Assistant Professor of Biology
BA, Berea College, 2003
PHD, Purdue University West Lafayette, 2007
Current Research Projects
- Isolation and analysis of aging/immunity gene polymophisms in nurse and forager honey bees (Theo Kuchar, Martin Banda, and Alejandro Genis)
- Exploring variations in DNA structure/sequence for ethanol sensitivity candidate genes in honey bees (Peter Martin and Lisa Weaver)
- Further analysis of the significance of the candidate gene, aldehyde dehydrogenase, from the alcohol sensitivity QTL (quantitative trait locus), (eth-3) (Peter Martin)
- Dissecting frozen bee brains and extracting mRNA for quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to assay gene expression (Peter Martin, Lisa Weaver, Mike Zehr, Lynn Weaver, and Mara Swartzentruber)
- Identifying genetic polymorphisms in circadian rhythm genes between Italian and Carniolan subspecies of honey bee that affect behavioral activity (Mara Swartzentruber)
- Enzyme digests of circadian rhythm gene PCR products and further investigation of the role of the period gene in honey bee circadian rhythm (Lynn Weaver and Mara Swartzentruber)
- Investigating differences in physiological ethanol tolerance and alcohol preference between Carniolan and Italian subspecies of honey bees (Greg Thiessen and Lynn Weaver)
- Studying the effects of both ethanol vapor exposure and ethanol consumption on honey bee behavior and physiology (Greg Thiessen and Lynn Weaver)
- Identifying native bee species and correlating their presence or species composition to habitat characteristics at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center (Josh Yoder and Lydia Yoder)
- Goshen College historical fossil/rock collection organization and specimen identification (Reuben Ng and Peter Meyer Reimer)
A biological study of how the body functions, of the diseases/disorders that can disrupt the normal functioning of the body and of strategies for the prevention of disease. Includes an exploration of human genetics and its role in disease. Current issues related to human health are discussed.
Biological Principles I/II
A two-course sequence emphasizing the basic principles underlying all fields of biology, including diversity/evolution, water biology, energy flow, inheritance/DNA, life cycles, and communication. Surveys plant and animal taxa, with special emphasis on vascular plants and vertebrate animals (including humans).
Molecular Cell Biology
Examination of the structure and function of cells with emphasis on the molecular organization of eukaryotic cells. Topics include intracellular transport, cell:cell interactions, cell division, cytoskeleton organization, tissue/cell culture and staining, western and northern blots, and proteomics.
Biology Senior Seminar
An exploration of the interactions between biology and other areas of human concern, especially ethics and theology. Includes the study of a complex societal issue. Career planning/building is also discussed with practice in CV/resume writing, portfolio preparation, and interviewing.
I have various research interests, including the biology of addiction, honey bee behavioral genetics, the evolution of social behavior, and insect biology (entomology). Many of these research avenues can be integrated in a discussion of “stress:”
Stress is a phenomenon that we have all experienced, although that stress should usually be characterized as psychological stress. However, even psychological stress can result in detrimental physiological stress (headaches, nausea, etc.). All living organisms undergo physiological stress due to the pressures of numerous internal and external stressors. These stressors can include the chronic effects of aerobic metabolism (reactive oxygen species) that lead to aging, in addition to the negative impacts of many drugs and chemicals that organisms are exposed to. Many humans, in fact, either inhale, imbibe, or absorb a myriad of harmful substances in daily life. These substances include nicotine, caffeine, UV rays, and alcohol among many others.
It is therefore imperative that we have a basic understanding of how these substances affect the physiological and genomic functioning of biological systems. Model organisms have been invaluable in deciphering many of these biological secrets. One model, the honey bee (Apis mellifera), has been an important model for determining how ethanol (the basic form of alcohol) influences neurophysiological systems (Ammons and Hunt, 2008). Through the design of an “inebriometer” and QTL (quantitative trait loci) genetic mapping, many genes influencing ethanol sensitivity in honey bees have been identified (Ammons and Hunt, 2008). The honey bee is an excellent biomedical model because this species is easy to culture and able to produce thousands of clonal individuals. It is also, however, a relevant ecological model that cannot be bred in the laboratory – retaining its unique genetic and behavioral identity. Researching the physiology and genomics of ethanol sensitivity is a necessary step to understanding how ethanol affects the body, which could lead to pharmaceutical approaches to treating alcohol addiction and the effects of overconsumption of alcohol (hangovers).
