Biology Special Opportunities

Hartwick students diving in San Salvador, Bahamas

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.

Recent senior projects:

  • Effects of Biomarker Protein CREB in AKT Signaling Pathway of Patients Diagnosed With Schizophrenia
  • Influence of Bacillus thuringiensis Crystal Protein 5B on Caenorhabditis elegans and Predator Lumbricus terrestris
  • Is the Middle Ground a Stable Platform for Multi-legged Frog Research to Stand On?

Recent student presentations:

  • Brittany McCabe ’14 presented “Prey selection by Octopus vulgaris at San Salvador, The Bahamas: Do individuals specialize?” at the Bahamas Natural History Conference in Nassau, The Bahamas (with M.L. Kuhlmann).

Recent student co-authored articles:

  • Kuhlmann, M. L. and M. McCabe (’14). 2014. Diet specialization in Octopus vulgaris at San Salvador, The Bahamas. Marine Ecology Progress Series 516:229-237.

Department of Biology Journal of Biological Research

Equipment and Facilities

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 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

Several off-campus biology courses offered during January Term provide intensive field experience in tropical biology in the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Thailand and Madagascar. The department maintains a close working relationship with the Gerace Research Center, on San Salvador Island, and with the Organization for Tropical Studies, a consortium of about 50 major universities and colleges in the U.S. and Latin America, headquartered in Costa Rica.

Off-campus January term courses:

  • BIOL 240, Island Biogeography (Bahamas) 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 activies 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.
  • BIOL 242, 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.
  • BIOL 244 Madagascar: Culture, Conservation, and Natural History Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is a living laboratory of extraordinary natural environments. Madagascar is one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots; almost 80% of its plants and animals are endemic to the island and many species are threatened with extinction. During the 4-week course, students explore the natural history and ecology of native habitats, while seeking to explain Madagascar’s uniqueness and extremely high biodiversity. Students observe first-hand the delicate balance between Malagasy resource use and the conservation of species such as chameleons, lemurs, fossas, and baobobs.
  • BIOL-150/ECON-150 Portugal: Fermentation and the Re-Localization of Food Systems 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. Since the production of fermented foods relies on living organisms the outcomes can be inconsistent, making it difficult to achieve profitable production at a commercial scale. However, because the fermented foods are often tied to cultural practice and “place,” smaller scale artisan production provides opportunity for local economic development to take place even as commodification of food is happening globally. 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.

Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society

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.

Global Education & Service Learning