Biology Special Opportunities


Biology students at Hartwick work closely with professors to move beyond coursework and into real research experiences. We are convinced that the best way to learn biology is by doing it. All biology majors must complete BIOL 490, Senior Project. This research-based, capstone experience is written up as a senior thesis and presented at a research symposium in May.

Student research is published in the department’s online Journal of Biological Research. Some students even present their research at professional conferences and co-author articles published in professional journals.

Field Research at Hartwick's Pine Lake Environmental Campus


The Biology Department is housed in Johnstone Science Center (JSC). Teaching and student-faculty research in JSC is supported by modern facilities and equipment such as: phase-contrast, fluorescence and electron microscopes; computer-assisted physiographs; facilities for housing and conducting surgery on animals; ultracold freezers; a Biotechnology Center with equipment for eletrophoresis, genetic engineering, cloning, and immunology; the Corning tissue culture room; a greenhouse; an herbarium; and field equipment for ecological studies of plants and animals. Hartwick students have complete access to all of this equipment as they develop research their skills. This gives our students a distinct advantage in graduate school, professional school, or industry.

In addition to its facilities on the main campus, the biology department also makes extensive use of Hartwick’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus and the adjacent 2,400-acre Robert V. Riddell State Park, about 8 miles from the main campus. Biology research and classes are centered at the Robert R. Smith Field Laboratory, which houses a classroom and lab space equipped with computers, microscopes, analytical equipment, and storage space for field equipment.

Off-Campus Courses

January Term courses provide intensive field experience in tropical biology in the Bahamas and Thailand. The department maintains a close working relationship with the Gerace Research Center, on San Salvador Island, and with the Organization for Tropical Studies. A course on Fermentation and the Re-Localization of Food Systems in Portugal is also offered.

Students register for Off-Campus J Term courses through the Office of Global Education.


This course reviews biogeographic theory within the context of islands. Specifically, we examine the biology of the flora and fauna of San Salvador Island and attempt to determine which factors have given rise to the existing animal and plant communities that characterize the island. Students in Island Biogeography spend 3 weeks in residence at the Gerace Research Centre on San Salvador Island. Class activities include hikes through scrub-forest communities, snorkeling trips to several offshore reefs (including some at night), plant community analysis, rocky intertidal community sampling, snorkeling in seagrass and mangrove habitats, and a descent into a water cave.


This course explores the science behind fermented foods, examines the rationale for and the challenges of maintaining commercial scale production, and the evaluates the impacts on society of regional artisan production as a counterpoint to global food commodification.

Portugal is a nation with a rich cultural history of small-scale artisan food production so it is an ideal location to apply principles from biology and economics to the production of fermented foods, like cheese and wine. Fermentation is a biochemical process that humans encounter every day, without notice. It is carried out by microorganisms in our guts to help us digest food, and to produce foods that contain live bacteria that many people believe to be an important part of a healthy diet (for example, yogurt and kombucha tea). The link between fermentation and a necessary human action – eating – makes fermented foods a great system for introducing the relevance of science to our everyday lives.

People and Plants of Thailand

Students investigate the culture of Thailand: language, history, politics, food, music, dancing, and Buddhism. In addition, students conduct research-based projects to provide medical care and promote sustainable agriculture for rural, hill tribe people. Past projects have identified and ameliorated several nutritional deficiencies causing growth stunting in hill tribe children, improved drinking water, reduced indoor air pollution, provided eyeglasses for visually impaired adults, and developed new farming practices to produce crop yields.


Each spring semester, Biology and Biochemistry students are inducted into Beta Beta Beta (TriBeta), a national honor society for students who are dedicated to improving their understanding and appreciation of biology and to extending our human knowledge of the environment through scientific research.

Members of TriBeta organize a biology speaker series, visit museums, conduct educational programs for school children, and attend a regional conference to present their senior research projects.