Clark stained glass depicting biology News and Events

News and Events


Deb Robertson profiled as outstanding mentor in Natureseagrass sleuths

In a recent interview about the importance of effective mentorship on the career development of young scientists, Hannah Reich (’15) described how Deb facilitated Hannah’s collaboration with a Bermuda lab that lead to her master’s project on coral health.

She identified Deb as an exemplar of the “best advisers” -- those who step out-of-the-box to advocate for their students, helping them to explore unexpected waters in the pursuit of their research goals.



David Hibbett named as AAAS Fellow & Highly Cited Researcher

HibbettMembers of the American Association for the Advancement of Science have elected David to a lifetime Fellowship in recognition of his distinguished contributions to mycology. They cited in particular his use of phylogenetic approaches to understanding the evolution of fungal morphology and ecological strategies.

Additionaly, Clarivate Analytics has included David on its list of Highly Cited Researchers 2018. The list identifies scientists who have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade.



Visiting Assistant Research Professor, Tovah DayTovahDay

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Day to the Biology Department. Her research interests include chromosome instability, translocations, telomeres, and aging. She joins us from the Weinstock lab at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Tovah was recently awarded a NIH National Institue on Aging K01 grant to study the role of PARP3 in telomere regulation.


Biology welcomes new Assistant Professor, Dr. Kaitlyn Mathis

MathisHer research examines the dynamics of complex species interactions and how they are shaped by managed systems. She has worked in several managed systems including coffee plantations, peach orchards, and rangeland using a variety of insect study organisms including ants, flies, beetles and bees. She is currently focusing on ant-plant defense mutualisms, which provide important ecosystem services in agriculture as well as natural communities.

Please visit the Mathis lab website to learn more.


HC Bumpus young manAnnual Bumpus Graduate Student Symposium on August 29

The Biology Department begins the academic year with the 2018 Bumpus Symposium, which celebrates graduate student research in biology and honors Hermon Carey Bumpus, the first recipient of the PhD in Biology from Clark University (1891).

Short talks will be held in room 237 Lasry Center for Bioscience from 1:30 - 3:00 followed by a poster session in the Atrium. All are welcome!



Ahlgren-NatureDr. Ahlgren’s research on viruses highlighted in Nature

The work of Dr. Nathan Ahlgren and his collaborators at USC using artificial intelligence techniques to characterize viral genomes was recently featured in Nature magazine’s News and Views.

They have developed a machine-learning tool that allows them to distinguish DNA sequences of viruses from those of their bacterial and archaeal hosts based on differences in short stretches of DNA (k-mers) encoded in their DNA genomes.

They used this tool to compare microbial DNA sequences retrieved from gut samples harvested from healthy individuals and from patients suffereing from liver cirrhosis. Results revealed differences in the composition of viruses taken from healthy and diseased individuals, suggesting that some viruses may play a part in disease.



Evo-Devo Accolades

Allan Carrillo Baltodano, PhD candidate in the Meyer lab, attended the January, 2018 meeting in San Francisico of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Not only did he get to spend time connecting with colleagues while visiting a great city, he also won professional honors for his work in the form of two Best Student Presentation Awards: one from the SICB Division of Evolutionary and Developmental Biology and another from the American Microscopical Society.

Well done, Allan!



Fall FestFallFest2017

Fall Fest is held in October each year to allow students to present their LEEP and summer research projects to the Clark Community. This year 41 Biology, BCMB, and Environmental Science students working in biological disciplines presented posters detailing their research findings.


Summer Science Research Program










More than 40 undergraduate students participated in Clark’s Summer Science Research Program, which featured individual research projects mentored by faculty along with weekly lectures relating to the research process . At the end of the summer, the students shared their research findings with each other and Clark faculty in a series of quick “elevator pitches.” The goal? To describe the significance of their research in an accessible way to those outside their respective disciplines. The program was funded by the LEEP Center, departmental endowments and an anonymous funding source.

“One of the many positive aspects of this program was the bringing together of students, and faculty, from very different fields,” says Denis Larochelle, associate professor of biology and director of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program, who leads the summer program with Deborah Robertson, Warren Litsky ’45 Endowed Chair and professor of biology. “That the students could accomplish so much in such a short amount of time, and be able to explain it to others outside of their respective fields was not only informative but also very impressive,” Larochelle says. “I’m certain this experience will be a great asset to these students as they progress in their careers, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Many of the students involved in this summer’s research are continuing their work in laboratories on campus during the 2017-18 school year.


Alica KnudsonAlicia is Outstanding!

Congratulations to Alicia Knudson, whose effectiveness as a teacher has been recognized with the university-wide Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for 2017. Alicia is a PhD candidate in the Hibbett lab, where her research currently focuses on phenotypic plasticity in fruiting body morphology of coralloid fungi.



Biology students present their research at Academic Spree Day

Academic Spree Day is held in April each year, allowing students across campus to present their research findings. This year more than 50 Biology, BCMB and Environmental Science majors presented posters.


Welcome to our new professor of microbiology

The Biology Department is please to welcome Nathan Ahlgren to the faculty. Professor Ahlgren is a marine microbial ecologist. His research addresses how environmental factors and interactions between microbes and viruses shape the evolution, diversity, and structure of microbial communities.



Congratulations to recent graduate, Hannah Reich (BA'15/MA'17)

Hannah's masters research was published in PLOS ONE as "Do the shuffle: changes in Symbiodinium cosortia throughout juvenile coral development."

Hannah is continuing her study of coral reefs while pursuing her PhD at Penn State.




Recent pop-lit citations of interest

Todd Livdahl was cited in a Boston Globe article that attributed a recent upswing in tourism to Bermuda to the island's successful suppression of Zika-bearing mosquitos. Livdahl regularly travels to Bermuda with students in his vector ecology class, where they study ecological changes in the local mosquito communties. Bermudan mosquito populations are directly affected by the enforcement of "mosquito laws" which has resulted in signifcant reductions in mosquito breeding habitat, contributing to the absence of mosquito-borne pathogens on the island.

