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Department of Biological Sciences
Science Building, Room 338
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7537
(509) 963-2731

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Science Seminars

You're Invited!

The Science Seminar Series involves informal presentations offered throughout the academic year.  These presentations are open to everyone, and are sponsored by the CWU Department of Biological Sciences and the CWU College of the Sciences.

Disabled persons who need special accommodations to attend on campus should contact Disability Services at least 72 hours in advance.

For videos of some of our past presentations, see our CWU Biology YouTube Channel.

Upcoming Presentations


Past Presentations


Title: "Entropy & the Big Chill."
Presenter: Dr. Yingbin Ge, Professor, Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, CWU Dept. of Chemistry.
March 3, 2023, 12:00-1:00pm, Room SCIE 147

Abstract: Entropy is a measure of uncertainty. In various fields, it has different interpretations: in biology, it represents the direction of evolution; in astronomical physics, it symbolizes the arrow of time; in information theory, it denotes the lack of information; in physical chemistry, it is the measure of energy dispersal---the entropy of the universe keeps increasing until the Big Chill when heat flow ceases. While entropy is a measure of uncertainty, no one knows what entropy is, as the measurement of uncertainty is inherently uncertain.

Bio: Dr. Ge earned his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii. He has taught at Central Washington University (CWU) since 2008. He was tenured in 2014, promoted to full professor in 2019, and honored as Distinguished Professor for Teaching in 2020. Dr. Ge has taught various classes, such as general, physical, inorganic chemistry, and graduate courses. He created an open-access Physical Chemistry textbook and a thousand tutorial videos for students. During his tenure at CWU, Dr. Ge has published 16 peer-reviewed articles on topics ranging from chemical education to computational catalysis. He also published in arXiv, ChemRxiv, and American Scientists on subjects of public interest, such as chemical potential and entropy.



Title: "Evolving Ethics About Animals: Is 'Man' Still the Measure of Everything?"
Presenter: Dr. Matt Altman, CWU Department fo Philosophy & Religious Studies
Dr. Altman surveys the history of anthropocentrism in Western culture and how Darwinian evolutionary theory challenged that model of who or what ought to be considered in our moral decision-making. Should we be concerned about the effects of our actions on animal lives and animal welfare, and, if so, why? Dr. Altman will explain and evaluate four contemporary answers to this question: appeals to cognitive ability, personhood, rights, and sentience.


Title: "Characterizing a fructose-sensitive mouse model to understand the development of Metabolic Associated Fatty Liver Disease."
Presenter:  Dr. Sarah Oppelt, CWU Department of Biological Sciences



Title: "From Molecules to Clades: Integrative Studies of Bat Diversification"  
Presenter: Dr. Sharlene Santana 

The adaptation to new diets is considered a major evolutionary driver of anatomical, behavioral and species diversity in mammals, but few quantitative studies have tested the impact of dietary evolution on morphological and species diversification across whole mammalian Orders. Bats are an ideal system to investigate this topic because they are exceptionally diverse in terms of number of species, skull morphology, diet, and sensory modalities used to locate food. In this talk, I will present two major areas of research in my lab that have allowed us to understand the patterns and mechanisms of bat diversification: analyses of cranial macroevolution across the bat radiation, and the coevolution between fruit bats and their mutualistic plants. These studies will highlight how a combination of sensory and dietary functions shaped the evolution of bat skull diversity through the modification of intrinsic mechanisms and functional adaptation, as well as the importance of bat sensory biases as agents of evolutionary change on their food resources.


Title: "Mechanisms of Plasticity at Individual Synapses"
Presenter: Juan C. Flores, CWU graduate and PhD student at UC Davis  


Title: "Illuminating the Immune System with High-throughput Microscopy."
Presenter: Dr. Sherree Friend
Data using an imaging flow cytometer which takes multiple, fluorescent, microscopic images of cells at a high rate will be presented. T-cell/Antigen Presentation interactions, intracellular trafficking, cellular signaling and morphology changes will be discussed.