An introductory course that integrates study of animal and plant forms to provide a broader understanding of the unity and diversity of life on earth. Students will gain insight into the basic principles of structure and function evident in complex life that indicate a common evolutionary history. This course will survey the physiological systems that govern life, with special emphasis on vascular plants and vertebrate animals (including humans).
A survey of representative animal groups from Protozoa through the Chordata. Includes anatomy, morphology, systematics, life histories, behavior, and ecology. Labs include field surveys and experiments at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center.
A general study of insect structure, development, classification, societal importance, behavior, and ecology. Laboratory sessions particularly directed at identification of insects, culturing of insect species, and experimental use of insects.
Pollinators in Peril (Natural World Perspective)
What is causing a rapid decline in global pollinator populations? The answer is of immediate concern because many human crops are pollinated by bee, butterfly, bird, or bat species. Recent bee declines will be used as a model to understand forces impacting all pollinators. Labs involve hands-on beekeeping and field experimentation. A Natural World Perspectives course in Goshen Core.
Advanced Molecular Genetics
The study of modern biotechnology, genes, and genomes. Gene expression and cell physiology will be explored. Genetic tools to diagnose human disease and determine gene flow will be utilized. Linkage analysis, cancer genetics, microarrays, genomic imprinting, DNA fingerprinting, and genomics will be discussed. Labs include DNA cloning, RNA extraction, protein manipulation, ELISA, and blotting.
Sociobiology: Social Animal Behavior
A special topics course, directed at understanding the diversity, evolution, and classification of social behaviors that have arisen in the animal kingdom. Survey of social insects, other social invertebrates, and the social vertebrates. Particular emphasis on the sociality of humans, and what makes social behavior in humans both unique among and related to the sociality of other animals.
Biology Junior Seminar
An exploration of the interactions between biology and other areas of human concern, especially ethics and theology. Includes the introduction to a faculty-guided independent research thesis project. Career planning/building and professional school preparation (graduate school/medical school) is also discussed with practice in CV/resume writing, portfolio preparation, and interviewing.
Biology Senior Scholar
A continuation of the research project begun in Junior Seminar, including analysis of results, manuscript preparation, and professional presentation. Faculty-guided independent research inquiry.
Margotta, J., Mancinelli G., Benito A., Ammons, A., Roberts, S. and M. Elekonich. 2013. Effects of flight on gene expression and aging in the honey bee brain and flight muscle. Insects, 4: 9-30.
Ammons, A. 2011. Application of integrative and intercultural pedagogies in Biological Principles I (BIOL 111) at Goshen College. Peer Review of Teaching Project, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. (http://www.courseportfolio.org)
Ammons, A. and G. Hunt. 2008. Identification of quantitative trait loci and candidate genes influencing ethanol sensitivity in honey bees. Behavior Genetics, 38: 531-553.
Ammons, A. and G. Hunt. 2008. Characterization of honey bee sensitivity to ethanol vapor and its correlation with aggression. Alcohol, 42: 129-136.
Ammons, A. December 2006. A Hive of Activity: The 2006 XV Congress of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI). Bee Culture, 134, 12: 17-19.
Ammons, A. and G. Hunt. May 2005. Is there a connection between defensive behavior, alcohol sensitivity, and learning in honey bees? In “Proceedings of the American Bee Research Conference.” American Bee Journal, 145, 5: 428.
Memberships and Associations
- Animal Behavior Society (ABS)
- Entomological Society of America (ESA)
- Indiana Beekeeper’s Association (IBA)
- Indiana State Beekeeper’s Association (ISBA)
- Michiana Beekeeper’s Association (MBA)
- Heartland Apicultural Society (HAS)
- American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA)
- American Beekeeping Federation (ABF)
- Ohio Valley Entomological Association (OVEA)
- International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI)
- Indiana College Biology Teacher’s Association (ICBTA)
- Indiana Academy of Sciences (IAS)
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)
- American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU)