Our graduate students and faculty pursue research in a broad range of ecological and molecular topics, all in connection to stewardship of our natural world and many relating directly to solution of real-world environmental and health issues.
BU Biology has been a long-time contributor to studies in limnology and aquatic ecology. Prof. Owen Lind and collaborators, for example, have conducted research on water quality and trophic ecology in Lake Chapala, Mexico, for more than 20 years and have studied reservoir ecology for over 3 decades at BU. Prof. Robert Doyle (Chair, Biology) specializes in restoration of wetlands systems and is director of CRASR, a multidisciplinary water research center here at Baylor. Prof. Ryan King studies linkages between water quality and structure and function of ecological communities, particularly in streams. Dr. Patrick Danley is a population geneticist who studies speciation and behavior in fishes, particularly African cichlids. Dr. Sanghoon Kang is interested in understanding and determining diversity, dynamics and distribution of microbial communities. Prof. Joseph White contributes significantly to both aquatic and terrestrial ecology via his expertise in ecosystems modeling. Dr. Trumble made national headlines with his groundbreaking research on stress hormones and contaminants in whale earwax. Dr. Trumble also specializes in physiology of marine mammals.
BU biologists pursue numerous research projects related to terrestrial ecology. Prof. Kevin Gutzwiller, a landscape ecologist and conservation biologist, studies effects of wildland recreational disturbance and landscape characteristics on the structure and dynamics of bird communities. Prof. Ken Wilkins works with small mammals, primarily rodents and bats, in various ecological areas including invasion ecology and community structure, urban ecology, and biogeography. Prof. Walter Holmes specializes in floral surveys and systematics of flowering plants. Dr. Robert Adams is a systematic botanist who uses molecular techniques to study plant speciation.
Additional Biology faculty supporting ecological studies include Prof. Robert Baldridge (entomology, parasitology), Dr. Mark Taylor (phycology), and Prof. Fred Gehlbach (behavioral and conservation ecology of birds, reptiles and amphibians).
Much of the research noted above is or has been funded by agencies including National Science Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, National Institutes of Health, Nature Conservancy, Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, etc.
Molecular and Health Emphases
A significant part of the heritage of Baylor's undergraduate Biology program has long been the preparation of pre-health students. Many of our faculty pursue research programs related to health and molecular biology. Dr. Chris Kearney is a molecular biologist who studies plant molecular biology, biotechnology, protein expression, and researches anti-cancer drugs in collaboration with colleagues in Baylor's Center for Drug Discovery. Dr. Myeongwoo Lee is a developmental biologist whose research emphases are in cellular signaling, aging studies, and molecular cell biology; his model organism is C. elegans. Both of these professors direct graduate students in the Department of Biology and the Institute of Biomedical Studies. Dr. Cheolho Sim focuses his research on (1) functional genomics studies of arthropod vectors of human pathogens and (2) diapause research on west nile virus vector, especially the mosquito Culex pipiens, which is the primary vector for West Nile encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, and many arboviruses, as well as lymphatic filariases. Dr. Bessie Kebaara specializes in gene expression in yeast. Dr. Joseph Taube investigates the molecular pathways and cellular properties which enable primary tumor cells to metastasize.
The Biomedical Studies (BMS) program at Baylor plays an important part in molecular/medical graduate education and research in the Biology Department. Graduate students from both Biology and BMS programs take classes from BMS professors from two research institutes in Dallas, as these researchers drive down to Waco to teach BMS classes. These institutes are the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research and the Institute of Metabolic Disease and they are characterized by excellent facilities and outstanding research faculty. BMS students often choose professors from these institutes to direct their research. Collaborations between BIIR or IMD professors and Waco professors have been productive and are actively encouraged.
Additional collaborators beyond our department include several faculty in bioinformatics and bioengineering. Dr. Rick Duhrkopf is a mosquito geneticist who pursues questions of health importance, e.g., West Nile virus.