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College of the Sciences

Natural Science Seminars

The Natural Science Seminar Series involves informal, bi-weekly presentations that are open to everyone, and are sponsored by the CWU Department of Biological Sciences and the CWU College of the Sciences.  



Science Building Room 147  unless otherwise noted
Refreshments served at 3:50pm, Seminar from 4:00-5:00pm



Friday, January 24th

Title:  Democracy, the Worst Form of Government*

Presenter:  Dr. Aaron Montgomery, CWU Department of Mathematics  

Dr. Montgomery will discuss different methods of voting and how effectively these 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...

Dr. Montgomery was on track to receive a philosophy and mathematics degree at Pomona College until he discovered that the last philosophy course required met at 8 am in the morning at the other end of the campus from his dorm room. He received his BA in Mathematics from Pomona College, and his PhD in Mathematics (with a minor in philosophy) from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After receiving his degree, he taught at Purdue University - North Central for three years and then came Central Washington University where he has taught in the Mathematics Department for the past 19 years. In addition to his mathematics teaching, he has taught a variety of courses for the Douglas Honors College, including a course on game theory and political philosophy. He is currently exploring the mathematics of modern board games.


Wednesday, February 12th


Tentative title:  Parasites, Brain Zombies, and Evolution

Presenter:  Dr. Gabrielle Stryker, CWU Department of Biological Sciences

Friday, March 13th

Tentative title:  The World According to Superconduction

Presenter:  Dr. Ben White, CWU Department of Physics



Friday, May 31

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.


Friday, May 10

"Exercise As A Lifelong Polypill"

Speaker:  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.



Friday, April 19

"Tropical Biodiversity Genomics"

Speaker:  Adam Leaché
Professor, Department of Biology
Curator of Genetic Resources & Herpetology, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
University of Washington, Seattle

Pre-Seminar Reception:  3:30-4:00pm in Science Foyer

Natural Science Seminar 4:00-5:00pm in Science 147

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. This collaborative project compares diversification patterns across 20+ species of frogs, lizards, snakes, and crocodiles that are endemic to the Guinean and Congo forests. We use genomic methods to discover and describe species (systematics), model population dynamics through time (historical demography), and determine how these diverse communities evolved (comparative phylogeography). We are also developing new tools and techniques for accelerating the pace of biodiversity discovery using genomic data, including new methods to delimit species and new phylogenetic approaches to test whether populations share the same divergence times and demographic trajectories.

Everyone is welcome to attend!

Friday, March 1st

"Born on the Columbia Plateau: Tiičáminsh Uytpamá Natítayt (aka Kennewick Man) in Time and Space.”

Speakers:  Lourdes Henebry-DeLeon and Steve Hackenberger, CWU Department of Anthropology






4pm in SCIE 147

"Becoming Charles Darwin"

Come hear Dr. Lixing Sun present on Charles Darwin the person.  We will hear some lesser known stories involving his education, family life, and personal crises, and we will learn how these experiences helped shape the famous naturalist, biologist and theorist of evolution.



Friday, January 18th

From Washington to Mexico: Reptilian Responses to a Changing, Warming Planet 

Speaker:  Dr. Dan Beck, CWU Department of Biological Sciences


Seminars will be added as they are scheduled.  
If you would like reminders sent to your email for each of these events, please send your request to


----Past Seminars----

For videos, see our CWU Biology YouTube Channel.  

FALL 2018

Friday, November 9th

Playing Around: The Significance Of Social Play In Primates

Speaker:  Dr. Jessica Mayhew, CWU Dept. of Anthropology

Dr. Mayhew is a native New Englander, but joined the Ellensburg and CWU community in 2014 as a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies. She was hired as an Assistant Professor in 2016, and is the current director of the Primate Behavior and Ecology program, which is the only bachelor’s degree in primatology in the United States.  Her expertise is in ape behavior, social cognition, and juvenile play.



At the presentation, Stegen asked for volunteers interested in helping the PNNL in it's program known as "WHONDRS" or Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemical Observation Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS).

