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Department of Biology

Welcome to Biology at ECU! We are a broad department that emphasizes integrative approaches drawing from across the life sciences. We have particular strengths in biodiversity, coastal ecology, and several areas of molecular biology and biotechnology. We offer undergraduate majors in Biology and Biochemistry and graduate opportunities at both the MS and PhD levels. Our faculty, students, and staff have received a wide range of honors and awards and some of their achievements are highlighted on this site. We encourage alumni to keep in touch and prospective students to visit. I look forward to hearing from you!

Jeff McKinnon, Chair


Biology News


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Dr. Ariane Peralta Publishes Feature Article

Dr. Ariane Peralta and three co-authors published an article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, "A social-ecological framework for 'micromanaging' microbial services",  that was featured on the cover of the November 2014 issue. Read the article here

 Congratulations to the biology graduate students for their fine efforts as participants in the
3-Minute thesis competition held October 22, 2014 in Mendenhall:

Molly Albecker (Ph D student,CRM)
Bevin Blake  (MS Biology student)
Payal Chokshi (MS Biology & MBA student)
Ian Davison  (MS Biology student)
Dorothy Dobbins—Finalist  (Molecular Biology/Biotechnology student)
Matt Edwards  (MS Biology student)
Scott Jones  (PhD student, IDPBS)
Morgan Kain--Winner, catchiest title  (MS Biology student)
Lauren McCarthy—Finalist  (PhD student, IDPBS)
Jillian Osborne  (MS Biology student)
Adam Stuckert  (PhD student, IDPBS)
Lenny Yong  (PhD student, IDPBS)



ECU to Acquire Aquatic Robot for Coastal and Marine Research

Four researchers in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology at East Carolina University have secured a Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation. The $281,393 grant, awarded on Sept. 1, is for the acquisition of an Acoustic Wave Glider, an ocean-going, aquatic robot used for coastal and fisheries research.


Under the direction of Drs. Joseph J. Luczkovich, John P. Walsh, Mark W. Sprague and Roger A. Rulifson, the Acoustic Wave Glider will be custom built and ordered from Liquid Robotics, the company that manufactures the equipment. The researchers hope to have the glider constructed and delivered by December 2014 or January 2015 as a “Christmas present,” for the department and university.


Undergraduate Biochemistry Student Publishes Article in Science

An undergraduate student of Dr. Yiping Qi is the first author of a Perspective article in Science magazine about the possible mechanism of ALS disease. Joseph W. Paul III completed a prestigious summer internship in Stanford University, during which he helped his internship advisor review two original manuscripts on the topic, which resulted in the published article.


 Dr. Krista McCoy Presents at TEDMED at ECU.

Dr. Krista McCoy presented a talk about how environmental chemical exposure leads to endocrine disruption and childhood disease at the recent TEDMED live talk on September 12, 2014. Dr. McCoy was one of only four speakers from ECU chosen to present at the meeting.

Dr. McCoy was also recently awarded the first "Outstanding Seminar Award" by the  graduate students of  Virginia Commonwealth University Biology Department.  The VCU Biology graduate students scored 22 seminars in 2013-14 based on the quality of the presentation, the science, and the importance of the work, and rated Dr. McCoy's as the best of the seminars heard by the department last year.

 Doctoral Student, Professor, Published in Nature Communications

A paper on mimicry and speciation in the Peruvian poison frog, Ranitomeya imitator, was published in Nature Communications in August 2014. The paper was authored by Evan Twomey and Dr. Kyle Summers of ECU Biology and Dr. Jacob S. Vestergaard of the Technical University of Denmark. The results of the study extend the effects of mimicry on speciation into a vertebrate system.



Biology Faculty Member Named TCHAS Distinguished Professor  

Dr. Roger Rulifson, professor in the Department of Biology and senior scientist with the ECU Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, was named a 2014 Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor during the college’s annual faculty convocation held in Wright Auditorium.


ECU see-through frog research highlighted in National Geographic

Research from the ECU Department of Biology on Peruvian glassfrogs was highlighted in National Geographic. Graduate student Evan Twomey, quoted in the piece, has teamed with former grad student Jesse Delia in the research. According to the article, the research has identified four new species of the see-through frogs, some with green bones.  The species is known for gaudy coloring including yellow circles around the eyes.