John Gibbons was interviewed in the online publication Cook's Science for his insight into the domestication of koji (Aspergillus oryzae) from its aflatoxin-producing antecedents. One focus of research in the Gibbons lab is the recreation of the domestication of A. oryzae (the fungus key to the production of soy sauce, sake and other tasty Asian staples)  from wild Aspergillus species to discover just how koji evolved to confer deliciousness while eliminating toxicity.


2017 A Spree DayStudent Research in Biological Sciences Presented at Fall Fest '16

On October 21, undergrads working in a broad range of the biological sciences presented their faculty-sponsored research projects in Fall Fest, an annual event celebrating undergraduate academic achievement.

Professor Todd Livdahl presents program on mosquitoes to the Ware River Nature Club

In September the Ware River Nature Club invited Todd Livdahl to the Rutland Public Library to speak on a hot topic for residents of boggy central Massachusetts: Mosquitoes that love us, and the diseases that love them.

The ecology and biodiversity of mosquitoes and other insect disease vectors is a focus of research in the Livdahl lab, and Todd regulary teaches courses in Ecology of Disease Vectors and Ecology of Infectious Disease. So he knows whereof he speaks.

Recent alumni news from the Livdahl lab

John Soghigian, PhD ’16, is now a Research Associate at the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station in New Haven, CT.

Camilo Khatchikian, PhD ’10, has accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, El Paso.


Minoli PereraTrainor award goes to Minoli Perera

Deb Robertson is pleased to share that Minoli Perera received the Francis R. Trainor Award for best graduate student poster at the 2016 Northeast Algal Society Symposium (NEAS). Minoli is a PhD candidate in Deb's lab and is currently working on characterizing RNA binding proteins in diatoms. Her winning project, Metabolic Labeling of RNA Opens up New Horizons in the Study of Gene Expression in Diatoms, involved measuring transcription using in vivo labeling of RNA.

Clark has a long tradition with NEAS – Bill Johansen, now retired Clark Professor of Biology, was one of the founding members 55 years ago.

Undergrads present research at 2016 Academic Spree Day

On April 27, undergraduates engaged in faculty-sponsored research projects presented their results at Academic Spree Day. Posters representing individual and collaborative projects in Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Environmental & Conservation Biology represented a broad range of the disciplines in the biological sciences conducted in research labs at Clark.


Clark University biologist to co-lead $8.7 million grant on evolutionary biology



This grant, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, is the world’s largest coordinated multi-national study of evolution. Clark University will receive $885,000 for a three-year study co-led by Susan Foster, Clark Professor of Biology, and Kevin Laland of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. It is one of 22 linked projects involving 49 researchers at 8 institutions in the United States, Great Britain and Sweden.

The Clark research examines environmental influences on the evolutionary radiation of the threespine stickleback fish. Other participants are Clark Biology professors John Baker and John Gibbons; William Cresko (Clark PhD ‘00); Matthew Wund (past-Clark post-doc); and Juha Merilä, Professor of Biosciences, University of Helsinki.

New National Institutes of Health grant in Biology



Robert Drewell, Associate Professor of Biology, and Jacqueline Dresch, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, have recently been awarded a $450,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) R15 grant for their interdisciplinary three year project entitled Decoding cis-regulatory grammar at Hox genes.

The project is aimed at understanding how genes are regulated by looking in detail at genes critical to development of the fruit fly, Drosophila.

ASN recognizes Melissa Graham's doctoral researchMelissa Graham

Susan Foster enthusiastically reports that doctoral candidate, Melissa Graham, has captured one of only ten prestigous American Society of Naturalists Student Research Awards. This award, offered to PhD candidates whose work promotes the conceptual unification of ecology, evolution or behavior, continues Melissa's recent history of winning significant honors from the likes of the Animal Behavior Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Society of Ichthyologyists and Herpetologists.

Three new Doctors of Philosophy

Biology is pleased to announce that Richard King, Miguel Reyes, and John Soghigian have successfully defended their doctoral dissertations. Dr's. Rich ("Threespine Stickleback Adaptive Radiation: The Importance of Ancestry") and Miguel ("Consequences of Diet Deprivation across the Lifespan of a Short-Lived Fish: Energy Allocation Tradeoffs within the Stickeback Adaptive Radiation") were both advised by Susan Foster. And Dr. John ("Aedes Mosquitoes and Ascogregarina Parasites as Models in Disease Ecology") was advised by Todd Livdahl.

Clarkie Honored as Outstanding Teacher

Mike Rosenzweig, Clark BA ’85, a former honors student mentored by Todd Livdahl, has received the Virginia Tech 2016 Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects. The Sporn “is a student-driven award, with nominations coming solely from undergraduates and the selection committee being comprised of student representatives from Omicron Delta Kappa and the Golden Key National Honor Society. Dr. Rosenzweig was selected from among four finalists that resulted from some 200 nominations, following submission of an extensive dossier that included letters of support from colleagues and former students.” Mike is currently a Senior Instructor and Bioscience Outreach Program Director in the Biology Department of Virginia Tech.


Fall 2015

2015 Jobbins Award goes to John Soghigian

For his research investigating the evolutionary ecology of mosquitos, PhD candidate John Soghigian has been awarded the 2015 Jobbins Scholarship. The Jobbins was instituted by Northeastern Mosquito Control Association in honor of Rutgers' professor Daniel Manley Jobbins’ body of work promoting the understanding of wetlands systems and the biology/control of mosquitos and other arthropod pests that occur therein. John’s work definitely fits the bill!

And by the way, this is the third consecutive award of the Jobbins to a member of the Livdahl lab -- PhD candidate Mandy Gaudreau won the award in 2014 and 2013.

NSF awards substantial support for Hibbett’s research into mechanisms of fungal evolution

David Hibbett has been awarded two National Science Foundation grants to support research projects that employ phylogenetic approaches to unlocking the secrets of basic fungal biology as well as the evolution of fungal morphology and ecological strategies.