Read more about the program here:

Taken from the website:  "WHONDRS is expanding our field locations and encourages institutions or individual researchers interested in participating to contact us at, follow us on Twitter @WHONDRS, and join our LinkedIn Group. The original WHONDRS field site is along the Columbia River in southeastern Washington State, USA, and is coordinated by the DOE-funded Science Focus Area (SFA) project on Subsurface Biogeochemical Research (SBR) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)."

Friday, October 19th

Carbon Chemistry and River Corridor Hydro-Biogeochemistry:  Towards Global Understanding and Predictive Modeling.


Speaker:  James C. Stegen, Earth & Biological Sciences Directorate, Pacific NW National Laboratory [PNNL], Richland, WA.



Friday, January 26th

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.

The film features breathtaking landscape footage of Washington’s Central Cascades and interviews with public and private partners including: Mark Anderson (Anderson Hay), Dan Brewster (Summit at Snoqualmie), Representative Judy Clibborn (D, 41st District), Gene Duvernoy (Forterra), Mitch Freidman (Conservation Northwest), Patty Garvey-Darda (Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest), Randy Giles (WA Department of Transportation), Jon Hoekstra (Mountains to Sound Greenway), Senator Curtis King (R, 14th District), Paul James (Central Washington University), Mike Livingston (WA Department of Fish and Wildlife), Doug MacDonald (former Washington Secretary of Transportation), Charlie Raines (Sierra Club & I- 90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition), Janet Ray (AAA of Washington), Peter Singleton (PNW Research Station – US Forest Service), Jen Watkins (Conservation Northwest & I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition), and Brian White (WA Department of Transportation).

A trailer for the film is available at

Public release of the film is January 10, 2018. The public screening at CWU on January 26th will be the first viewing in eastern Washington. Other public screenings following the release will be listed on the project webpage.

Film Related Links:
 Cascade Crossroads webpage:
 Follow the project on Facebook:
 I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project page:


Friday, February 9th*

Darwin Day Keynote Presentation: 
"Beautiful Weapons and the Diversity of Life"

*Friday--February 9th -- 5:45 to 6:45pm -- Hertz Hall Theater, Room 100
Darwin's birthday cake will be served prior to the event. *

For one special night, we are joining our Natural Science Seminar with our Darwin Day celebrations to bring you a unique study of biodiversity and evolution.  "Beautiful Weapons and the Diversity of Life" is a dance performance by the Gonzaga University Repertory Dance Company.  Discussion after the performance will be led by Dr. Brook Swanson, a comparative physiologist in the Department of Biology at Gonzaga University and Suzanne Ostersmith, Gonzaga University Dance Director.

Dr. Swanson describes the event as " exploration of biodiversity, examined both through research and through dance...we touch on processes of natural and sexual selection [and]...examine comparative biomechanics and the relationship between form and performance...[specifically] how interactive selective pressures lead to different solutions to life's challenges, and eventually to diversity." 

FALL 2017

Friday, October 6th
Investigating Life in a Tropical Dry Forest In Jalisco, Mexico:
SOBRE Mexico Scholars Present Results of their 2017 Summer Research


Cameron Cupp
Samuel Gutierrez
Taylor Henne
Jennifer Magaña
Stacey Meekhof
Lilly Nava

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.  By knocking down trees and snapping limbs, the storm’s strong winds altered the structure of the forest, which may in turn affect how animals use habitat.  Several techniques were implemented to monitor small vertebrates (amphibians, lizards, turtles) and some of their invertebrate parasites (ticks and kissing bugs) at Estacion de Biologia, Chamela, a TDF reserve struck directly by the hurricane.

The team will present their findings at the October 6th Natural Science Seminar, and at a national research conference in Washington DC later in October.