Title: "Getting to Know You: The Challenges of Forming Chimpanzee Social Groups in Captivity"
Presenter: J.B. Mulcahy Co-Director, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
Free-living chimpanzees live in large, dynamic communities. Studies of captive chimpanzees suggest that larger social groups confer physical and psychological benefits, but attempts to form groups in captivity are complicated by another aspect of chimpanzee social behavior; namely, their intense territoriality and propensity for inter-group aggression. In this seminar, Mulcahy will discuss aspects of chimpanzee behavior that affect group formation and the ways in which we attempt to overcome them when forming social groups of rescued chimpanzees at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.


Title: “Meeting Public Health Challenges In Rural Cameroon, Africa: The Journey of the Bawa Health Initiative, Inc." 
Presenter: Dr. Blaise Dondji, CWU Department of Biological Sciences, President & Co-Founder, Bawa Health Initiative, Inc.

The Bawa Health Initiative (BHI) is a non-profit 501c (3) organization founded in May 2005 by Dr. Dennis Richardson of Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT and  Dr. Blaise Dondji of Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Dr. Dondji who is currently a biology professor at CWU is a native of Bawa, Cameroon. The Initiative grew out of the identified needs of the people of Bawa and surrounding villages in rural Cameroon to have safe drinking water and improved health. BHI has since carried out several public health projects including distribution of insecticide-impregnated bednets, construction and installation of bio-sand water filters, distribution of anthelminthics and HIV/AIDS prevention campaign. BHI has built and is running a primary health clinic named Sophie Awounkeu Community Health Centre in Bawa since 2017. The Centre was equipped recently with brand new 2020 Toyota Landcruiser 4WD Ambulance and a new ultrasound machine. These projects were possible because of the generosity of many in the Kittitas Valley and beyond. In this seminar, Dr. Dondji will provide details of the projects implemented, the achievements and future projects.



Title: “Materials-Driven Approach to Discovering and Understanding the Materials of the Future.”
Presenter:  Dr. Ben White, CWU Department of Physics
One of the most productive mechanisms for improving existing technology or developing entirely new technologies is to incorporate novel materials with ground-breaking properties.  What kinds of materials are well-suited to drive the technological innovations of the future?  Many will be correlated electron materials that boast “super” properties such as superconductivity, colossal magnetoresistance, colossal magnetocaloric effects, and many others.  One of the dirty secrets of correlated electron materials research is that our understanding of the physics that governs such properties is surprisingly underdeveloped.  Theories that both comprehensively explain correlated electron phenomena and, more importantly, predict which materials will exhibit them remain elusive.  In such an environment, new correlated electron phenomena are discovered experimentally, sometimes completely by accident, by studying the properties of new materials.  This materials-driven approach to discovering and understanding correlated electron properties will be discussed, including how it is used in undergraduate student research at CWU.


Title: "Defining the Impacts of Environmental Exposures on Host-Microbiota Interactions."  
Presenter: Chris Gaulke, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ... and CWU alum!
Humans are bombarded by thousands of dietary, chemical, and microbial exposures daily. Emergent work indicates that the gut microbiome interfaces with these exposures potentially mediating their effects on host physiology. However, we have limited insight into the mechanistic underpinnings of these interactions. In this seminar I will detail how my lab applies integrative cutting-edge molecular and statistical techniques to examine the interplay between the host, the gut microbiota, and the environment and how we aim to leverage this knowledge to promote human health.

Title: “A Dead Tree's Excellent Adventure: The Ecology of Dead Wood."
Presenter: Ken Bevis, Stewardship Biologist, WA Dept. of Natural Resources
Ever wonder what happens when a tree dies in the forest? Follow along as we track the changes in the dead tree, from fresh dead, to hard snag, to soft snag to down log, and all of the life that follows in the decaying wood. The important ecological role of dead trees is explored, particularly by way of habitat use by the many species. In fact, almost 40% of forest wildlife are somehow dependent and tied to dead wood for their survival. Ken will explore how dead trees persist in the environment, how they change with time and some of the fascinating species associated with them, particularly woodpeckers. He might even play a song! 