$275,073 applied over three years will fund Functional and evolutionary bases of substrate-specificity in wood-decaying basidiomycetes . “This project will investigate the mechanisms of substrate specificity and substrate switching in wood-decaying Agaricomycetes using a combination of analyses of genes expressed during decay, and physical and chemical characterization of the decay process. Fungal enzymes that are involved in wood decay or degradation have potential applications in emerging bioprocesses, such as energy-related bioconversions, including biofuel production, and bioremediation. Enhanced understanding of the mechanisms that allow different species of fungi to exploit particular wood substrates could help guide development of genetic resources that could be used for such applied purposes.”

The second grant of $339,384, again over three years, will support Evolution of fruiting body forms in the mushroom-forming Fungi (Agaricomycetes): a comparative phylogenetic and developmental approach. “…much of the basic biology of fungi remains unknown, including knowledge on how fungi develop. This project will address the historical patterns and genetic mechanisms of developmental and morphological evolution in Agaricomycetes, which is a large group of fungi that includes gilled mushrooms, polypores, puffballs, and other complex forms. The results of this research will provide baseline information on the mechanisms of fungal development, as well as gene regulation and other processes of general significance for basic and applied fungal biology.”

Both projects will provide training for undergraduates, grad students and post-docs and will involve educational outreach about fungal biology to high schools and to the general public through a variety of venues. For more information read ....

Fall Fest 2015

Biology and BCMB undergrads presented their faculty-supervised research projects in twenty seven posters representing the biological sciences at this year's Fall Fest celebration. For details check out the Fall Fest 2015 program.

Congrats Mandy!

PhD candidate Mandy Gaudreau has recieved recognition via a grant from the Sophie Danforth Conservation Biology Fund for her work investigating the role that pathogen pressure may play in the worldwide decline of frog populations . She will use this award to support her project, "Using species distribution modeling to predict seasonal fluctuations in the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis infection intensity in northeastern United States anuran populations."


The first week of the new academic year was punctuated by the 2015 Bumpus Graduate Symposium on August 26th. Doctoral and masters students presented their research projects with talks and posters, and all were treated to a yummy buffet as well.

...and, if you have fond memories of Where's Waldo, how many Clark biologists can you identify in Professor Robertson's shot of the poster session? Unless our eyes deceive us, we're up to 29 and counting...

Ruela Bardhi, Philip Bergmann, Allan Carrillo, Amy Cheu, Brianna Cooney, Mandy Gaudreau, Chris Grace, Melissa Graham, Faye Harwell, Gina Kelley, Daniel Klonaros, Alicia Knudson, Mitchell Kukol, Denis Larochelle, Becca Littlefield, Neva Meyer, Celine Miranda, Chitra Naidu, Gaby Nemelceff, Marco Notarangelo, Max Nyquist, Nick Pagan, Minoli Perera, Levi Seeley, John Soghigian, Jacob Steenwyk, Abinav Sur, Justin Thackeray, and Simona Tolchin.


August 2015

micrograph Drosophila

On August 5th, Deb Robertson hosted Biology’s first annual One-Slide Undergraduate Summer Research Symposium, a venue for Biology undergrads to practice delivering brief but powerful presentations of their summer research. Rules of the game: presentations were limited to a single slide visual image and a three minute talk. We were treated to four presentations from different labs:

Sam Pelluso and Justin Wilbur from the Thackeray lab presented their research screening for new mutations in the PLC-gamma gene of the fruit fly, Drosophila. This gene is a regulator of development in both flies and humans.

Marian Crockett, who works in the Bergmann lab, reported on her investigation of the effects of solid substrate type (fine/coarse, regular/irregular, etc.) on locomotory modes of lizards moving across different substrates.

Kayli Schulz from the Larochelle lab described her project involving cell printing patterns of Dictyostelium discoidium on bacterial lawns. Kayli is experimenting with the incorporation of flourescence and bioluminescence into her plate cultures to improve the effectiveness of photographic images in showing differential viability of Dicty populations exposed to greater and lesser levels of UV light.

And Monica Marrone from the Livdahl lab talked about her analysis of host-diversity effects on parasite-loading in mosquitos. Her preliminary results point to the occurance of reduced parasite loads in mosquitos collected from communities with higher numbers of mosquito species than from mosquitos collected from communities with fewer mosquito species.

June 2015

Deb Robertson honored as Outstanding Teacher of the Year

At Clark's 2015 May Senior Brunch, Professor Deb Robertson, pictured here with her students Becca Littlefield and Hannah Reich, was named Clark’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

Nominations for this award are provided by department and program chairs and by members of the senior class, who are invited to nominate that full-time Clark faculty member who has had the greatest impact on their intellectual development and academic career inside and outside of the classroom. Following review by the selection committee, all Clark undergraduates determine the "Outstanding Teacher" through a direct, on-line ballot.

Best congratulations, Deb!


April 2015

Clark University Graduate Student Multidisciplinary Conference

At the April 8 Graduate Student Multidisciplinary Conference, an annual campus event that highlights the scholarship of masters and doctoral students representing departments across the University. This year the biology department was represented by two grad students presenting talks:

• Mandy Gaudreau, Establishing Mosquitoes as Vectors of Amphibian Pathogens, advisor: Todd Livdahl
• Matthew Thompson, Does Menthol Impact Nicotine Addiction? Effects in an Adolescent Rat Model, advisors: Néva Meyer (Clark) and Jean King (UMass Medical School)

and by four students presenting posters:

• Allan Carrillo-Baltodano, Reevaluation of Segmentation in Sipuncula through In-depth Analysis of Neural Development in Themiste lageniformis, advisor: Néva Meyer
• Joshua Buggé, Electroporation-Mediated Transfection of the Marine Diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana, advisor: Deb Robertson
• Melissa Graham, Evolution of the Maternal Stress Response in Stickleback and Implications for Offspring, Advisor: Susan Foster
• Minoli Perera, Coordinated Post-transcriptional Regulation of Nitrogen Assimilation in Marine Diatoms, Advisor: Deborah Robertson

March 2015

MS Student Does Double Duty as Scholar and Coach

Gaby Jijon NemelceffWhile pursuing her BA in Environmental and Conservation Biology, master’s student Gabriela Jijon Nemalceff became interested in the role of riparian forests on stream systems. With the guidance of John Baker she undertook a survey of macroinvertebrate communities found in the pristine East Branch of the Swift River in Petersham, MA, collecting and sorting specimens of resident invertebrates; her collection enhances the value of the East Branch as a reference stream, used to characterize the baseline ecological condition of rivers and streams throughout the region.

