Skip to body


College of the Sciences
Give to Biology

Contact Us

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

Follow Us


Biology Graduate Program


Our Mission

The Biology Graduate Program prepares enlightened, responsible, and productive scientists with essential skills, a deep understanding of their discipline, respect for diversity, and the ability to think critically and communicate clearly.

How To ApplyWe offer a Master of Science in Biology degree; please note that we do not offer a Ph.D. degree.  Our program, which typically requires two years, provides advanced training and expertise in biology through coursework, research, and a strong academic environment.   

Our graduates go on to be:

Technicians in research labs
Biomedical researchers in academic, government, and industrial labs
Field biologists in federal, state, local, and tribal agencies
Biologists with environmental and other consulting firms
Educators at K-12 schools and community colleges
Doctorates in the sciences (Ph.D.) and professional fields (e.g., M.D., DVM, and other advanced medical degrees)


Program Outcomes 

Program Requirements 

Biology Faculty 

Funding Your Graduate Program 

Graduate Student Research 

    How To Apply 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Graduate Student Handbook

Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator

Program Outcomes

Our graduate students will:

Design a program of study to enhance their knowledge in their chosen area of specialization and to bolster areas deemed deficient in their undergraduate education.

Formulate an area of interest within biology and demonstrate historic and current knowledge of that area.

Design a research project, which will serve as the basis of the thesis.

Defend and Support the results of their graduate research in the form of a professional level thesis.


Program Requirements

We help students design a course of study, comprising 14 credits of required graduate courses, 16 credits of research (BIOL 595 and BIOL 700), and 15 elective credits (total, 45).  Students are mentored through the process of conducting original, independent research by their faculty advisor and thesis committee members.  We support two thesis formats: a traditional thesis, and a journal-ready manuscript option.


Biology Faculty

Biology faculty are active in research in many areas of Biology, including Ecology & Evolution, Physiology & Organismal Biology, and Cell & Molecular Biology.

Clay Arango, Associate Professor
Stream ecosystem ecology, nitrogen cycling, human-ecosystem interactions

April Binder, Associate Professor
Reproductive biology focused on hormonal control of ovarian function and development

Lucinda Carnell, Professor
Regulation of behavior in the nematode, C. elegans

Blaise Dondji, Professor
Cellular immune responses to hookworm and Leishmania infections

Kristina Ernest, Professor
Terrestrial ecology: small mammals, species interactions, connectivity

Jason Irwin, Professor
Physiological and ecological aspects of cold tolerance in insects and amphibians

Paul James, Professor
Ecology & fisheries biology

Jim Johnson, Professor
Mycology, molecular systematics, molecular ecology and amphibian disease

Sarah Oppelt, Assistant Professor
Aspects of metabolism and how it influences cell fate

Holly Pinkart, Professor / Department Chair
Microbial ecology and physiology, microbes of saline alkaline lakes

Mary Poulson, Professor
Plant physiology, photosynthesis, and photosynthetic responses to the environment

Wayne Quirk, Professor
Sensory Physiology

Ian Quitadamo, Professor
Neuro-cognitive basis of critical thinking, assessment of science learning

Linda Raubeson, Professor  
Phylogeny of conifers, chloroplast genome evolution, conservation and ecological genetics of local plants

Alison Scoville, Associate Professor
Ecological and evolutionary genomics, rapid evolution and conservation biology

Gabrielle Stryker, Associate Professor
Protozoan parasites, paraflagellar rod proteins in kinetoplastids, cell motility, immunology

Lixing Sun, Professor
Ecology and evolution of animal behavior (especially communication systems), primatology

back to top

Funding Your Graduate Program

Many of our graduate students are supported by teaching assistantships, which are normally guaranteed for two years (six quarters), given adequate research progress and satisfactory teaching evaluations. Please note that while some students need more than two years to finish their degree, financial support (through graduate assistantships) is available only during the first two years.  Applicants who would like to be considered for a teaching assistantship must complete an assistantship application form (in addition to the application for admissions). Research assistantships and summer stipends are occasionally available on a competitive basis, as are other sources of funds related to specific externally-funded projects.

For information on graduate tuition and fees, assistantships, grants and fellowships, scholarships, financial aid, and student employment, please see the Graduate Student Funding section of CWU's Graduate Studies and Research webpage.


