Professional Development Courses & Workshops

Biological Sciences Academic Forums

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The Biological Sciences Department's mission is to prepare biology majors for the next step in their careers; to educate and train the next generation of biological scientists; to provide all students at CSU, Chico with an opportunity to learn how science is done and to learn about important, significant, and relevant biological knowledge needed by citizens; to contribute to the expansion of our knowledge about biology; and, to serve as a resource of biological expertise for the campus and surrounding community.

Biological Sciences Seminars

Utilizing Zebrafish to Understand the Molecular Control of Blood Development

Dr. David Stachura

Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Chico

Utilizing Zebrafish to Understand the Molecular Control of Blood DevelopmentUtilizing Zebrafish to Understand the Molecular Control of Blood Development

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Dr. Stachura, a new faculty member of the Department of Biological Sciences, discusses his research studying the vertebrate hematopoietic system with the genetically amenable zebrafish.  In this talk, he presents the assays that he developed to study how mature blood cells are generated from hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.  He also discusses the utility and future promise of using zebrafish to study, prevent, and treat human blood diseases such as anemia, thrombocytopenia, and leukemia.

Presentation Time: 31 minutes

Microtubules in Plant Growth and Morphogenesis

Dr. Jessica Lucas

Plant Biologist, Assistant Professor, Santa Clara University

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One of the main differences between plant and animal cells lies with tiny structures within cells that are made of protein and called microtubules. As Dr. Lucas explains, one of the major differences between plant and animal cells is that the microtubules are organized in completely different ways. She notes their importance to both growth (an organism getting bigger, increasing in cell number and size) and morphogenesis (the creation of an organism’s shape, including the organization and the shaping of cells). After explaining what microtubules are and illustrating their arrays with colorful slides, Dr. Lucas talks about some of the larger questions driving her research, such as, “How do microtubules control morphogenesis?”

Presentation Time:  47 minutes

Digestive Physiology of the Phasmatodeal

Matan Shelomi, PhD Candidate

Department of Entomology, UC Davis

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Matan Shelomi provides insight into the remarkably complex digestive system of the phasmatodea, an insect also known as the “walking stick.” He has produced an award-winning two-minute film, “Mystery tubes in the stick bug’s gut,” that has circulated widely online. Shelomi explains that this insect eats a diet of leaves, a diet that presents many digestive problems. He has studied how the insect’s physiology has developed to process the leaves, some of which even contain poisons. He has concluded that the walking stick has a digestive system completely unlike that of other insects.

Presentation Time: 54 minutes

Effects of a Responsive Surrogate on Nursery-Reared Rhesus Macaques

Dr. Rebecca Brunelli

Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Chico

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Dr. Rebecca Brunelli developed an interest in animal welfare, particularly the welfare of animals in captivity, while doing research at the Primate Research Center at UC Davis. The center includes a research and breeding colony of over 5,000 monkeys. Most of the infants stay with their mothers after birth, but some are separated due to rejection by their mothers or use in the studies of infants. Dr. Brunelli was concerned with signs of distress of the baby monkey who had been separated from their mothers. She worked on developing surrogates, usually furry objects, with some looking like a stuffed toy animal. Through the surrogates, the young monkeys displayed more positive traits, including playfulness, curiosity, and confidence.

Presentation Time:  1 hour

Feeding in Flow: The Impact of Waves on Predator-Prey Interactions in the Rocky Intertidal

Dr. Eve Robinson

University of California, Berkeley

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A common sight for visitors to the rocky beaches on the Pacific Coast is the large colonies of sea anemones clinging to the rocks. How do these creatures, which look like plants but are really animals, manage to catch the zooplankton that swim by – the prey that the anemone, as predator, must catch in order to survive? In this presentation, Dr. Eve Robinson, currently a California State Sea Grant Fellow, shares the results of her research in both British Columbia and in Sonoma County, California. She explains that many factors impact the capture of prey by anemones, including the type of site, neighboring predators, and the wave/flow environment, including the changing tides.

Presentation Time:  55 minutes

The Role of MUTYH in Cancer Progression

Dr. Alan Raetz

Lawrence Berkekley Natinal Laboratory

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Dr. Raetz, a graduate of the CSU, Chico biological sciences master’s degree program, discusses how DNA damage and repair relates to cancer. His primary PhD research at UC Davis was to study these effects in the cells of mammals. Dr. Raetz explains that DNA is constantly being damaged (mutated) and constantly being repaired. The vast majority of the repairs are effective; but improper DNA repair leads to such conditions as cancer and aging.  MutY and MUTYH are enzymes that repair cells.  The loss of MUTHY has been linked to the early stages of a specific form of colorectal cancer.  This approach to cancer research is called the Ocogene Theory of Cancer.

