Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Activity

The St. Mike’s Biology Department is a busy place in the summers due to students involved in a variety of research projects. Tommy Manning and Hannah Lynch worked with Professor Dagan Loisel this past summer, and provided the following: Hey readers! This is Tommy and Hannah, two senior Biology majors working with Professor Loisel and studying genetics of the Vermont bobcat population. Our summer research projects are supported by the Hartnett Endowment. This summer, we have been using DNA extraction and PCR techniques to examine genetic diversity of the important mammal immune system MHC gene in the Vermont bobcat population. This gene, when isolated and sequenced, will show us how diverse the bobcat population is and how well suited it will be to fend off a potential pathogenic disease. At the same time, we have been screening the population for the presence of 3 diseases which have been shown in previous studies to cross over to domestic cats. By identifying the presence of these diseases, we can draw conclusions about the overall health of the bobcat population and make predictions about future bobcat health in light of human industrial expansion. As the first research opportunity that either of us has had at SMC, we’ve had a great time working with Prof. Loisel and getting experience in a lab setting.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Getting Fired Up!

On Friday, May 3 a section of the sandplain forest at neighboring Camp Johnson was subjected to a controlled burn to help with restoration of pitch pine by removing competing vegetation.  In the weeks ahead about 75 pitch pine seedlings will be planted in the burned area.  This is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Army National Guard, St. Michael’s College, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Nature Conservancy.

For the last several years, the fall lab sections of BI 151 (Introduction to Ecology and Evolution) have been studying vegetation and invertebrates of the sandplain forest at Camp Johnson, including some areas that were burned over 15 years ago.  Discussions with the National Guard brought about the plan to burn another section of the forest to enhance population of the fire-dependent pitch pine and also to provide a great research and learning opportunity for SMC students and faculty. 
Over the last year, pitch pine seeds were collected and planted in a nursery, and several areas of the forest were cut in preparation for the burn.  Last summer a team of four research students and two faculty did some pre-burn survey work, and that was followed up in the fall by the attention of nearly 140 students, with their lab instructors, in the BI 151 class.  The warm, dry conditions of this spring made the timing right – and the weather cooperated with clear skies and light wind on the day of the burn.  Additional work will take place this summer, and in the fall the student in BI 151 (mostly first-semester students) will get a taste of research as they study plants and invertebrates in the recovering burned areas and adjacent unburned sections of the forest.

IN OTHER NEWS……. The Spring 2013 edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter, is now available through our Biology Department web site, or you can link to it directly.  Check it out to find out what else has been or will be going on in our program, and also to see what some of our alumni have been up to.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

End of Fall Semester

Fall semester is over, and the holiday break is here.  It’s been a very busy fall, with another large class of first-year biology majors taking our Introduction to Ecology and Evolution course (BI 151), which was modified somewhat as we build on our partnership with the neighboring Army National Guard base to provide valuable ecological information for the management of their forest area.

The fall edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter, was completed and is now linked to our Departmental web site.  In addition, the fall edition of the Saint Michael’s magazine ran a nice article featuring Professor Mac Lippert and his student research program (“Biology Biographies”) and also includes summer research by Professors Declan McCabe, Adam Weaver, Valerie Banschbach, and Peter Hope and their students (“Summer at St. Mikes”).

The next few weeks will be a welcome break for many of us – BUT on December 29 Professors Peter Hope and Scott Lewins will be taking a group of 12 students to Costa Rica for a Tropical Ecology field course lasting 12 days.  To keep up with their progress, check out their blog.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year….

Thursday, October 18, 2012

National recognition for Matt Hajdun

Congratulations to Matt Hajdun (Biology major, class of 2005), who received a Milken Family Foundation Award on October 15.  The Milken Awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, and are seen by some as the “academy awards” of the teaching profession.  Matt has been a teacher at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington for several years; he first taught at orphanage in Honduras and then in a bilingual inner city school in New Britain, Connecticut before coming to Burlington.  This link shows some local coverage of the big news.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Honoring alumna

On Friday, September 28, returning alumna Dr. Tracy Romano (Bio major from class of 1986) was inducted to the SMC Academic Hall of Fame at the annual Fall Convocation.  Dr. Romano is the Executive Vice President for Research and Zoological Operations at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut.  Her research background and interest focuses on marine mammals, particularly beluga whales.  While on campus, Dr. Romano had lunch with officers of our chapter of Beta Beta Beta (national Biology Honor Society) and also had an after-lunch open forum during which she discussed how her commitment to studying marine mammals led her from St. Mike's to her current position, which includes studies of how the immune system of belugas responds when the whales are under stress.  It was great to hear about the work going on at the aquarium, and also with wild belugas in the arctic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gone Fishin'....