CWU Graduate Student Fellowships and Grants

Washington State Distinguished Fellowship in Biology

The Botanical & Mycological Research Fund

Kittitas Audubon Research & Tuition Scholarship

CWU Graduate Student Research Support Award

CWU Graduate Student Summer Research Fellowship

CWU Retirement Association (CWURA) Graduate Student Scholarship

CWU Office of International Studies and Programs Tuition Waiver

CWU Graduate Student Travel Funds

See Also:  CWU Scholarship Office


External Research Funding Sources  

Northwest Scientific Association Student Research Grants

The Wildlife Society Grants & Scholarships (Washington State Chapter)

Washington Native Plant Society Conservation Grants

Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, Student Scholarships

Sigma Xi, Grants-in-Aid of Research 

back to top

Graduate Student Research

Thesis titles of recent graduates:

  2021-2022 Cohort

Maddisen Bell

B.S., Biology, Eastern Washington University 

Researching: Sexual selection and competition or bargaining amongst males to select females

Mentor: Dr. Lixing Sun        

Zarha Dillon-Zuppelli

B.S., Conservation Biology, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse University

Researching: Pediocactus nigrispinus (Snowball cactus) demography and soil crust associations

Mentor: Dr. Mary Poulson

Ryan Garcia

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: Plant conservation genetics using Ranunculus triternatus as a model organism.

Mentor: Dr. Linda Raubeson

Thomas Luehl

B.A. Environmental Science, New College of Florida

Researching: The spread of native mycorrhizae on the I90 wildlife overcrossing

Mentor: Dr. Johnson

Andy Rashid

B.S., Chemistry, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Researching: Inflammatory response in the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease state

Mentor: Dr. Sarah Oppelt

Kyle Sease

B.S., Biology, Biomedical Specialization, Central Washington University

Researching: Phthalates, their derivatives, and their influence on neuronal cells

Mentor: Dr. Carnell

Adrian Slade

B.S., Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Specialization, Central Washington University

Researching: Impact of solar arrays on ectotherm ecology and survival in the Mojave Desert

Mentor: Dr. Daniel D. Beck

Lauren Taracka

B.S., Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Specialization, Central Washington University

Researching:  movement patterns and genetics of Alligator Lizards at the I90 Snoqualmie Pass East Wildlife Overcrossing.

Mentor: Dr. Jason Irwin


Anne Tolo

B.S., Biology, Pacific Lutheran University

Researching: The social hierarchies in crickets

Mentor: Dr. Lixing Sun

Omar Torres

B.S., Environmental Science, Specialization in Natural Resource Management

Researching: Trout monitoring for the I90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project

Mentor: Dr. Paul James

  2020-2021 Cohort

Jasmine Ruiz

B.S., Biology, Ecology and Evolution Emphasis, Washington State University

Researching: Analysis of Clark's Nutcracker Diets Using Stable Isotopes

Mentor: Dr. Allison Scoville

J. Shah

B.S., Biology, Central Washington University

Researching: Microplastic prevalence in freshwater ecosystems

Mentor: Dr. Clay Arango

Aimee Taylor

B.S., Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. University of California, Davis

Researching: Bull trout movement and migration patterns in Lake Kachess.

Mentor Dr. Paul James

  2019-2020 Cohort

Cortnea Austin

Mentor: Dr. Ian Quitadamo

Jenna Chapman

B.S., Earth & Environmental Science, Washington State University

Researching:  small mammal ecology on the 1-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project

Mentor: Dr. Kris Ernest

Rachel Davey

Mentor: Dr. April Binder

José Garrido

B.S., Ecology, Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Appalachian State University.

Researching:  Two distinct populations of Jalisco Mud Turtles (Kinosternon chimalhuaca), and tracking them to understand the differences within their population structures to determine their movement ecology in Mexican neotropical dry forests.

Mentor: Dr. Dan Beck

Jocelyn Wensloff

B.S., Environmental Science, Freshwater Ecology Emphasis,  Western Washington University

Researching:  Pacific lamprey and their ecological role in transporting marine derived nutrients.

Mentor: Dr. Clay Arango 

2018-2019 Cohort

Josh Johnson

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  social mobility, behavioral biology, olfactory communication and group decision making.

Mentor: Dr. Lixing Sun

Danielle Kuchler

B.S., Biology Teaching, Central Washington University

Researching: science education, critical thinking, multidisciplinary teaching strategies.