Presentation Time:  50 minutes

Next Generation Sequencing for Solving Biological Problems

Dr. Elena Harris

Department of Computer Science, California State University, Chico

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Dr. Harris discusses the increasing collaboration of the fields of computer science and biology to unlock the genetic mysteries of DNA. She begins by showing a short video, “Life Inside a Cell,” which features colorful and dramatic animated images of the interior of a cell and the processes occurring inside of it. She then explains how new generation sequencing technology allows fast and inexpensive DNA sequencing, including the sequencing of DNA fragments,  the mapping of reads back to a reference genome, and analysis of the data (both methylation and nucleosome analysis). Dr. Harris also gives an example of the practical use of this technology – the study of the mechanism controlling gene expression to develop drugs to treat malaria.

Presentation Time:  42 minutes


Restoring a Diverse Forest Understory Plant Community with Variable-density thinning

Dr. Eric Knapp

United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Pacific Southwest Research Station

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Dr. Knapp explains the importance of the forest understory – that is, the plants on the forest floor. He explains that the forest overstory and understory are substantially altered from their historic old-growth condition. Much of the change can be attributed to the absence of fire – humans put out fires that used to burn uncontrolled. Dr. Knapp presents two methods of forest thinning; methods which pushed forest stands closer to their historic state. However, long-term effects are still being studied.

Presentation Time:  51 minutes


Alpine Plants: Their Adaptations & Use as Biological Indicators of Climate Change

Dr. Jim Bishop

California and Nevada Region of the GLORIA project

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Since 2004, Dr. Bishop has been an active participant in a project called GLORIA (Global Observation Research In Alpine Environments). The program is run completely by volunteers, who monitor plant growth at alpine zones around the world. Alpine zones are defined as areas in high elevations above the upper limit of tree growth, or the tree line. The monitoring is done with two goals: 1) to learn how plants adapt in order to survive in a harsh environment; and 2) to see how plants respond to climate change in that environment. Dr. Bishop examines the factors that limit growth above the tree line, and postulates that if the climate warms, the higher elevations will become more favorable environments and gradually inhabitable by a wider variety of plants.

Presentation Time:  54 minutes

A special message from Dr. Bishop: “Volunteers do much of the field work and are always appreciated.  GLORIA data may be of some use to students and faculty.  For more information please contact Adelia Barber at the address given on our GLORIA California website”


The Genomics of Physiological Resilience in Killifish

Dr. Andrew Whitehead

Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis

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Dr. Whitehead studies the resistance and resilience of species to environmental stress exposure; he uses the killifish as his primary lab species. He explains that individuals, populations, and species vary in their sensitivity to stressors. Dr. Whitehead presents as an example dioxin tolerance variations among a variety of fish species.  A key question in his research is “What are the genomic variants that enable resistance and resilience?” In searching for the answer to this question, he explores the consequences of chemical exposure and shrinking habitat on resident species.

Presentation Time:  1 hour, 3 minutes


Bring Back the Pollinators

Jessa Guisse, MS, CSU, Chico

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

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The importance of conserving pollinators is underscored by the fact that the value of pollinator-dependent crops in California is $11.7 billion. Most of these crops are pollinated by a single species, the European honey bee. Ms. Guisse points out that the numbers of honey bees have declined precipitously, making conservation and restoration vital to the State’s economy as well as to the environment. She notes that honey bee decline has been caused by disease, pests, pesticides, honey prices, and Colony Collapse disorder. She is working with the Xerces Society to restore natural habitat. Ms. Guisse also outlines other conservation practices that support pollinators, including how to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides.

Presentation Time:  58 minutes


SIV Delta-vif Proviral DNA vaccine with IL-15 adjuvants

Dr. Robert Dubie

Faculty, CSU, Chico Biological Sciences Department

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Dr. Dubie presents the finding of two vaccine projects conducted through the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis.  The experiments were conducted on female rhesus macaque monkeys using an SIV virus.  SIV is an HIV model virus that develops more quickly than HIV, which makes it easier to study.  After administering various vaccines to the monkeys, researchers tested for antibody responses, viral loads, and T-cell responses, with the goal of increased protection against the virus.