Graduate Student Wins Award at National Conference

Lauren McCarthy, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Dave Chalcraft's lab, was selected as the winner of the Ecological Society of America Aquatic Ecology Section Best Student Talk Award at the 2014 annual conference held in early August. The judges were unanimously impressed with her study entitled 'How do differences in species hatching phenology and the presence of predators affect population and ecosystem levels of aquatic food webs?


Congratulations to:

Jeff McKinnon and Chris Balakrishnan for their recent NIH grant

Dave Chalcraft and Heather Vance-Chalcraft for a Centennial Award for Service.

Anne Bunnell for a Robert L. Jones Award for Outstanding Teaching.



The premiere of the new X-Men movie, and The Mythbusters, Kirk Johnson, Brian Greene, Sir Patrick Stewart, George Takei. 

Ten of the best Nerd Nite presentations of all time from across the country.

And Chris Balakrishnan, Founder/Godfather of Nerd Nite, and Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology

Nerd Nite has teamed up with the Smithsonian's second annual The Future Is Here Festival May 16-18, 2014 in Washington DC so you can learn about the merging of science and science fiction from the most prestigious minds in the world while having fun!



Biology Professor Awarded Grant to Purchase Ion Proton DNA Sequencer for ECU

GREENVILLE, N.C. (April 10, 2014) — Dr. Edmund Stellwag, director of the East Carolina University Genomics Core Facility and Biotechnology Education Program and associate professor of biology, has received a North Carolina Biotechnology Center grant for the purchase of an Ion Proton DNA sequencer that will benefit collaborators from both East and West campuses.

  SueMcRaeJune170 Teaching Associate Professor Susan McRae Wins Scholar Teacher Award


Graduate Students bring in Multiple Grants


Molly Albecker  (Dr. M. McCoy) was the recipient of two awards in support of her study of the long-term ecological consequences of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwater animal communities. The first was from the North Carolina Herpetological Society, and the second was from the Explorers Club.

  Renee Fortner (Dr. Jolls) has been awarded the 2014 Catherine H. Beattie Fellowship for Conservation Horticulture from the Center for Plant Conservation of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Garden Club of America in support of her work "The Reproductive Ecology of the Federally Endangered Cooley's Meadowrue (Thalictrum cooleyi)." 

Amanda Clauser (Dr. McRae) was awarded the the 2014 GCA Frances M. Peacock Scholarship for her project "Climate-related challenges to reproductive success in costal populations of a threatened secretive marsh bird, the King Rail" by the Scholarship Committee of the Garden Club of America.


Associate Professor (and ICSP joint appointee) Dr. Dave Kimmel wins prestigious ECU 5-year Research Award for 2013-14.


Students Publish Toxicology Articles

  Two students studying in the Biochemical Toxicology lab of Dr. Xiaoping Pan were the first authors of two recently published papers featured by the Editor-in-Chief of the professional journal Archives of Toxicology (ATOX), a prestigious journal in the field of Toxicology. Yanqiong Zhang, a Ph.D. student in Pans lab, was the lead author of the first of a series of manuscripts from the lab describing some of the environmental impacts associated with the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 The paper, "Chemical dispersant potentiates crude oil impacts on growth, reproduction, and gene expression in Caenorhabditis elegans". Archives of Toxicology 87(2): 371-82 was published in 2013 (abstract).

  Joseph Ryan Polli, an undergraduate student working in Pans' lab, was the first author of the second paper of the series, published in the current issue of ATOX titled "Dispersed crude oil amplifies germ cell apoptosis in Caenorhabditis elegans, followed a CEP-1-dependent pathway". Archives of Toxicology 88(3): 543-551 (abstract).


ECU Biology Students win Awards
at Sigma Xi Meeting

Two graduate students (Faten Taki and Dorothy Dobbins) and two undergraduate students (Joseph Polli and Erin Connolly) won presentation awards at the November 8-9 Sigma XI Student Research Conference, held at Research Triangle Park, Durham NC.

Faculty member (and Chair) publishes
invited commentary in Nature

Jeff McKinnon, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology, has published an invited commentary in leading journal Nature on the "rare male effect" in the guppy. Maria Servedio, Associate Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, is a co-author on the article.

David Chalcraft's article

was selected as one of the 100 most influential papers published by the British Ecological Society


Functional diversity within a morphologically conservative genus of predators: implications for functional equivalence and redundancy in ecological communities. Functional Ecology 2007, 21, 793–804.


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