Title: "Lichen Population Genetics: North American Patterns of Diversity in Three Species." 
Presenter: Dr. Jessica Allen, Eastern Washington University

Lichens are quintessential symbioses that grow in all terrestrial habitats on the planet. Though they are abundant and diverse, they are often mysterious. Population genetics and genomics tools can illuminate patterns and processes that govern how lichens move across the landscape and reproduce.  In this talk three charismatic species will be discussed: lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria), wolf lichen (Letharia lupina), and rock gnome (Cetradonia linearis). Each species exhibits a markedly different distribution, reproductive life history, and history of human impact, resulting in some surprising genetic outcomes. 


Title: “Democracy, the Worst Form of Government” *
Presenter:  Dr. Aaron Montgomery, CWU Department of Mathematics  
Dr. Montgomery discussed different methods of voting and how effectively the methods meet standards of fairness.  In particular, what Arrow’s Theorem means for the idea of the “will of the people” in a democratic election.  And, since there are always questions about the electoral college in election years, he will spend a few minutes discussing how the electoral college process impacts the fairness of US elections.  *except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time...



Title: “Removing Carbon from the Atmosphere: Carbon Sequestration in Kittitas Valley Soils.”
Presenter:  Dr. Carey Gazis, CWU Department of Geological Sciences
Carbon is being added to the atmosphere by humans through the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and cement production.  In this research, we are examining the carbon budget of soils in the Kittitas Valley in order to quantify their current carbon content and fluxes and assess their potential for removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Title: “Exercise as a Lifelong Polypill.”
Presenter:  Leo J. D'Acquisto, Professor, Integrative Human Physiology, Department of Health Sciences, CWU
Regular physical activity is a foundation for the prevention, management and treatment of illnesses associated with poor lifestyle habits.  The focus of this presentation will be on the connection among human structure function, physical activity habits, and cardiorespiratory fitness over a lifetime.

Title: “Tropical Biodiversity Genomics”
Presenter:  Adam Leaché, Professor, Department of Biology, Curator of Genetic Resources & Herpetology, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture University of Washington, Seattle
Understanding the processes that promote population and species diversification is important for describing the composition of biodiversity, interpreting how ecosystems and biomes develop over time, and guiding decisions on how to preserve threatened biotas. The tropical rainforests of West and Central Africa contain spectacular species richness and endemism, yet the factors responsible for generating this diversity are understudied.

Title: “Born on the Columbia Plateau: Tiičáminsh Uytpamá Natítayt (aka Kennewick Man) in Time and Space.”
Presenters:  Lourdes Henebry-DeLeon and Steve Hackenberger, CWU Department of Anthropology

Title: “From Washington to Mexico: Reptilian Responses to a Changing, Warming Planet.” 
Presenter: Dr. Dan Beck, CWU Department of Biological Sciences


Title: “Playing Around: The Significance of Social Play in Primates”
Presenter:  Dr. Jessica Mayhew, CWU Dept. of Anthropology

Title: “Carbon Chemistry and River Corridor Hydro-Biogeochemistry:  Towards Global Understanding and Predictive Modeling.”
Presenter:  James C. Stegen, Earth & Biological Sciences Directorate, Pacific NW National Laboratory [PNNL], Richland, WA.

Title: Screening of I-90 Wildlife Project Documentary Film, “Cascade Crossroads”.
Cascade Crossroads is a 30-minute documentary film chronicling the amazing story unfolding on Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington’s Cascade mountains, where the intersection of a vital east-west transportation corridor and a north-south wildlife corridor resulted in historic conservation, collaboration, and innovation that led to the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project under construction today.  Commissioned by the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, the film aims to not only share this unique story but also inspire action in other landscapes facing similar challenges between wildlife and roads.



Title: “Investigating Life in a Tropical Dry Forest in Jalisco, Mexico: SOBRE Mexico Scholars Present Results of their 2017 Summer Research.”
Climate models predict tropical storms will grow stronger as global temperatures rise. The SOBRE Mexico team investigated the response of a tropical dry forest (TDF) ecosystem to Patricia, a category 5 hurricane that struck coastal Jalisco, Mexico in October 2015. In addition, the team investigated parasite/host interactions in the tropical dry forest after the storm.