During the first week of August, I took a small news crew from Channel 5 (WPTZ) fishing in Malletts Bay.  With fishing as a back drop,  we discussed the potential impacts of the spiny water flea on the Lake's food web and fishing.  The spiny water flea is a predatory zooplankton that is not yet in Lake Champlain but may soon find it's way in from the Champlain canal or Lake George - both of which are connected to Lake Champlain.    Watch the news report...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Course planning for fall

If you are one of our incoming BIology majors - Congratulation!  We look forward to seeing you.  Here is some advice on planning for fall courses.  

Much of what follows is directed toward incoming Biology majors, but there is some important information for Biochemistry and Pre-Pharmacy majors as well.  (If you are planning to major in Biochemistry and have any questions, please contact Dr. Alayne Schroll,  If you are planning to major in Pre-Pharmacy, please contact Dr. Ari Kirshenbaum,,  if you have any questions.)

·        Please attend one of the summer registration days if you can; they are scheduled for July 13, 17, and 20.  We will have someone from the Biology Department available to assist incoming Biology majors with course selection and discuss our program if you wish.
·        All first semester Biology majors (and also those majoring in Biochemistry or Pre-Pharmacy) should take BI 151 (Intro. Ecology and Evolution) and CH 110 (Chemical Structure, Bonding, & Reactivity).  This is also true for anyone who plans to pursue a “Pre-Med” or similar “Pre-Health” course of study, regardless of their intended major.  These courses will put you on the right track for future course work in these fields.  The demand for these introductory courses in Biology and Chemistry is quite strong – so to help ensure that all students who need these courses get into them, we will make an effort to register you for these courses before the summer registration days.  This will make your summer registration day go more easily, as you will already have these two courses in your schedule.
·        Therefore, because you have indicated Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy as your intended major, we will do our best to place you into BI 151 and CH 110.  However - if you have changed your mind or believe that we have made a mistake and you do not intend to major in Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy, please contact Katherine Orthman ( in the registrar’s office.  We can drop you from those courses, and you will have more flexibility in your course selection for the first semester, and also allow more space in these courses for students who need to take them.
·        Anyone who has not indicated Biology or Biochemistry as their intended major will not be placed into these courses.  Therefore, if you know someone planning to attend St. Mike’s and pursue one of these programs but who has not let us know of their intent, please mention to them that you got this message, and that they should contact the registrar’s office (Katherine Orthman, and declare one of these majors – it is the best way to maximize the likelihood that they will get into these courses and get off to a good start in these majors. (note – anyone receiving this email is already on our list of intended Biology, Biochemistry, or Pre-Pharmacy majors)

·        A note regarding Math requirements: Biology majors are required to take two semesters of math, with at least one of those being calculus. Biology majors are not required to take Calculus in the first year, but some students choose to so that the Calculus that they had senior year in HS is still fresh.  However – Biochemistry majors should take Calculus in their first semester.
o   If you took AP Calculus and got a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, you will get credit for Calculus 1 (MA 150) and are eligible to take Calculus 2 (MA 160). If you took a non-AP Calculus I course in high school (or do not yet know your AP score) and did well in the course, you may also be eligible to take Calculus 2 in the fall and should contact Dr. George Ashline ( of the Math department if you would like to register for Calculus II in the fall
o   The Math Department offers sections of Elements of Calculus (MA 130), Calculus 1 (MA 150) and Calculus 2 (MA 160) that can be scheduled along with BI 151 and certain sections of CH 110 for the coming fall semester. 
o   If you are planning to take introductory Calculus (either MA 130 or MA 150) at Saint Michael’s as an incoming Biology and Biochemistry majors, then you should take the on-line Calculus placement test (see link) that was mentioned to you in an earlier notice. This will help you determine your preparation for introductory Calculus. If you successfully completed a Calculus I course in high school, then you need not take the Readiness test. Calculus 2 is not required for the Biology major - however, some graduate programs, including some medical schools, like to see it.  Calculus 2 is required for the Biochemistry major. 
o   Please note – If you plan to take Calculus 2 (MA 160) this coming fall, then we will then try to schedule you for BI 151 and the appropriate sections of CH 110 that will allow you to take Calculus 2.  (You would be eligible for Calculus 2 if you anticipate receiving credit for Calculus 1, or you successfully completed a Calculus I course in high school and feel comfortable with those concepts). 
o   Information about choosing the right math course is available on pp. 16-17 of your New Student Guide.
o   If you have any questions regarding the options for Calculus this coming fall or the calculus placement test, please contact Dr. George Ashline ( of the Math Department. 

I look forward to seeing you either later this month or in the fall.

Doug Facey (, Chair
Biology Department