Presentation Time:  35 minutes


I Got Your Back: My movies and research on the evolution of defense and locomotion of slug and nettle caterpillar moths

Dr. Marc Epstein

Senior Insect Biosystematist, California Department of Food & Agriculture; Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution

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Dr. Epstein’s job with the State of California is to identify Lepidoptera (moths) in California that threaten the state’s economy, mainly as threats to agriculture. He is on the watch for invasive pests from all over the world as well as domestic species. These invasive moths are often brought into California on trucks, on boats, and on the bottom of bee hive boxes. Scattered through his presentation are some surprising facts about moths; for example, there are 200,000 species of moths and, in the pre-adult stage, they must shed their skin 10 to 12 times in order to grow. He shows brief movies to demonstrate the locomotion of various species and some of the mechanisms they have developed to defend themselves.

Presentation Time: 1hour, 1 minute


PREDICT: Identifying the potential for emergence and mitigating the threat of pandemic diseases

Dr. Tracey Goldstein

One Health Institute, University of California, Davis

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PREDICT is a project of the USAID  (United States Agency for International Development). Dr. Goldstein is one of the coordinators for this project, the goal of which is to help governments predict where new, emerging pandemic infections might crop up. The project came out of research regarding humans and avian influenza, when it was recognized that no one was doing research regarding wildlife. Dr. Goldstein is a molecular wildlife biologist and works with a collaboration of non-profit organizations and universities to pre-empt or combat at their source the first stages of the emergence of zoonotic diseases that post a significant threat to public health. Zoonotic diseases are those diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

Presentation Time:  57 minutes

The Fountain of Youth: Can calories and dietary fat change the rate of aging?

Dr. Jon Ramsey

Faculty, Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

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Dr. Ramsey has been exploring mechanisms that contribute to aging. In this presentation, he shares the results of his work regarding these issues. He explains that, overall, his research indicates that the first part of the question – can calories change the rate of aging – may, indeed be true.  As for dietary fat, the verdict is out. Regarding humans, Dr. Ramsey notes that increased lifespan over the centuries is not from lessening the basic effects of aging specifically, but rather is mostly due to improvements in hygiene and improvements in the treatment of infectious diseases.  It is his hope that a deeper understanding of aging processes will help with medical treatment of the elderly.

Presentation Time:  59 minutes

What Biological Measures Can Tell Us About Psychological Constructs

Dr. Michael Ennis

Faculty, Psychology Department, California State University, Chico

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Dr. Ennis, who has a Ph.D. in Psychobiology, is interested in building bridges between the two disciplines.  He begins by discussing the difficulty of accurately measuring such psychological phenomena as intelligence and anxiety, and then explains how the use of biological measures can increase measurement validity and provide information about unconscious processes.  The three measurement tools Dr. Ennis presents are endocrine and immune measures, psychophysiology measures, and facial electromyography.

Presentation Time:  57 minutes

The California Phenology Project

Dr. Liz Matthews

Post-Doctoral Scientist, University of California at Santa Barbara

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The subtitle of this presentation is “Linking plant phenology to climate change through Citizen Science.” Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle stages and how these are influenced by seasonal and by longer-term variations in climate.  The California Phenology Project began in 2010 and is focused on plants in seven California National Parks. Volunteers help identify and monitor species. Phenology is an indicator of environmental change – for example, over time, for some plant species, the date of the first leaf and/or the date of the first flower is earlier in the spring than 10 or 20 years ago. Dr. Matthews shows how such changes can affect an entire ecosystem.

Presentation Time:  54 minutes

Agriculture 2050: Can the world's farmers feed a growing population without damaging the environment?

Dr. Bruce Hicks

Faculty, Department of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences, Butte College

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Dr.Hicks looks at where agriculture is today and where it is likely to be in 2050, given population growth, income growth, bio-fuels, climate change, and water constraints. For example, the food consumption per capita is going up due to economic growth, which also results in more meat consumption.  Dr. Hicks outlines some potential solutions to the problems that will need to be overcome to feed the estimated world population in 2050 of nine billion people.

Presentation Time:  46 minutes

Taking Water Microbiology to the Community Level in Developing Countries

Dr. Robert Metcalf

Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, CSU, Sacramento

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Dr. Metcalf discusses his efforts to bring healthy water systems to some of the poorest places in the world, where many people are still suffering from water-borne diseases. He reports that 800 million people in the world do not have access to clean water.  Dr. Metcalf has put together, and put into use, “The Portable Microbiology Lab,” in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethopia, Rowanda, and other countries.  This “lab” provides a process to test for E.coli in three easy steps; it all fits into a one-gallon zip-lock bag.  Dr. Metcalf has taught people how to use this kit to test their own water and also how to make contaminated water safe to drink.

