Come join us…

We are looking for scholars to help us in original research. The Biological Sciences Department has a long record of providing opportunities for students to get involved in faculty-led research projects. Whether you want to become a medical doctor, a field ecologist with the National Park Service, a development worker in the non-profit sector, or a manager of a medical technology business – research skills will help you achieve these goals.  You are encouraged to contact faculty directly to learn more about research in their labs.

Physiology and genomics of ethanol-induced stress in honey bees (Apis mellifera)

Dr. Andy Ammons (Assistant Professor of Biology)

Through design and construction of a flow-through “inebriometer,” I am studying the behavioral and physiological effects of ethanol vapor exposure in the honey bee.  The honey bee is an excellent bio-medical model due to genomic similarities between bees and humans, the ease of culture, the ability to sample clonal individuals, and the ecological relevance of this species. My students and I have confirmed the existence of ethanol tolerance (physiological tolerance to the effects of ethanol ingestion after repeated exposure) in honey bees and polymorphic genes influencing this tolerance were isolated and amplified using current molecular genetic techniques (primer design, polymerase chain reaction, agarose gel visualization). We hope to use our research to provide insight into similar processes of ethanol sensitivity that occur in related species (including humans).

The photobioreactor project

Dr. Stan Grove (Professor Emeritus of Biology)

A collaborative effort to produce and test a photobioreactor with increased efficiency to produce algae biomass for biofuels and livestock feed is proposed by engineers at Formco Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana and scientists at Goshen College. The photobioreactor, conceived and produced at Formco, is designed to require reduced energy in puts by using the energy supplied with introduced gasses to operate the mixing of the culture and the extracting of the biomass for further processing.  Students are working with Dr. Grove to test the biological efficiency of the photobioreactor.

Agroecology at Merry Lea

Dr. Dale Hess (Associate Professor of Agroecology)

I serve as Merry Lea’s Ecological Field Station Director, teach and direct the Agroecology Summer Intensive, and teach Botany of Seed Plants.  Sustainable farms reflect to a great extent the patterns of succession, energy flow, and nutrient cycling that occur in natural ecosystems, viewing land, community and people as one.  Extensive hands-on learning and interactions with innovative, entrepreneurial, farmers of the region help students vision ways in which they can promote healthy, sustainable food systems.  My primary research interest is in integrated pest management, where the presence of an insect pest, disease, or weed in the agroecosystem can be seen as evidence of system imbalance or “sickness”.

Physiology Research

Dr. Rich Manalis (Adjunct Professor of Physiology)

Dr. Manalis researches synaptic efficacy, the neurobiological changes that form the basis of learning and memory in the mammalian brain.  Using carefully dissected and prepared frog muscle, contractile responses can be recorded and analyzed.  Curare, a muscle relaxant (more well known as an “arrow poison”), is used in these experiments.  Results have indicated increased synaptic efficacy in these preparations, changes that last only several hundred milliseconds in the frog nerve/muscle – but many decades in the human brain!

Gleason Moss Collection & bird banding

Dr. Dave Miller (Professor Emeritus of Biology)

The objectives of the Gleason Moss Project is two-fold. The primary objective is to make the information in the Gleason Collection available to the general public and other scientists by putting in onto the World Wide Web. The indirect objective is to understand the complexity, taxonomy and techniques regarding moss preservation and study. Goshen College does not have a moss expert on staff. Therefore, two students, under the supervision of a Goshen College biology professor, have endeavored to learn the glossary, taxonomy and histology of those moss families found in the Gleason Collection.

Since 2002, Merry Lea I have also participated in the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship Program (MAPS). This nationwide program, created by The Institute for Bird Populations, assesses bird population dynamics in order to provide vital conservation and management information on land birds. Each summer, a team of staff and student bird banders sets up and monitors mist nets in two areas of Merry Lea.

Reintroduction of the American Chestnut

Bill Minter (Assistant Professor of Environmental Science)

Bill Minter is a professional forester and restoration ecologist who teaches classes in the Department of Biological Sciences and serves as Merry Lea’s Director of Land Management.  Professor Minter is continuing to cooperate with the American Chestnut Foundation in the breeding of a northern Indiana ecotype blight resistant American chestnut.  In the fall of 2011, he will collect seeds from a selectively-bred, highly-resistant individual in Merry Lea’s plantation that will be contributed to a seed production orchard in a near-by state park.  (Learn more)

Molecular Genetics

Jody Saylor (Associate Professor of Biology)

My interest is in molecular genetics and students and I are currently working on two molecular genetics projects.  One group is using PCR and gene sequencing techniques to track changes in microbial diversity in prairie soil.  A second group is using RNAi to investigate the actin cytoskeleton in C. elegans. Defects in phenotype provide information about gene function and protein interactions.

Neural Development and Physiology

Dr. Kristopher Schmidt (Assistant Professor of Biology)

Our goal is to understand how complex nervous systems develop and how the nervous system contributes to normal physiology after development is complete.

In my laboratory there is ample opportunity to study how neurons navigate through complex environments to establish precise synaptic connections.   The focus of our work is the gene unc-53/Nav2 that is required for the migration of cells and axons in many organisms including worms, flies, and mice.  We are currently characterizing unc-53/Nav2 using a combination of classical and molecular genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry in the powerful model organism Caernorhabditis elegans.  While unc-53/Nav2 is important for development, it is also required after development is complete.   Abnormal cellular signaling due to mutations in unc-53/Nav2 can contribute to immune dysfunction and cancer.  Check out our lab page here.

Grazing & fire ecology

Dr. Ryan Sensenig (Associate Professor of Biology)

I have two ongoing research projects related to grazing ecology, one in reconstructed tallgrass prairies in Indiana and a second project in Kenya studying wildlife grazing.  In the summer and fall of 2008, students helped initiate The Tallgrass Prairie Grazing project which examines the effect of white tail deer browsing on Tallgrass prairie forb dynamics in a restored prairie at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center. We are using multiple 20 m X 20 m eight ft tall deer exclosures to quantify which forbs deer preferentially select as forage.  In 2010, we completed a pilot project to examine how domestic grazers (steers and goats) forage in native tallgrass prairie environments. (Read more about campus prairie initiatives.)

During the summer of 2011, four Goshen College students spent 6 weeks working with Dr. Sensenig on a research project in Kenya.  A continuation of the S.A.F.E. Project (Scale and Fire Ecology) begun in 2003, students helped collect data to addresse how prescribed burning of grasslands affects habitat for wildlife such as zebra, elephant, gazelle and a host of other large herbivores (visit the Kenya Research blog).

In 2013 and 2014, Goshen students studied with Kenyan students in a course offered by Goshen College.  See the Kenya 2013 blog and 2014 blog.