Mentor:  Dr. Ian Quitadamo

Alex McCarrel

B.S., Environmental Studies, Linfield College

Researching:  Fry emergence and ensuing juvenile development of Kokanee Salmon in the presence of North American beaver dams.

Mentor:  Dr. Paul James

Anneliese Myers

B.S. Biology and B.A. Chemistry, Whitworth University

Researching:  The effect of landscape fragmentation on amphibian populations.

Mentor: Dr. Jason Irwin

Jim Robertson

B.S., Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Washington State University

Researching: Microbiome of common hops, Humulus lupulus.

Mentor:  Dr. Alison Scoville

See Jim's Research Video!

Jordan Ryckman

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: Small mammal monitoring on the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Specifically, genetic diversity and habitat preference of shrews.

Mentor: Dr. Kris Ernest

Lauren Segarra

B.S., Bio/Ecology, Appalachian State University

Researching:  Physiological traits of drought and nutrient stressed sunflower.

Mentor:  Dr. Jenny Dechaine

Nick Werner

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  Effects of induced polycystic ovary syndrome in NAG-1 transgenic mice.

Mentor: Dr. April Binder

Dana Whitmore

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: Ectomycorrhizal diversity in soils on and around the I-90 wildlife crossing structure.

Mentor:  Dr. Jim Johnson

  2017-2018 Cohort

Katie Boyd

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  Serotonin signaling and adaptation in C. elegans.

Mentor:  Dr. Lucinda Carnell

Naomi Bryant

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: Endogenous gene tagging of pfr2 and pfr5 in Trypanosoma cruzi  using CRISPR/Cas9.

Mentor: Dr. Gabrielle Stryker

David Farr

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: Development of software for genome-wide statistical analysis, comparison of evolutionary divergence, and epigenetic mechanisms associated with plant defense in E. guttata.

Mentor: Dr. Alison Scoville

Thomas McIntyre

B.S., Environmental Science, Northeastern University

Researching:  Stress levels of pikas along the I-90 corridor of the Central Cascade Range.

Mentor: Dr. Kris Ernest

Enrique Reyes

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: The validity of the assumption that the stool microbiome is an adequate proxy for intestinal microbial composition, by comparing the microbial communities of different portions of the gut and stool using 16s rDNA data.

Mentor: Dr. Holly Pinkart

Bikesh Shrestha

B.A. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cornell College

Researching:  Effects of 5 a-Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) on mice gut microbiome -- a study of sex differences and hormonal effects on gut microbiome composition.

Mentor:  Dr. Holly Pinkart

Mark Young

B.S., Biological Sciences, and B.A., Music, Central Washington University

Researching:  Effects of microbiome assemblage on plant productivity and stress tolerance in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Mentor: Dr. Mary Poulson

Victoria McPherson

B.S., Microbiology, University of Washington

Researching: Evaluation of anthelmintic properties and toxicity of pure compounds isolated from Dalea Spp. (Plantae: Fabaceae).

Mentor: Dr. Blaise Dondji

back to top




  2016-2017 Cohort

Frank Addeo

B.A., Studio Art, Marist College
M.A., Anthropology, Columbia University

Researching: Yeast biodiversity, natural history, and fermentation characteristics in brewing.

Mentor:  Dr. Steve Wagner

Frank is the Director of the Craft Brewing and Distilling Program at South Puget Sound Community College 

JD Brooks

B.S., Biology, Southern Oregon University
M.S., Central Washington University (Spring 2018)

Thesis: Coloration, camouflage, and sexual dichromatism in the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake.

Mentor:  Dr. Dan Beck

Casey Croshaw

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

M.S., Biology, Central Washington University (Winter 2017)

Thesis: Characterizing Low nutrient stress resistance in crop sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).

Mentor:  Dr. Jenny Dechaine

Casey is a Biological Science Technician for the U.S. Forest Service.

Logan Kral

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  Entomology and plant pathology; cold-tolerance of insects.

Mentor: Dr. Jason Irwin

Zach Lessig

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  Western Spruce Budworm as a resource subsidy to stream salmonids.

Mentor: Dr. Clay Arango

Alan McNolty

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: Antibody-dependent enhancement of visceral leishmaniasis.

Mentor:  Dr. Gabrielle Stryker

Lindsay Millward

B.S. Biology, Belmont University
M.S., Biology, Central Washington University (Spring 2018)

Thesis: Small mammal microhabitat use and species composition at a wildlife crossing structure compared with nearby forest.

