphol, K. Termprayoon, and L.L. Grismer. 2018. New Supple Skink, genus Lygosoma (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae), from Indochina and redescription of Lygosoma quadrupes (Linnaeus, 1766). Journal of Herpetology 52(3): 332–347.

Siler, C.D., D.R. Davis, E.S. Freitas, N.A. Huron, A.D. Geheber, J.L. Watters, M.L. Penrod, M. Papes, A. Amrein, A. Anwar, D. Cooper, T. Hein, A. Manning, N. Patel, L. Pinaroc, A.C. Diesmos, M.L. Diesmos, C.H. Oliveros and R M. Brown. 2016. Additions to Philippine slender skinks of the Brachymeles bonitae complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) II: a new species from the northern Philippines. Zootaxa 4132: 15–29. Doi:

Siler, C. D., L. J. Welton, D. R. Davis, J. L. Watters, C. S. Davey, A. C. Diesmos, M. L. Diesmos & R.M. Brown. 2014. Taxonomic revision of the Pseudogekko compresicorpus Complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae), with descriptions of three new species. Herpetological Monographs. 28:110-139.

Siler, C. D., C. W. Linkem, †K. Cobb, J. L. Watters, S. T. Cummings, A. C. Diesmos & R. M. Brown. 2014. Taxonomic revision of the semi-aquatic skink Parvoscincus leucospilos (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae), with description of three new species. Zootaxa. 3847(3):388-412.

Siler, C. D., D. R. Davis, E. S. Freitas, N. A. Huron, A. D. Geheber, J. L. Watters, M. L. Penrod, M.Papes, A. Amrein, A. Anwar, D. Cooper, T. Hein, A. Manning, N. Patel, L. Pinaroc, A. C. Diesmos, M. L. Diesmos, C. H. Oliveros & Rafe M. Brown. Description of a new species of Slender Skink of the Brachymeles bonitae Complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae) from the northern Philippines. Zootaxa.

Sinnett, P. M., & Markham, M. R. (2015). Food deprivation reduces and leptin increases the amplitude of an active  sensory and communication signal in a weakly electric fish. Horm Behav, 71, 31-40.

Smith, B. N., Ghazanfari, A. M., Bohm, R. A., Welch, W. P., Zhang, B., & Masly, J. P. (2015). A Flippase-Mediated GAL80/GAL4 Intersectional Resource for Dissecting Appendage Development in Drosophila. G3 (Bethesda), 5(10), 2105-2112.

Smith, S.N., J.L. Watters, E.D. Ellsworth, D.R. Davis, and C.D. Siler. 2019. Assessment of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and ranavirus among wild amphibians from four Philippine islands. Herpetological Review 50(4): 729–734.

Speer, F.W. and L.J Weider. 2018. Examining population-specific hatching cues of salinity and light for Artemia franciscanaHydrobiologia 805:391-397.

Spikes, M., Huebler, S. & Schlupp, I. (2021) Male secondary sexual traits do not predict female preference in Caribbean livebearing fishes (Limia). Ethology, (127) 675–681.

Taylor, M. S., Cosper, C. R., & Gaffin, D. D. (2012). Behavioral evidence of pheromonal signaling in desert grassland scorpions Paruroctonus utahensis. Journal of Arachnology, 40(2), 240-244.

Vinnedge, J. E., & Gaffin, D. D. (2015). Determination of in-lab site fidelity and movement patterns of Paruroctonus utahensis(Scorpiones: Vaejovidae). Journal of Arachnology, 43(1), 54-58.

Watters, J.L., S.E. Hall, and C.D. Siler. 2021. Human impacts on the prevalence of the amphibian infectious diseases, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and ranavirus, in Oklahoma, USA. Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science 101: 1–13.

Watters, J.L., S.L. McMillin, E.C. Marhanka, D.R. Davis, J.K. Farkas, J.L. Kerby, and C.D. Siler. 2019. Seasonality in Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis detection in amphibians in central Oklahoma, USA. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 50: 492–497. Doi:

Watters, J. L., S. T. Cummings, R. Flanagan & C. D. Siler. 2016. Review of morphometric measurements used in anuran species descriptions and recommendations for a standardized approach. Zootaxa. 4072(4):477{495.

Watters, J.L., R.L. Flanagan, D.R. Davis, J.K. Farkas, J.L. Kerby, M.J. Labonte, M.L. Penrod, and C.D. Siler. 2016. Screening natural history collections for historical presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis from anurans in Oklahoma, USA. Herpetological Review 42: 214–220.

Watters, J. L., R. L. Flanagan, D. R. Davis, J. K. Farkas, J. L. Kerby, M. J. Labonte, M. L. Penrod & C.D. Siler. Preliminary screening of natural history collections for historical presence of amphibian infection disease in Oklahoma. Herpetological Review.

Werdel, GM, LK Pandey and EA Bergey. 2021. Cigarette butt effects on diatom health in a stream ecosystem. Aquatic Ecology 55: 999–1010

Winfrey, C., & Fincke, O. M. (2017). Role of visual and non-visual cues in damselfly mate recognition. International Journal of Odonatology, 20: 43-52.

York, J.R., Zehnder, K., McCauley, D.W. (2020). The Evolution of Cellular EMT and migration. In: Evolving Neural Crest Cells. Pp67-102. eds. B. Eames and I. Adameyko, series eds. B. Hall and S. Moody.

York, J.R., Zehnder. K., Yuan, T., Lakiza, O., and McCauley, D.W. (2019). Evolution of Snail-mediated regulation of neural crest and placodes from an ancient role in bilaterian neurogenesis. Developmental Biology 453(2): 180-190

York, J.R., Yuan, T., Zehnder, K., and McCauley, D.W. (2017). Lamprey neural crest migration is Snail-dependent and occurs without a differential shift in cadherin expression. Developmental Biology 428:176-187.