Now pursuing her MS in biology in the Foster & Baker lab, Gaby is building on her survey, identifying the resident taxonomic groups of invertebrates and characterizing their patterns of distribution throughout the system. More specifically she is investigating the effects of riparian land-cover types (meadow/tall grass; coniferous forest; deciduous forest) on the distribution and abundance of invertebrates in the stream system. She is also analyzing the occurrence of morphological feeding types across taxa that may be determined by light and microclimate conditions unique to the different canopy types.

Outside the field and lab, Gaby has an entirely different association with water as a competitive swimmer, both at the international level with the Ecuadoran National Swim Team and at the collegiate level with the Clark Varsity Swimming and Diving team. During her tenure on the Clark team, Gaby set several individual records in various swimming events. Since graduating in 2014 she has broadened her experience of the sport by becoming an assistant coach of the Clark team.


News from Two Livdahl Old-boys...

Robert Koenekoop, PhD '84, MD has been promoted to Professor, with tenure, in the Faculty of Medicine, McGill University in Montreal. Rob, who studied mosquito population biology for his PhD at Clark (in fact he was Todd Livdahl's first PhD student), is Director of the McGill Ocular Genetics Centre and Chief of Paediatric Ophthalmology at the McGill Medical Centre, and has recently developed a successful treatment for a congenital blindness disease, Leber congenital amourosis. His group has also identified a gene responsible for a childhood blindness disorder.

Chris VitekChristopher Vitek, who recieved his PhD in 2003 under the supervision of Todd Livdahl, has received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at the University of Texas —Pan American. His medical and ecological entomology lab generally studies the ecology and behavior of insects, researching, among other questions, patterns and changes in populations of mosquitos and other disease vectors in the lower Rio Grande Valley, which is an area at high risk for the emergence of vector-borne pathogens novel to the region.

Chris was also recently elected a Fellow of the Texas Academy of Science.


And More from the Current Livdahl Cohort:

...another job well done!

Mandy Gaudreau, PhD candidate, has received a $2,000 Jobbins Scholarship, the maximum award possible for the program, from the Northeastern Mosquito Control Association for her project entitled "Amphibian pathogens spread by frog-biting and opportunistic mosquitoes: a lab experiment". This is Mandy's second consecutive Jobbins Scholarship, following her previous award, "Are frog-biting mosquitoes a cause for amphibian conservation concern?"

mosquitoes misbehaviing.. mosquitos behaving badly...

John Soghigian, PhD candidate, MS candidate Ashleigh Stanton and Kathryn Gibbs (MA '13) have published a paper with Todd Livdahl in Environmental Health Insights entitled "Sexual harassment and feeding inhibition between two dengue vectors."

A Job Well Done!

Melissa Graham, a PhD candidate in the Foster & Baker lab, has been selected to receive the prestigious George W. Barlow Award in support of her research proposal, Evolutionary Parallelism: The Maternal Stress Response and Offspring Phenotypes. The Barlow is awarded annually by the Animal Behavior Society to a single, top-ranked grad student research proposal in the field of animal behavior.

In its review of Melissa's proposal the ABS Research Grant Committee commented that “... this is a sophisticated and professional proposal addressing a timely and important question ... (with) results that should be of broad interest and further our understanding of stress response and maternal effects... This an innovative study that may have a huge impact on multiple fields. It is truly integrative as it incorporates animal behavior, evolutionary biology, endocrinology and molecular biology.” In accordance with this assessment, the committee granted Melissa $2,000, the maximum award possible per the Barlow Award guidelines.


basidiomycotaM.S. Research Published

Mycologia has just published a paper by 2014 MS graduate Rachael Martin. The paper, coauthored with Romina Gazis, David Hibbett, et al, is derived from Rachael’s master's thesis project ("Unexpected Diversity of Basidiomycetous Endophytes in Sapwood and Leaves of Hevea") investigating the diversity and substrate affinity of fungal endophytes found on wild and cultivated populations of rubber tree plants.

Rachael's research interests were jumpstarted by her work in the Hibbett lab, both as an undergrad and as a master's student. She is currently employed as a Research Assistant in Seanna Annis' lab at the University of Maine, Orono, where she studies diseases of blueberries and their control.

Clark Ureka Award to Biology Student/Enterpreneurs

Dibble & Sett

Christopher Dibble ’16 and Calder Sett ’16 are the first place winners of the Clark 2015 Ureka! Big Idea Challenge. They will use the $3,500 award as startup funds their company, Agraponics LLC, which they describe as an agricultural technology company focused on enabling individuals and organizations to grow their own food using aquaponic and hydroponic technologies.

Their idea for Agraponics sprang from their insight that negative environmental impacts of traditional agriculture and food distribution networks could be mitigated by teaching and empowering small entities, from individuals to communities, to grow food locally. With Agraponics LLC they will design, build and sell simple and elegant systems that will enable individuals and groups to readily produce their own food, from fruits and veggies to fish; and they will provide consultation and education to their customers to teach them how. They are currently developing their product portfolio which will include an array of systems based on various nuances of aqua-, hydro- and aeroponic food production, from very small (Calder has a tiny system growing herbs and lettuces on his desk) to larger systems.

We wish them delicious success.

February 2015

Recent New Scientist article featuring research conducted in Foster & Baker lab considers a hot question in evolutionary biology: which comes first – adaptation or mutation?

Matt Wund in AlaskaMatt Wund, a former post doc in the Foster & Baker lab, was recently contacted by a writer for New Scientist magazine seeking Matt's insight, based on research he conducted during his tenure at Clark, into the role that phenotypic plasticity may play in evolutionary processes. The New Scientist article considers recent work supporting the proposition that physical changes induced in organisms as a plastic response to environmental conditions can become heritable when mutations reinforcing the plastic response enhance fitness and spread through the population.