Title: “A Basal Deinonychosaur from James Ross Island, Antarctica and the Biostratigraphy of the Latest Cretaceous, Antarctic Dinosaurs.” 
Presenter: Dr. Judd Case, Department of Biology, Eastern Washington University

Title: “Patterns, Sources, and Impacts of Variations and Trends in the Timing of Seasonal Transitions Over the Coterminous U.S.”
Presenter: Dr. Julio Betancourt, Paleoecologist, USGS
Day-of-year [DOY] metrics can define spring onset in the CONUS. These DOY metrics exhibit secular trends consistent with both natural variability and greenhouse warming. In the atmosphere, spring onset variations also appear linked to the Pacific North American (PNA) pattern and the Northern Annular Mode (NAM). By contrast, last spring frost, first fall frost, and the duration of the growing season in CONUS poorly tracks common climatic indices, and instead is modulated by the polar vortex.

Title: “The Creation of a Marine Park:  Twenty Years of Research on the Intertidal Mudflats of NW Australia.”
Presenter: Bob Hickey, Professor, CWU Department of Geography
Come learn about the science behind the development of marine parks in Roebuck Bay and Eighty Mile Beach, Australia, one of the few places on Earth where soft bottom intertidal mudflats support vast numbers of migratory birds.

Title: “From Bones to Behavior: Using Signs of Injury and Illness to Understand the Lives of Extinct Mammals.”
Presenter: Meaghan Wetherell, Associate Director of Institutional Effectiveness, CWU and Adjunct Lecturer CWU Department of Geology
This presentation will discuss how evidence of illness and injury can be used to piece together a picture of herd structure, lifespan, and defense mechanisms for a group of extinct mammals called oreodonts. In particular, we will cover the abundance of bite marks, infections, bone bruises, and fractures found on the cheekbones of one genus of oreodont, and how such injuries could relate to herd behavior.



Title: "Geoarchaeology of Destruction and Geo-architecture of Creation: Digging Out Roman Stones to Build Medieval Cathedrals."
Presenter: Dr. Stefano Lugli, Geologist at University of Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy.
The Modena Cathedral with its bell tower are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as prestigious examples of Medieval art. The external walls of these monuments are covered by 21 different ornamental stones coming from the destruction of the ancient Roman town, which is now buried below more than 4 m of alluvial sediments. We will explore the fascinating geoarcheology of the Roman ruins dating back to more than 2000 years ago and the medieval despoliation and construction techniques, which created an unprecedented example of spectacular geoarchitecture. 
Hosted by the CWU Department of Geological Sciences

Title: “Lichens: Marvelous, Myriad & Misunderstood.”
Presenter: Jack S. Massie (Seasonal Botanist / Lichenologist for Cle Elum Ranger District and retired research and biological science teacher)

Title: “Fracking Vaca Muerta: Socio-Economic Implications of Shale Gas Extraction in Northern Patagonia.”
Presenter: Elvin Delgado, CWU Department of Geography

Title: “Wolverines:  The Ultimate Alpine Survivor Recolonizes the North Cascades.”
Presenter: John Rohrer, U.S. Forest Service, Methow Ranger District Range and Wildlife Program Manager



Title: “The Wenas Creek Mammoth: Excavation & Current Research.”
Presenter: Dr. Pat Lubinski, (CWU Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies)
CWU excavated the Wenas Creek paleontological and archaeological site near Selah from 2005-2010, with some laboratory analysis now completed and more underway.  The 17,000-year-old site includes remains of mammoth and bison, and two possible (controversial) human artifacts. 

Title: “Earthquakes: Will Everything West of I-5 Really Be Toast?”
Presenter: Mr. Nick Zentner Lecturer, CWU Geological Sciences, will talk about local geology.