Presentation Time:  1 hour, 1 minute

Chemical Aggressive Mimicry in Solitary Bee Nest Parasites: Host Range in the Southwestern U.S.

Leslie Saul-Gershenz, Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis

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Ms. Saul-Gershenz opens her talk with the assertion that scientists should use less jargon and make their work more presentable by “spicing it up a little.”  In this spirit, she has given her presentation an alternate title: “Fatal Attraction: Cross-dressing hitchhiker gang trick lover, rob single mom’s home, steal baby’s food.”  She focuses her research on the parasite-host relationship between ceptoparasites and bees, which turns out to be very much like her humorous title. This research is especially relevant to recent concerns, especially in the agricultural and horticultural communities, about the sharp decline of bee populations in some areas.

Presentation Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

E.Coli, the Uninvited Dinner Guest 

Dr. Susanne Lindgren

Faculty, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Sacramento

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Dr. Lindgren talks about E.coli, the bacteria responsible for many cases of food poisoning, which often causes severe symptoms and, in some cases, even death.  She explains how this pathogen causes disease.  She also shares her research results in recording the prevalence of E.coli in ground beef in the Sacramento area, free range-grazing cattle, clinical stool specimens, and horses in Northern California.  Among the surprising aspects of her presentation are the revelations that there is such a thing as “Good” E.coli and that E.coli is the number one cause of bladder infections.

Presentation time: 55 minutes

The Wonderful World of Lauxanioid Flies and the Solution to a 100-Year-Old Mystery

Dr. Steve Gaimari

Plant Pest Diagnostics Center, California Department of Food & Agriculture

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Steve Gaimari is very enthusiastic about his specialty – the study of flies – and has a sense of humor about it, too.  He starts his presentation by stating, “Flies don’t have the best image in the court of public opinion.” He then goes on to describe the diverse and ever-changing world of flies, noting that 160,000 species have been described and named, new species are being discovered all the time, and that it is estimated that one out of 10 species on earth are flies.  Dr. Gaimari concludes his talk with the story of the Eurychoromyia mallea fly and a 100-year-old mystery.

Presentation time: 58 minutes

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Infections in Humans

Dr. Eric Bortz

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York Medicine, New York

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Dr. Bortz provides a general introduction to influenza and then shares recent research in avian influenza.  His area of research is how avian influenza viruses (sometimes referred to as “bird flu”) can infect humans. Dr Bortz notes that all influenza viruses are thought to have originated in avian species.  He also explains the composition and life cycles of influenza viruses. His talk is designed to reach a wide audience, as well as those interested in the molecular details of his research.

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Presentation time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Undersea Living, Saturation Diving, and Discovering Roman and Greek Shipwrecks

Dr. Ian Koblick

Alumnus, California State University, Chico

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Ian Koblick’s presentation focuses on his fascinating career as an undersea resident, aquanaut, explorer, author, marine consultant and technical advisor. He has pioneered programs in undersea living and explored oceans in a quest to preserve their environments and search for the lost remains of our maritime past. Koblick is a CSU, Chico graduate. If you ever wanted to live underwater or explore ancient shipwrecks, you won’t want to miss this presentation.

Presentation time: 1 hour, 11 minutes

Diet-Genome Interactions: An Example of Multi-Scale Biology and Cross-Kingdom Regulation

Dr. Raymond L. Rodriguez

Professor, University of California, Davis

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The focus of Dr. Rodriguez’ presentation is the interaction between human genes and our dietary environment. He asserts that this interaction is more complex than we think.  Because this is a complex system, Dr. Rodriguez and other scientists in his field of nutritional genomics are looking at the key bioactive components in food. He hopes that eventually the treatment of disease will not lean so heavily on medications, but will focus more on disease-preventing and health-promoting foods that are tailored to match individual lifestyles, culture, and genetics. In addition to his position as a professor at U.C. Davis, Dr. Rodriguez serves as director of that university’s Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics.

Presentation time: 1 hour, 8 minutes

Life Without Light: Chemoautotrophically Based Cave Biology

Dr. Serban M. Sarbu

Professor, University of Cincinnati

Life Without Light

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Born in Romania, Dr. Sarbu developed his interest in caves and cave biology partly because Romania is a country containing many caves. He shares photographs and other information from his life-long exploration of caves, including photos of life forms, such as certain insects, that are able to exist in that light-free environment. He explains chemoautotrophical ecosystems - the biology explaining how these various life forms have adapted to living in caves. Dr. Sarbu then describes ongoing research projects that are exploring such cave-related subjects as the geographic extent of the thermal aquifer and origins of subterranean fauna.

Presentation time: 45 minutes