Wund’s experiments demonstrated that morphological differences characteristic of two distinct forms of freshwater threespine stickleback (the long, slender head and mouth of limnetic, zooplankton-feeding ecotypes vs. the deep head and short, wide mouth of benthic, invertebrate-feeding ecotypes) can be plastically induced in marine stickleback (the ancestral form of all freshwater stickleback) simply by rearing them on diets specific to either limnetic or benthic environments. His result supports the hypothesis that plasticity may have played an important role in the evolution of stickleback ecotypes that emerged in freshwater lakes and rivers following the recession of glaciers of the last ice age.

January 2015

Allen Carillo-BaltodanoAllen Carrillo Baltodano, a PhD student in the Meyer lab, has returned from the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative Comparative Biology where he presented a poster entitled "Reevaluation of the hypothesized loss of segmentation in Sipuncula through in-depth analyses of neural development in Themiste lageniformis." During the meeting he also won the American Microscopical Society's Buchsbaum Photomicrography contest for the best color photomicrograph. Allan's trip to the SCIB meeting was funded by an SBIC Broadening Participation Committee Travel Award.



NEWS FLASH .... Clark Mosquitos Get Second Chance at Space Flight: “Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space” Rescheduled for December 16, 2014 SpaceX-5

The science experiment designed by Columbia Middle School students Lily Walsh, Kasia Kapustka, Julia Ellis, Gia LaSalle, and Bianca Urbina will have a second chance to fly to the International Space Station as part of the Yankee Clipper II payload aboard SpaceX-5, the Commercial Resupply Mission scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 16, 2014. The experiment was originally part of the Yankee Clipper payload aboard Orb-3 on October 28, 2014, when the vehicle was destroyed on launch.

The experiment titled, “Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space” was selected for launch to space from a pool of proposals submitted by students from the Berkeley Heights School District as part of The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. SSEP is a remarkable U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative that gives students the ability to design and propose real experiments to fly in low Earth orbit.

The winning proposal, “Baby Bloodsuckers in Outer Space” is a student-designed experiment to test the role of gravity in the development of Aedes albopictus mosquito eggs. “We believe the eggs will hatch and mature into larvae even in microgravity. On earth, the larvae float to the surface of water to breathe and mature into pupae”, the students explained. Astronauts will preserve the mosquitoes shortly after they should have matured into pupae during their stay aboard the International Space Station. The students continued to explain, “without gravity […] the larvae will lack a mechanism to rise to the surface and therefore will fail to mature.” The students will also perform the same experiment on Earth in order to observe the differences between both specimens.

The mosquito eggs are provided by Todd Livdahl, Professor of Biology at Clark University.
(from Berkeley Heights Public Schools press release, 12/10/14)

Fall 2014

November ...

Alfredo Justo has been appointed an Associate Researcher at the Instituto de Biologia, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, a public research university in Mexico City, Mexico.

Dimitrios Floudas successfully defended his doctoral thesis in November and in December will depart for beautiful Lund, Sweden where he will assume a post doctoral position in the microbial ecology lab of Anders Tunlid, at the University of Lund.

Dimitris and Fredo in 2009....Dimitrios Floudas & Alfredo Justo


Miguel ReyesMiguel Reyes received a SBIC Broadening Participation Committee Travel Award from the Society for Integrative Comparative Biology. He will use the funds to travel in January to the 2015 SCIB Annual Meeting, where he willl present his paper, "Early life compensatory growth and swimming stamina in the threespine stickleback." Miguel will also attend Broadening Participation Events that concern raising ethnic diversity in the sciences and other professional development topics.



Jaya Sathiya SeelanJaya Seelan Sathiya, doctoral student in the Hibbett lab and whose home base is the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation, University of Malaysia Sabah, Borneo Island, Sabah, Malaysia, has recently been traveling widely to professional meetings of fungal biologists. The Mycological Society of America presented him with a Mentor Student Travel Award to attend its 2014 annual meeting held in June in East Lansing, Michigan where he gave a talk on the phylogenetic relationships and morphological evolution of three fungal genera (Lentinus, Polyporellus and Neofavolus) emphasizing Southeast Asian taxa. Jaya was also awarded a Homola Scholarship by the Northeast Mycological Federation to attend the NMF 38th Annual Sam Ristich Mushroom Foray held in August at Bowdoin College (where he also celebrated his birthday!) in Brunswick, Maine.

 Romina Gazis in field

Additionally, Jaya and post doc Romina Gazis, received a 2014 Research Grant in Plant Systematics from the International Association of Plant Taxonomy to fund their examination of the phylogenetic relationships of the wood rotting mushroom, Panus sensu stricto, in temperate and tropical biomes entitled, “One genus, two different forests: the story of Panus in the Amazonian and Bornean forests.” They presented a poster representing their project at the 2nd Biennial MassMyco meeting of fungal biologists held in October at Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA.



Fall Fest 2014

Fall Fest '14 2dAt the October 24 Fall Fest celebration, twenty three Biology and BCMB undergraduates mentored by biology department faculty presented posters detailing their individual summer and LEEP Fellow research projects.


We already knew that he's outstanding!

Undergrads lucky enough to have been one of John Soghigian's students would not be surprised to learn that the University has awarded him the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for 2013/14. This is "frosting on the cake" to the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant awarded to John in 2013 by the National Science Foundation; it funds his research involving the evolutionary ecology of mosquito-borne diseases.

Well deserved and good for you, John!



BoletinellusRecently from the Hibbett lab...

In August a contingent from the Hibbett lab, including David, Romina, Lazslo, and Dimitrios, gave five presentations at the 10th meeting of the International Mycological Congress in Bangkok, Thailand and subsequently enjoyed a post-conference excursion to the amazing 700 year-old ruins at Sukhothai, seat of the ancient Thai empire, and cool dipterocarp forests at 1000 meters in Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park. For more about the conference and this trip, please visit the Hibbett lab blog.

Postdoc Laszlo Nagy has departed for the Biological Research Centre in Szeged, Hungary where he will set up his new lab with support from a Hungarian Academy of Sciences Lendulet grant. Shortly before he left, his study on yeast origins appeared in Nature Communications.