Title: "Mathematical Modeling:  Overpopulation, Zombies and Evolution."
Presenter: Dr. Jean Marie Linhart, Department of Mathematics, CWU

Title: "Human Dimensions of Colony Collapse Disorder and Its Impact on Honeybees." 
Presenter: Dr. Tim Lawrence, Entomology Department, Washington State University

Title: "The Ebola Virus and the Current Epidemic."
Presenter: Dr. Holly Pinkart, Department of Biological Sciences, CWU

Title: "From Snakes in Washington to Lizards in Mexico: A 20-Year Journey of Discovery with CWU Students."
Presenter: Dr. Dan Beck, Department of Biological Sciences, CWU

Title: "Physical Models of Biological Machines: From Molecular Motors to Migratory Cells."
Presenter: Dr. Erin M. Craig, Department of Physics, CWU

Title: "Tsunami Geology:  Combining Sand, Shovels, and Computers to Understand Past Events." 
Presenter: Dr. Breanyn MacInnes, Department of Geological Sciences, CWU



Title: “A Campus-Community Partnership: Student Opportunities in Habitat Restoration.”
Presenter: Melissa Reitz, (CWU Biological Sciences Alum) and Colleagues, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group

Title: “The Power of Muscle: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Skeletal Muscle Plasticity.” 
Presenter: Scott Trappe, PhD, Ball State University, and Jared Dickinson, PhD, Arizona State University
Hosted by Dept. of Nutrition, Exercise, & Health Sciences

Title: “Mechanisms of Mitochondrial Fusion.”
Presenter: Derek Ricketson, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California Davis

Title: “Monitoring Native Deer, Elk and Moose Populations in Washington: Methods and Sampling Strategies.”
Presenter: Scott McCorquodale, PhD, Deer and Elk Specialist & Acting Regional Wildlife Program Manager, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife 

Title: “Psyllids and Microbes, Friends or Foes?”
Presenter: Rodney Cooper, PhD, Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory, Wapato

Title: “A Structural Biology Approach Enables the Development of Antimicrobials Targeting Bacterial Immunophilins.”
Presenter: Spencer Moen (BS,CWU) Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID)

Title: “Human Responses to the Last Glacial Maximum in the Transbaikal (Southern Siberia).”
Presenter: Ian Buvit, PhD, Director of McNair Scholars Program, CWU

Title: “Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science and Survival in the Congo.”
Presenter: Kate Jackson, Department of Biology, Whitman College

Title: “Medical Miracles and Moral Dilemmas.”
Presenter: Corwin P. King, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

Title: “The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): The Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in US Adults: 2003-2010.”
Presenter: Dr. David Gee, Professor and Program Director of CWU Food Science and Nutrition

Title: “Uncovering the Life Histories of Cephalopods Using Stable Isotopes.”
Presenter: Kirt L. Onthank, Department of Biology, Walla Walla University



Title: "Ensuring Quality of Viral Vectors."
Presenter: Dr. Kelly Zinn, Quality Specialist, Juno Therapeutics
The biopharmaceutical company, Juno Therapeutics, is developing biological immunotherapies, including those for leukemia and lymphoma, that use chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology.  Viral vectors are used to deliver CAR genes to patients' T cells so they can recognize and fight cancer.  This talk will discuss considerations with respect to FDA requirements and other implications of this dynamic material.

Title: "Optimization of Sports Equipment Based on Human Subjects Experiments and Multi-Body System Modeling."
Presenter: Dr. Karen Roemer, CWU Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Sciences

Title: "1200 Miles in a Canoe: Canada's Mackenzie River and the American Arctic."
Presenter: Dr. Tom Cottrell, CWU Biological Sciences

Title: "Osteopathic Principles in Women's Health."
Presenter: Anita Showalter, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

Title: "The Gut, Gatekeeper to Nutrient Availability in High Energy-Demand Endurance Events."
Presenter: Dr. Vince Nethery, CWU Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Sciences

Title: "Bang! Boom. Puff? The Science of Quiet Supersonic Aircraft."
Presenter: Dr. Andy Piascek, CWU Department of Physics

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