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Marshall University - Biological Sciences Newsletter
February 2015

Research in Progress: Erick (Derk) Anderson

    Erick Anderson grew up in Findlay, Ohio, and earned his BS at nearby Bowling Green State University. While there, he majored in Geology, specializing in Paleobiology. For his independent research project, Erick studied pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that had large wing membranes and long skulls, and lived at the same times as dinosaurs. His work focused on their paleoecology and distribution, along with functional morphology of their hind limbs. Erick came to Marshall to earn his MS degree working with Dr. Robin O'Keefe, analyzing pterosaur morphology and ontogeny (their growth).

    Erick first became interested in pterosaurs when he chose them for a class project where he performed a phylogenetic analysis of their evolution, essentially mapping the relationships of some known species of pterosaurs using specific anatomical characteristics. He is now continuing his research of pterosaur morphology by accumulating ten specific length measurements from the fossilized bones of over a hundred individual specimens, which represent almost a third of the approximately 150 known species. Using these measurements, Erick will analyze the variation among these species in order to place them into functional groups that represent known differences in pterosaur lifestyles. Just as modern birds have different flight types and thrive in different environmental settings, so did pterosaurs, which appeared a little over a hundred million years before birds. The pterosaur fossils that have been analyzed indicate different levels of flight capability, from having to constantly flap their wings to stay in the air to amazing gliders that used external sources of lift to stay airborne. The statistical differences between these groups are being examined, and will be used to help determine phylogenetic groupings (which represent the relationships between organisms). For a second major area of Erick's research, he is studying certain species of pterosaurs whose fossils are plentiful enough to allow an analysis of growth patterns such as in the well known species Pterodactylus antiques. This work will focus on the differential growth of bones within each species throughout their lives, from juvenile to adult, to determine the different rates present at different life stages, after which the species will then be compared to each other. This is a novel approach to pterosaur analysis that Erick hopes will produce interesting results!

    After graduating, Erick will continue his career as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery, and eventually will apply to a doctoral program to resume the pterosaur research he started at Marshall.

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Stuffed Cells by Zedmalia Wolfe
The scientifically-correct adventures of an archaean, a plant cell, and an animal cell.


Association for Southeastern Biologists: 2015 Meeting Coming Up!

    The 2015 Association for Southeastern Biologists (ASB) meeting will be held April 1-4, in Chattanooga, TN. ASB was established in 1937, and is the largest regional biology association in the country. The meeting is attended by about 1,000 biologists each year, who gather to hear research presentations, as well as to attend special symposia and poster sessions. The annual ASB meeting is also a great opportunity for networking and finding out what fellow biologists are doing! See the ASB website for more details.

Volunteers Needed for the Annual Brain Expo!

    Marshall University's Annual Brain Expo is scheduled for March 6, 2015, at the Memorial Student Center. Volunteers are needed to present interactive stations that teach children about the brain and nervous system. These stations include games and activities like testing reflexes, touching real brains, coloring brain hats, and many others to present information in a fun way. Expo_1One of our major objectives is simply to expose children to science outside of the classroom and to get them excited about it. Volunteers do not need to have neuroscience training and will be given the information necessary to present their station. All volunteers will receive a free Brain Expo T-shirt. If you would like to sign up, please visit our site; email questions to February 25 is the volunteering deadline. Visit Brain Expo for more information, a list of stations, and pictures from previous events.

Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid Available

    The Sigma Xi research society sponsors research experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students by awarding grants of up to $1,000. Funding may be used to support travel expenses to a research site, or for the purchase of necessary research equipment. The annual deadlines for application are October 15 and March 15. For complete information on this opportunity, visit Sigma Xi's website.

Brag Box An abbreviated list of recent BSC student and faculty accomplishments:
  • Dr. Fet and BSC BS and MS graduate Dr. Matt Graham (now an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Eastern Connecticut State University) have published on two new species of scorpions. If you'd like to read their article, the full citation is: Fet, V., Graham, M.R., Webber, M.M, and Blagoev, G. 2014. Two new species of Euscorpius (Scorpiones: Euscorpiidae) from Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece. Zootaxa 3894 (1): 083-105.
  • In December, Dr. Gilliam participated in two meetings. In Ghent, Belgium, collaborative researchers met for a workshop known as ForestREplot, a project to synthesize data of the herbaceous layer of temperate deciduous forests around the world. Dr. Gilliam presented the lead talk, titled "Contribution of the herbaceous layer to forest biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function." ForestREplot has published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (De Frenne et al. 2013).

       The meeting in Lille, France, was a joint convening of the British Ecological Society and the Société Française d'Ecologie. Dr. Gilliam chaired oral paper session S41: Forest Ecology--Forests and Environmental Change, and also presented a paper titled, "Effects of excess nitrogen deposition on plant diversity of contrasting forest ecosystems."

Selected BSC Contact Information

Dr. David Mallory, BSC Chair S-350 (304) 696-2353
BSC Graduate Program Information   (304) 696-2427
BSC office, TA applications, various forms S-350 (304) 696-3148
Susan Weinstein, BSC News S-204 (304) 696-2428


Download pdfs of this or any past issue of the Biological Sciences Newsletter by clicking on the archive links to the right.

Department of Biological Sciences | One John Marshall Drive | Science Building 350 | Huntington, WV 25755 | (304) 696-3148