Rachael Martin & Alexis CarlsonMaster’s students Alexis Carlson and Rachael Martin graduated in May and have both moved on to research positions in academic labs with fungal interests. Alexis is now the laboratory manager for Ullrich Mueller’s group, which studies the attine ant/fungus symbiosis, at the University of Texas, Austin. Rachael is a Research Assistant with Seanna Annis at the University of Maine, Orono, where she will study diseases of blueberries and their control.

University honors biology faculty

Philip BergmannIn recognition of his outstanding performance as a junior faculty member and to support his continuing research success, the University has awarded Philip Bergmann the Edward Hodgkins Junior Faculty Fellowship for 2014-15.


Todd LivdahlAnd, for his excellence in teaching as well as for his recognized productivity as a scholar, Todd Livdahl has been appointed to a three-year term as the Warren Litsky ’45 Endowed Chair as Professor of Biology. Established in 2007 through a bequest gift from the estate of Warren Litsky, the Litsky chair supports the work of a professor in the field of biology.


Clark mosquitos prepare for space mission!

mosquito electron micrographThe fourth annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference held at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in July hosted student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments to be conducted on the International Space Station. A group of 8th graders from New Jersey, nascent women in science, are using mosquitoes from Todd Livdahl's lab to test the effects of zero gravity on mosquito survival and development. Check out their impressive presentation.


The biology department is very pleased to welcome two new faculty in 2014

John GibbonsJohn Gibbons is an evolutionary genomicist. His research aims to shed light on the evolutionary forces and genomic processes underlying phenotypic variation. In particular, John’s research is focused on understanding how humans have altered the genomes of domesticated microbes and how large-scale genomic alterations influence the virulence of fungal pathogens. He earned a B.S. in biology from Keene State College and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Vanderbilt University. Since receiving his doctorate, John has worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health.

Robert DrewellRob Drewell is a developmental biologist. His research utilizes experimental molecular genomic, mathematical and computational approaches to investigate the regulation of gene expression during embryonic development. Much of his work is focused on using insect model species, including the fruit fly and honey bee. Prior to arriving at Clark, Rob was an associate professor at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Cal. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health, a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and been recognized as a Distinguished Mentor by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in molecular genetics from King’s College, University of London.


Fall term begins...

Alicia KnudsonOn August 27 the biology department saw in the 2014 academic year with the annual Bumpus Symposium, honoring graduate student research in biology. This year twenty five PhD and MS students representing the breadth of work conducted in eleven of our research labs presented their thesis projects via oral or poster presentation. It was a pleasure to celebrate the contributions of each.

To the right is Alicia Knudson (Hibbett lab) in the field with a Ramaria (coral fungus) fruiting body.



Undergraduate Awards 2013-14

Briana CooneyLEEP Fellow Briana Cooney ’15, received the Potter Prize, which is awarded to an outstanding senior in the biology department. Additionally, Briana was selected as a member of Fiat Lux, a distinguished honor society for members of the Clark senior class. Working with Professor Foster and doctoral student Melissa Graham, she has been conducting research investigating the influence of environmental factors on the stress response elicited in maternal threespine stickleback.

Yng Ge WangYing Ge Wang ’16, also a LEEP Fellow, received the M. Margaret Comer Memorial Award given to a student who has demonstrated high potential or achievement in biology or biochemistry research. Mentored by Professor Larochelle and doctoral student Xiang Ren, Ying Ge has been working on a research project targeting inner nuclear membrane proteins to the nuclear envelope in D. doscoideum.


Vanessa CarrascoVanessa Carrasco ’15 received a Marsh-Mosakowki NOAA Fellowship to conduct bacterial screening on cultured macro algae raised in intensive land-based systems, research that she conducted during the summer at the North West Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA. Vanessa continues to pursue research projects in Professor Hibbett's lab


Ryan Barney ’15 was awarded a Steinbrecher Fellowship which helped to support his research project comparing the morphological characteristics of several species-pairs of British Columbia sticklebacks. Ryan is mentored by Professors Foster and Baker.

Gina Kelley ’15, mentored by Professor Thackeray, received a Carlson summer research award to investigate a novel gene affecting cell growth and proliferation in Drosophila.



Summer 2014

The Bergmann Report --

Philip Bergmann and Gen Morinaga spent the early part of the summer on a field trip to Samar Island in the Philippines, where they studied skink lizard locomotion and burrowing.

skinkThis little beauty is one of the subjects of their research.

And here are Gen and Philip in action, using a racetrack to film skinks running. Philip & Gen with skink track

Philip also reports that he was awarded an NSF grant entitled, "Collaborative research: developmental and functional mechanisms of complex trait re-evolution — limb loss and gain in skink lizards."


David HawkinsGood news...

Biology graduate, David Hawkins '83, has recently been appointed chair of the Department of Geosciences at Wellesley College. While at Clark he was a work-study student in Todd Livdah's lab.



Academic Spree Day 2014

Biology undergrads presented 16 research projects touching on a wide range of biological disciplines. For names and project titles please visit the Undergraduate Research page.


November 2013

John Baker Makes a Sustainable Point at Science Café Woo

Dr. John Baker elaborated upon the notion of sustainability (“Sustainability: It Means More than “Tit for Tat”) in November’s session of Science Café Woo, a monthly forum for active researchers in the sciences to present their work to the community. John sparked a quite lively discussion, as recounted in the blog of embedded research librarian Sally Gore of UMass Medical School’s Lamar Soutter Library.

Science Café Woo, by the way was cofounded with her fellow researcher by one of our own Clark Biology graduates, Kelly Hallstrom, now a doctoral candidate working on Salmonella pathogenesis at U Mass Med. Also by the way, December’s invited speaker at Science Café Woo will be Kelly’s mentor from her days at Clark, Dr. David Hibbett .

Fall 2013 Update

Bumpus Symposium:

Fall semester kicked off on September 4 with the Bumpus Symposium, our annual event celebrating our PhD students’ investigations into the “sweet mysteries” of life. We enjoyed hearing from each about their research projects via their seminar and poster presentations.


