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College of the Sciences

Science Seminars


The 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.


Presentations this year may be in person, on zoom, or both.  Please check the description for each seminar for how and where it will be held. 

A face covering is required for anyone attending in person.  Anyone with a disability that needs special accommodations to attend in person should contact (509) 963-2731 at least 72 hours in advance.


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For videos, see our CWU Biology YouTube Channel.

Upcoming Presentations

FALL 2021


“Meeting Public Health Challenges In Rural Cameroon, Africa: The Journey of the Bawa Health Initiative, Inc." 

10/29  4-5pm

Held in person in the Science Building, Room 147 and on Zoom

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.


Past Presentations


Spring 2021

“Materials-Driven Approach to Discovering and Understanding the Materials of the Future.”

April 30th 4-5pm on Zoom

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.


Winter 2021

"Defining the Impacts of Environmental Exposures on Host-Microbiota Interactions."  

Chris Gaulke, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ... and CWU alum!

Friday March 5th at 4-5PM (PST)

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.

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“A Dead Tree's Excellent Adventure: The Ecology of Dead Wood."
Ken Bevis, Stewardship Biologist, WA Dept. of Natural Resources

January 22, 4-5pm (This will be presented on Zoom)

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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! 


Head shot of Ken Bevis
Photo by Teri Pieper


Ken Bevis is the Stewardship Biologist for the Washington Department of Natural Resource's (DNR) Small Forest Landowner office. Ken is a CWU Wildcat, with a Masters of Science in Biology (1994), where he studied woodpeckers and dead trees in 3 forest types near Cle Elum. He also holds a BS in Forestry and Wildlife from Virginia Tech (1979). Ken is originally from Virginia, and has lived in Washington since 1986. He has worked for the U. S. Forest Service, Yakama Indian Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (15 years) and now, DNR. He now helps landowners learn how to manage small private forest lands for forests and wildlife. He frequently teaches workshops and classes for Washington State University Extension programs. He sings, is fascinated with dead trees and works to find humor in everything.    

Fall 2020

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

October 23, 4-5pm  (This will be presented on Zoom)  

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Abstract: 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. 









Previous Presentations

Winter 2020

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...


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.


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. 

A trailer for the film is available at 


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. 


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


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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