Tag Archive for Biology

Biology Researchers Study Connecticut’s Native Fish Populations

Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, and his graduate student, Michelle Tipton, photograph an Eastern Blacknose Dace used in their current research. The photo of the fish will appear in an upcoming scientific journal.

There’s something fishy about one of Connecticut’s minnows, and the topic hooked researchers in the Department of Biology.

During the last ice age, Connecticut was covered by layers of snow and ice, forcing organisms to seek refuge elsewhere. After the glaciers retreated, recolonization of the fauna and flora resulted in the diversity of native species that inhabit the state today.

Graduate student Michelle Tipton holds an Eastern Blacknose Dace. Tipton captured the fish from Middletown's Coginchaug River Aug. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

“But where did they come from? How did they come back to the Northeast to give us all the organisms we see today?” asks biology graduate student Michelle Tipton. “These questions are of particular interest to the ichthyologists at Wesleyan with regards to fishes.”

In an upcoming issue of Ecology and Evolution, a scientific open access journal, faculty and students provide some of the first genetic evidence of what took place during the most recent post-glacial recolonization events, which provided Connecticut and the northeast with its native fish populations. To begin filling the void of information for this large biogeographic question, they started their research with this ubiquitous minnow.

Grabel Receives New Human Stem Cell Research Grant

Laura Grabel

Professor Laura Grabel has received a $750,000 grant from The State of Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee for her study titled “Angiogenesis of Embryonic Stem Cell Derived Hippocampus Transplants.” It is her third grant from the Committee since Connecticut began its state-funded human stem cell research program in 2006, and second where she is the principal investigator (P.I); she was co-P.I. on the other.

Grabel, professor of biology and Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science in Society, is also a co-director of Connecticut’s Human Embryonic Core Facility, a research center in Farmington, Conn. that houses some human stem cell research performed by scientists from Wesleyan, The University of Connecticut, and The University of Connecticut Health Center.

The new grant will fund a study that builds on previous research

Cohan Published in Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Journals

Papers, articles and book chapters by Fred Cohan, professor of biology, are published in several publications including:

“Community ecology of hot spring cyanobacterial mats: predominant populations and their functional potential,” published in ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology, 2011;

“Influence of molecular resolution on sequence-based discovery of ecological diversity among Synechococcus populations in an alkaline siliceous hot spring microbial mat,” published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77:1359-1367, 2011;

“Are species cohesive?—A view from bacteriology,” published in Bacterial Population Genetics: A Tribute to Thomas S. Whittam, American Society for Microbiology Press, Washington, pages 43-65, 2011;

“Species,” a chapter published in Elsevier’s Encyclopedia of Genetics. Oxford: Elsevier, in press;
“Metagenomic approaches for the identification of microbial species,” a book chapter published in the Handbook of Molecular Microbial Ecology, Volume I, pages 105-109, 2011;

Cohan and Jane Wiedenbeck ’10 are the co-authors of the invited article, “Origins of bacterial diversity through horizontal gene transfer and adaptation to new ecological niches,” published in FEMS Microbiology Reviews 35:957–976, in print.

Cohan and Ph.D. candidate Sarah Kopac are the co-authors of “A theory-based pragmatism for discovering and classifying newly divergent bacterial species,” published in Genetics and Evolution of Infectious Diseases,  pp. 21-41, 2011.

In Current Biology, Cohan Muses on Bacteria, Baseball

In a lengthy Q&A in the June 7 issue of Current Biology, Professor of Biology Fred Cohan talks about the evolution of bacteria, his favorite course at Wesleyan – and the legendary 1965 baseball game that impressed upon him the power and possibility of data. For the full Q&A, click here.

Cohan, Kopac Awarded Grant for Death Valley Bacteria Study

Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, and biology graduate student Sarah Kopac received a $20,000 Connecticut Space Grant Consortium Training Grant on March 9. The award, which is subcontracted through the University of Hartford, supports a study titled “The Speciation of Bacillus Subtilis along a natural Salinity Gradient in Death Valley.”

Aaron, Naegele, Briggs, Walker, Asik Published in Epilepsia Journal


The March 2011 cover of Epilepsia.


Faculty, alumni and students from the Biology Department and Neuroscience and Behavior Department have an article titled “STEP regulation of seizure thresholds in the hippocampus,” published in Epilepsia, Volume 52, Issue 3, March 2011. Epilepsia is the journal of the International League Against Epilepsy.

The paper’s co-authors include Gloster Aaron assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior; Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; Stephen Briggs BA ’07, MA ’08, Jeffrey Walker BA ’08, MA ’09, and biology Ph.D. candidate Kemal Asik. Paul Lombroso, a professor at Yale University, contributed to the report.

This study found that mice lacking a specific enzyme (STEP) have a significantly heightened resistance to developing epileptic seizures. The study then documents a mechanism and location in the brain where this enzyme might have its effect in regulating the seizure thresholds. Briggs and Walker were BA/MA students in the NS&B program, and they worked in the labs of Naegele and Aaron, respectively. Asik works with John Kirn, chair of the Neuroscience and Behavior Department.

Naegele, Students Attend “Mysterious Brain” Forum

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neurosceince and behavior, and a group of Wesleyan students attended the Connecticut Forum on “The Glorius, Mysterious Brain” Feb. 25 at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Conn. The Connecticut Forum is a nationally recognized, nonprofit organization that offers live, unscripted panel discussions among renowned experts and celebrities, and community outreach programs. Nagele’s group listened to Autism advocate Temple Grandin, author and Harvard professor Steven Pinker and cognitive scientist Paul Bloom.

In addition, Michael Greenberg ’76, chair of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, spoke to Naegele’s students about “experience-dependent changes in gene expression.”

Ph.D Candidate Kopac to Study Bacterial Evolution with NASA Award

Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac samples soil that contains a bacterium that can endure extreme conditions.

Sarah Kopac, a Ph.D student in Professor of Biology Fred Cohan’s lab, has won a $20,000 NASA grant for research on ecological aspects of bacterial evolution in Death Valley National Park.

The grant, announced Jan. 11 by the Connecticut Space Grant College Consortium, will support Kopac’s study of Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium commonly found in soils that can endure extreme conditions, such as high heat levels.

Kopac, a third-year Ph.D candidate, is focused on identifying bacterial species that evolved within a gradient of salty soils – part of a broader effort to understand how ecological factors influence the spawning of new species.

Taylor, Bonfert-Taylor, Bodznick Awarded NSF Grant

Edward Taylor, associate professor of mathematics; Petra Bonfert-Taylor, associate professor of mathematics; and David Bodznick, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, received a grant worth $199,924 from the National Science Foundation for their “Collaborative Research: Analytic and Geometric Methods in Limited Angle Tomosunthesis.” The grant expires Aug. 27, 2011.