2013 Student Awards:

Graduate Awards:

Doctoral student Mandy Gaudreau received the Sophie Danforth Conservation Biology Fund Grant from Roger Williams Park Zoological Society on September 1st for a grant proposal titled "Frog-biting mosquitoes, Culex territans and Uranotaenia sapphirina as vectors of multiple amphibian pathogens". Mandy is working with Todd Livdahl.

2013 Fall Fest and Salute to Student Scholars

On October 25 the University honored the academic achievements of our undergraduates in the Salute to Student Scholars and Fall Fest celebrations.

In the Salute to Student Scholars, recognizing recipients of departmental and university awards, Biology was represented by two students: Lauren Kopple received the Potter Award for Excellence in Biology for her work in the Meyer lab investigating the occurrence of neural stem cells in Capitella telata. And Jennifer Six was recognized for her outstanding service to the University with the Ellsworth Foundation and Clark University Thomas M. Dolan ’62 Outstanding Service Award. While earning this honor, Jenny was also busy conducting research in the Larochelle lab exploring the molecular interactions of specific proteins in Dictyostelium discoideum and how the manipulation of these proteins impacts cell division.

Fall Fest afforded us a look at the research and creative projects of summer fellowship and LEEP Pioneer students through poster and Powerpoint slide presentations. Twenty two Biology and BCMB students mentored by Biology faculty presented posters at this event: Michele Corbet, Oyindamola Adefisayo, Amanda Barbosa, Spencer Brightman, Joshua Bugge, Rebecca Friedman, Tom Carroll, Rebecca Friedman, Fay Hartwell, Gabriella Jijon, Lauren Kopple, Kyle Lewis, Marco Notrangelo, Jenna Kosmo, Jason Moriera, Emma O’Melia, Kyle Pettinelli, Allen Roth, Jenny Six, Jeff Stanmeyer, Erin Thayer, Laura Uricioli and Alex Vicker’s. Please visit Fall Fest & Salute to Student Scholars to see the titles of their projects and the names of their faculty sponsors; and visit the websites of their faculty-mentors to learn more.

Student News

Magali LemahieuHigh Honors in Biology to Magali Lemahieu

High Honors in Biology has been awarded to Magali Lemahieu for her thesis, “Investigating the Post-Transcriptional and Post-Translational Regulation of Nitrate Reductase in Thalassiosira pseudonana.”

Rachel GoreRachel Gore Earns High Honors

For her thesis project, "Genetic Analysis of Growth Factor Signaling Inhibitors in Drosophila." Rachel Gore was awarded High Honors in Biology.

Karissa LearHighest Honors in Biology for Karissa Lear

Karissa Lear has been awarded Highest Honors in Biology for her thesis, “Demographic and Genetic Characterization of the Eelgrass Zostera marina and Z. japonica in a mixed species ecosystem from Padilla Bay, WA, USA.”

Christina FerrettiHigh Honors for Christina Ferretti

Todd Livdahl reports that Christina Ferretti, a double major in biology and physics, has been awarded High Honors in Physics for her project, "Methods for Quantifying Wingbeat Frequencies of Mosquitoes."

Alison - Spree DayAcademic Spree Day -- Undergraduate Research in Biology

2012-13 has been a productive year for undergrads engaged in research sponsored by laboratories throughout the Biology Department. Visitors to Spree Day on April 24 were treated to poster presentations by student-investigators of twenty six research projects involving a broad range of topics in biology. We are thrilled to congratulate them for their successes, engendered by their competence, hard work, and enthusiasm.
Allegra - Spree Dayendurance experimentHilary Spree DayAlex VickersRyan Barney & Co

John Dennehy

A Very Good Year for Clark PhD, John Dennehy!

Tenure!Todd Livdahl reports that his former grad student, John Dennehy (Ph.D. 2003) has been awared a CAREER research grant from the NSF for $764,000 and that he has received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Queens College, City University of New York. John's lab focuses on the evolutionary ecology of bacteriophages.

John Soghigian John Soghigian Awarded NSF Grant

Ph.D. student John Soghigian has received an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant, for a project entitled "Evolution of Parasite-Host Fitness Tradeoffs in a Mosquito-Gregarine System." The $19,707 award will enable John to further develop his interests in coevolution between mosquitoes and their parasites, and will support laboratory research as well as travel for field collection in Taiwan and Hungary.



Clark PhD Robert Scott Appointed New Director of Bonne Bay Marine StationBonne Bay Marine Station

A former member of the Foster/Baker lab, Bob received his Ph.D. from Clark University in 2000, working on the function of the black nuptial signal found in males of some populations of threespine stickleback. Bob's connection with Clark Biology continues through his participation in the LEEP Sticklegroup. In 2013 Bob and his associates will mentor three LEEP pioneers from the Foster/Baker lab, who will travel to Bonne Bay in Newfoundland to work on projects helping to characterize the stickleback adaptive radiation in stickleback populations found in the shallow, coastal marine waters and lake and riverine freshwater habitats in the vicinity of the research station.

Spree Day - April 25, 2012

As usual this event attracted many students, faculty members and administrators who all came to take part in this festival of creativity and research. Biology undergraduate students discussed their research findings with crowds of visitors. From upper left: Professor Larochelle with his student Lauren Beaudin '12 (Investigation of Ddkiƒl by RNAi and Gene Knockout Approaches). Upper right: Susan Damon'12, Erin Ross'12 , and Audrey Seiz'13 (Examination of mRNA Stability in Nitrogen Starved Thalassiosira pseudonana) - done in collaboration with Jessica Alexander and Minoli Perera, graduate students, and sponsored by Professor Robertson. Lower left: Nick Pagan'15 in front of his poster produced in collaboration with Ryan Barney'15, Jenna Kosmo'15, and sponsored by Professor Baker (Size at Age in Alaskan Threespine Stickleback: Evolution and Variation through Space and Time). Lower right: Matthew Warndorf '12 sponsored by Professor Livdahl (Development of a Novel Technique for the Quantitative Analysis of Mosquito Eggs)


Student Research Award

Our Biology BA/MA graduate student, and Environmental Science undergraduate Lianne Samalot has received a 2012 Geller Student Research Award. The Albert, Norma and Howard ’77 Geller Endowed Research Awards are intended to support student initiated research projects that advance both our understanding of opportunities for greater sustainability in the human use of resources and the environment, and practical improvements that can be implemented. Congratulations Lianne!