Mentor:  Dr. Kris Ernest

Troy Peterson

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching: The behavior and ecology of the Colorado Checkered Whiptail Lizard (Aspidoscelis neotesselata) in Washington State.

Mentor: Dr. David Darda

Caitlin Wilkes

B.S., Biological Science, University of Missouri, Rolla

Researching: Sea Star Wasting Disease

Mentor:  Dr. Lixing Sun

back to top
  2015-2016 Cohort

Therese Balkenbush

B.S., Biology, Southern Oregon University
M.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University (Spring 2018)

Thesis:  Using plastome data to resolve lower level relationships in gymnosperms.

Mentor:  Dr. Linda Raubeson

Corey Brumbaugh

B.S. Biological Sciences, Central Washington University
M.S., Biology, Central Washington University (Spring 2018)

Thesis:  Life In The Dirt.
Mentor:  Dr. Steve Wagner

Corey is a Pest Control Technician at Crazy Frog Pest Control, Tri-Cities, WA.

Joey Chase

B.S., Natural Resources, Cornell University
M.S., Biology, Central Washington University (Fall 2017)

Thesis: Impacts of wildfires on rattlesnake growth and movement.
Mentor:  Dr. Daniel Beck

Jacob Darley

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  Phage therapy, specifically the efficacy of bacteriophage treatment of Clostridium difficile infection.
Mentor:  Dr. Holly Pinkart

Izak Neziri

B.S., Biology Teaching, Central Washington University

Researching:  Stream ecology, ecosystems
Mentor:  Dr. Clay Arango

Izak currently teaches at Olympic High School in Bremerton, WA.

Connor Parrish

B.S., Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University
M.S., Central Washington University (Fall 2017)

Thesis:  Shedding light on urban streams: the impact of buried stream sections on Brook Trout movement in an urban ecosystem.
Mentor:  Dr. Paul James

Connor is a Project Manager at Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group.

Brandon Rossi

B.S. Biological Sciences, Central Washington University

Researching:  avian and terrestrial ecology
Mentor:  Dr. Alison Scoville

Brandon is a Junior Biologist at Stell Environmental (Yakima Training Center).

Naomi Sibayan

B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University
M.S., Biology, Central Washington University (Winter 2018)

Thesis: Cold tolerance, diapause, and survival of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorphia halys).
Mentor:  Dr. Jason Irwin

Naomi is currently a Temporary Research Associate II at Synthetic Genomics.

back to top


How To Apply

New students are normally accepted for entry in the fall of our academic year (mid-September).  Applications for fall quarter priority admission and assistantships are due by February 1st.  Admission is a two-step process. Applicants must first meet the general requirements of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.  This includes a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, and a minimum GPA of 3.0 (in the last 90 quarter hours or 60 semester hours).  If applicable, please also read the School of Graduate Studies and Research information for international students before applying.

Applicants must then meet the specific requirements of the Department of Biological Sciences:

  1. An undergraduate degree in biology or closely related field. Deficiencies in the student’s undergraduate training as determined by the Department of Biological Sciences at the time of admission to the program must be removed without graduate credit during the first year of graduate study.
  2. A faculty member must be willing to serve as the applicant’s graduate faculty advisor.  Prior to completing your application, contact prospective faculty advisors to ask if they are interested in taking new students.

Please Note:  GRE scores are no longer required by the Department of Biological Sciences.


All applications go through the School of Graduate Studies and Research.  

A complete application to the Department of Biological Sciences will include the following:

  1. CWU School of Graduate Studies and Research Application (including $75 application fee; waivers are available).
  2. Statement of objectives.  The Statement of Objectives is limited to 500 words and serves as a sample of your writing abilities.

Please address the following points within your statement:

What is your motivation for seeking a graduate degree in Biology and how will a M.S. in Biology help you reach your career goals?

Describe your research interests in Biology, indicate potential faculty advisor/s, and describe previous research experience and any relevant skills or training.

Provide an example of how you have shown persistence in overcoming obstacles to reach an academic or career objective you set for yourself.

3. Letters of recommendation (3)

4. Official transcripts

5. Curriculum Vitae (academic resume)

6.  English proficiency for international students for whom English is a second language.  Several options are available to satisfy this requirement.  Please see:




back to top

Contact Us

For further information about our graduate program, please contact:

Dr. Gabe Stryker
Graduate Program Coordinator
Department of Biology
Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7537

(509) 963-2721

Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.