Friday, October 13th
A Basal Deinonychosaur from James Ross Island, Antarctica and the Biostratigraphy of the Latest Cretaceous, Antarctic Dinosaurs

Dr. Judd Case, Department of Biology, Eastern Washington University


Dr. Case is in his twelfth year at Eastern Washington University, having served as the Dean for the College of Science, Health & Engineering/College of STEM for almost 10 years and then as Dean of Special Projects with a major emphasis being the relationship between EWU and the University of Washington around dental and medical education.  He is now full time in the Department of Biology teaching vertebrate zoology, biogeography and hematology.  Additionally, he teaches Oral Histology & Embryology in the RIDE program for the University of Washington’s School of Dentistry and histology for the UW WWAMI Spokane medical program.

He received his Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from University of California, Riverside and his research has centered on vertebrate paleontology to answer questions in the areas of evolution, biogeography and recently on the effects of climate change on the past life in Antarctica.  Dr. Case has extensive Antarctic field experience having conducted nine field seasons in the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Case was honored by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) as one of two professors worldwide to receive their prestigious Visiting Professor Award for 2016-17.  This past summer he took his visiting professorship at the Museo de La Plata in Argentina researching new Eocene marsupials from Antarctica as well as new end of the cretaceous dinosaurs from Antarctica.  He presented talks at the Universidad Nacional La Plata and at the Instituto Antartico Argentino in Buenos Aires.


Friday, October 27th
Patterns, Sources, and Impacts of Variations and Trends in the Timing of Seasonal Transitions Over the Coterminous U.S.

Dr. Julio Betancourt, Paleoecologist, USGS

Dr. Betancourt will show how 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.

Seasonal timing has myriad impacts on plants and animals, biospheric processes, and human systems, and is critical for formulating adaptive responses to both climate variability and change. In the coterminous U.S. [CONUS], the timing of seasonal transitions varies widely from year to year and is also changing directionally, yet the climatic drivers, patterns, and consequences of these variations are not well understood. In his presentation, Betancourt will discuss different interpretations of large-scale drivers, opportunities for long-range forecasting, and implications for continental-scale phenological monitoring in the U.S.

Julio Betancourt is a Senior Scientist with the USGS in Reston VA, and also served for three decades as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Arizona, where he received his Ph.D. in Geosciences with a minor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.  He is a research hydrologist and ecologist who studies how climate variability and change affects terrestrial ecosystems at scales critical for understanding ecological and evolutionary processes and informing rational approaches to managing water and other natural resources. A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and founding co-chair of the USGS Council of Senior Science Advisors, Dr. Betancourt has published two books and 180 peer-reviewed technical papers on a wide diversity of topics.  He has received honors from the American Water Resources Association, the Ecological Society of America and the Geological Society of America, and top awards from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the White House.  He is the founder of  USA National Phenology Network and established the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center, an NGO that coordinates assessment and mitigation of an African grass invasion in the Sonoran Desert.

Winter 2017

Friday, January 27

The Creation of a Marine Park:  Twenty Years of Research on the Intertidal Mudflats of NW Australia

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.

Friday, February 10

From Bones to Behavior: Using Signs of Injury and Illness to Understand the Lives of Extinct Mammals

Meaghan Wetherell, Associate Director of Institutional Effectiveness, CWU and Adjunct Lecturer, (Ph.D., 2016, University of Oregon) Paleontology, paleopedology, CWU Department of Geology

Fossils are any sign of ancient life (bones, tracks, burrows, and even feces can become fossils), and while an animal’s behavior might not become a fossil, evidence of that behavior can. Forensic science used today can help interpret how animals interacted 30 million years ago – in a sense, like CSI: Oligocene. 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.

Dr. Wetherell graduated with a Ph.D. in paleontology from University of Oregon in summer of 2016, and is currently using her data analysis skills with people rather than fossils as Associate Director of Research for the Institutional Effectiveness Department here at CWU. Paleontologically her current research interests include the convergent evolution of trunks across mammalian families, geographic convergence in sympatric artiodactyls, and spatial modelling  of Pleistocene extinctions


Winter 2016

Friday, January 29

LICHENS: Marvelous, Myriad & Misunderstood

Jack S. Massie (Seasonal Botanist / Lichenologist for Cle Elum Ranger District and retired research and biological science teacher)

Friday, February 12  **Darwin Day Lecture**

Cuddling With Nature:  Aesthetics, Biophilia, and Evolution

Lixing Sun, CWU Department of Biological Sciences

A birthday cake for Darwin will be served starting at 3:30pm!