Mini Spree Day '11

Biology celebrated its Mini Spree Day on April 28th. The students in Animal Behavior (BIOL 242) presented the work they did over the last semester. The food was excellent as well as science experience.

Our recent graduate Anna Mazzarella

Anna Mazzarella (’09), MA 2010, has just accepted a Ph.D. Fellowship at the Art Show Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES) at the University of Olso, Norway. The goal of the research in which she will participate is Tracking signatures of adaptive diversification during postglacial colonization in threespine stickleback. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway. The overall aims of the project are to detect genomic regions and phenotypic traits under selection when sticklebacks invade fresh waters. Anna will work with supervisors at the CEES (L.A. Vøllestad, T.F. Hansen, K.S. Jakobsen, K. Østbye) and international collaborators (F. Volckaert, A. Nolte). This is a wonderful opportunity and we are really excited for Anna.

Our biology majors are real heroes!

Three of our students - Mark Benoit, Jason Smith and Alexander Andersen were involved in a rescue operation that actually saved a person's life. We want to congratulate them. To read the whole story click here.

Our MA graduate, Rachel Chock finds opportunity in Chile

Rachel Chock (’07), MA ’08, has accepted a competitive NSF-funded research position in Chile that will begin in June 2010. She will be conducting research with Dr. Loren Hayes from University of Louisiana, Monroe and Dr. Luis Ebensperger from Universidad de Catolica in Santiago, Chile. The researches focuses on social behavior in degus (Octodon degus), and her personal research focus will be on allonursing by this mammal in the lab and the field. This is an exceptionally exciting opportunity.

Our Ph.D. graduate, Lingyan Wang finds her new path in New York.

Lingyan Wang graduated in May 2009, and began working as a post-doctoral fellow in October, in the laboratory of Dr. Sandra Masur, Professor of Ophthalmology, at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine of New York University. She is responsible for the development of three-dimensional culture systems for use as corneal transplants. Good Luck Lingyan!

Welcome back Sohini

Congratulations to Sohini Ghoshroy who finished her dissertation work this past January (2011). We are pleased to announce that Sohini has re-joined
the Robertson lab as a post-doctoral researcher.

Research News

Summer 2010

This summer, several Biology faculty and graduate students participated in an on-campus workshop to learn effective ways to communicate their research interests and findings to members of the media and the general public (Read more).

A new paper published in BMC Evolutionary Biology

Sohini Ghoshroy, Manfred Binder, Aurelien Tartar and Deb Robertson have a new paper published in BMC Evolutionary Biology titled “Molecular evolution of glutamine synthetase II: Phylogenetic evidence of a non-endosymbiotic gene transfer event early in plant evolution" . In this paper, they examined the evolutionary relationship of glutamine synthetase from eubacterial and eukaryotic lineages and present robust phylogenetic evidence that the glutamine synthetase gene was transferred from gamma-Proteobacteria (Eubacteria) to the green algae early in plant evolution. Although horizontal gene transfer events (the exchange of genes between non-related organisms) are common in prokaryotes (e.g., bacteria) they were thought be a rare in eukaryotes. Genome sequencing and phylogenetic analyses, such as the current paper, have begun to reshape our understanding of the frequency of horizontal gene transfers in eukaryotes, which appear more common than previously thought.

Manfred Binder et al.- new article on mushroom evolution published in Mycologia.

Faculty News

We welcome new Professors

Neva MeyerWe are very excited to announce the arrival of a new faculty member to the Biology Department at Clark. Our new Assistant Professor is Néva Meyer , Ph.D. Her appointment started at the beginning of 2011/12 academic year. Néva Meyer studies Annelids' development in order to understand how nervous system evolves. Please read more about her work on her lab website.



New Grants

• New grant for Professor Todd Livdahl

Todd Livdahl has received a $380,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, for a three year project entitled "Community Diversity and Parasite Dynamics," in which he and his students will conduct experiments to test for the "host dilution" effect, a hypothesized inverse relationship between the number of host species in a community and the success of a parasite infecting multiple hosts. The experimental system will consist of communities of mosquito larvae as hosts of protist parasites.

Deb Robertson received a new NSF grant.

Deb Robertson received a three year award this April (2011) from the Division of Integrated Organismal Systems at the National Science Foundation. The work will examine the role of post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in marine diatoms.

David Hibbett's lab received two new NSF grants

Project title: MSB/PEET: polyPEET- enhancing taxonomic expertise in the Polyporales. National Science Fundation Systematics and Population Biology (DSH, PI).Funding period Jan.1,2010-Dec.31,2014.DEB- 0933081. $750,000

Project title: Collaborative Research: Fungal Life History Strategies and Evolution: Insights from Isotopic Measurements and Phylogenetic Analysis. National Science Foundation Integrative Organismal Systems (DSH, PI). Funding period Apr. 15, 2009-Sept. 30, 2011. IOS-0843278. $59,999

Professor Wiatrowski's paper was just noted as an “Editor’s choice” in Science magazine

Reduction of Hg(II) to Hg(0) by Magnetite Heather A. Wiatrowski, Soumya Das, Ravi Kukkadapu, Eugene S. Ilton, Tamar Barkay and Nathan Yee Environmental Science and Technology 2009, 43 (14), pp 5307–5313 This article was featured in Science Magazine’s July 3rd “Editor’s Choice” section under Geochemistry.

David Hibbett elected Vice President of Mycological Society of America

David HibbettProf. David Hibbett has been elected Vice President of the Mycological Society of America, a scientific society dedicated to advancing the science of mycology — the study of fungi of all kinds including mushrooms, molds, truffles, yeasts, lichens, plant pathogens and medically important fungi. Read more about MSA

First Year Seminar – BIOL108, Annotation of a Microbial Genome.

Professor Heather Wiatrowski was selected by the Education Department of the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to take part on behalf of Clark in the Undergraduate Research Program in Microbial Genome Annotation. The program enables undergraduate life sciences students at Clark to analyze bacteria genomes as a new way of teaching bioscience curriculum standards.