Friday, March 4

Fracking Vaca Muerta: Socio-Economic Implications of Shale Gas Extraction in Northern Patagoina

Elvin Delagado, CWU Department of Geography

Friday, March 11

Wolverines:  The Ultimate Alpine Survivor Reolonizes the North Cascades

John Rohrer, U.S. Forest Service, Methow Ranger District Range and Wildlife Program Manager


Fall 2015    

Friday, November 13th

Dr. Pat Lubinski, (CWU Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies)

The Wenas Creek Mammoth: Excavation & Current Research

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.  The talk will include part of a History Channel video on the site, replica bone casts, and a summary presentation on the interdisciplinary investigations.  

Friday, November 20th

Dr. Darci Snowden (CWU Department of Physics) will speak on the solar system and evolution.

Friday, December 4th

Mr. Nick Zenter (CWU Geological Sciences) will talk about local geology.

Title:  Earthquakes: Will Everything West of I-5 Really Be Toast?


Winter 2015

February 6th

"Mathematical Modeling:  Overpopulation, Zombies and Evolution"

Dr. Jean Marie Linhart, Department of Mathematics, CWU

Fall 2014

October 10th

"Human Dimensions of Colony Collapse Disorder and Its Impact on Honeybees" 

Dr. Tim Lawrence, Entomology Department, Washington State University

October 24th

"The Ebola Virus and the Current Epidemic"

Dr. Holly Pinkart, Department of Biological Sciences, CWU

November 7th

"From Snakes in Washington to Lizards in Mexico: A 20-Year Journey of Discovery with CWU Students"

Dr. Dan Beck, Department of Biological Sciences, CWU

November 21st 

"Physical Models of Biological Machines: From Molecular Motors to Migratory Cells"

Dr. Erin M. Craig, Department of Physics, CWU

December 5th 

"Tsunami Geology:  Combining Sand, Shovels, and Computers to Understand Past Events" 

Dr. Breanyn MacInnes, Department of Geological Sciences, CWU

Spring 2014

Science Building Room 147  unless otherwise noted
Refreshments served at 3:50, Seminar from 4:00 - 5:00

April 11    

A Campus-Community Partnership: Student Opportunities in Habitat Restoration
Melissa Reitz*, MS and Colleagues, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group

April 16    

The Power of Muscle: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Skeletal Muscle Plasticity  4:00 - 5:30pm 
Scott Trappe, PhD, Ball State University, and Jared Dickinson*, PhD, Arizona State University
Hosted by Dept. of Nutrition, Exercise, & Health Sciences

April 23    

Mechanisms of Mitochondrial Fusion
Derek Ricketson, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California Davis

April 25    

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

May 9       

Psyllids and Microbes, Friends or Foes?
Rodney Cooper, PhD, Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory, Wapato

May 23     

A Structural Biology Approach Enables the Development of Antimicrobials Targeting Bacterial Immunophilins
Spencer Moen*, BS, Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID)

June 6      

Human Responses to the Last Glacial Maximum in the Transbaikal (Southern Siberia)
Ian Buvit, PhD, Director of McNair Scholars Program, CWU

 *Indicates CWU alumni

Winter 2014

Science Building Room 147
Refreshments served at 3:50, Seminar from 4:00 - 5:00

January 24th – Kate Jackson, Department of Biology Whitman College – Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science and Survival in the Congo.

February 7th – Corwin P. King, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences – Medical Miracles and Moral Dilemmas.

February 21st – David Gee, CWU – The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): The Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in US Adults: 2003-2010.

March 7th – Kirt L. Onthank, Department of Biology, Walla Walla University – Uncovering the life histories of cephalopods using stable isotopes.


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