Spring 2019 UofS Career Expo, Thurs., April 4, 11AM-2PM; Byron Center

Biological Sciences Students:

The Center for Career Development is hosting the Career Expo on Thursday, April 4 from 11:00am-2:00pm in the Byron.  There will be 120 employers/grad schools/long-term service organizations there.  We encourage all years and all majors to attend.  Attached below is a list of employers specific to CAS majors.



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Summer Paid Job Opportunity addressing Regional Invasive Species Outbreak

The US Department of Agriculture has announced the following opportunity for a paid summer job in Northeastern Pennsylvania to help them address an ongoing outbreak of the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species threatening grapes, fruit orchards and hardwood trees.
More information on this infestation can be gotten through the following report from National Public Radio:


If you are interested in applying for this job, please download the PDF attached below and send in the application to the address provided. (Note that the document below had been edited to provide a correct email address to which you should send your application.)


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Spring 2019 Seminar Series

This semester’s seminar series is underway!

The first speaker, Tim Sweeney, talked about his experience working in medical technology as the Northeast Head of Health Economics and Reimbursement at LivaNova PLC.

The remaining speakers of the semester are ecologists whose integrative work ranges from physiology to modeling and evolution.

On Thursday, March 28th, at 11:30 AM in LSC 334, Colin Kremer (Yale University) will discuss his work modeling ecological dynamics in his seminar, “From beakers to ocean: microbial ecology in a changing world.”

Next, our own Chris Howey will talk on Tuesday, April 16th, at 11:30 AM in LSC 334 about his rattlesnake research, “The history and ecology of rattlesnakes in an ever-changing world.”

On Thursday, April 25th, at 11:30 AM in LSC 334, our final speaker, Beth Norman (Lacawac Biological Station), will give us a taste of aquatic ecology with “Nutrient cycling in Appalachian streams: following nitrogen from microbes through food webs.”

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Summer Research Program for Cancer Prevention and Control

STEP-UP Summer Research Program

Summer Research Experience for Undergraduate and Master’s Level Students in Cancer Prevention and Control – STEP-UP is looking for outstanding upperclassman undergraduate and Master’s level students from diverse backgrounds to participate in a paid, 12-week transformative research experience in cancer prevention and control science. For more information and to apply, please visit STEP-UP. Applications open now – Due Feb. 1.

For more info please contact: Karen Dickeson, program coordinator, kdickeson@email.arizona.edu, 520-626-2639

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Name The Rattlesnake – Vote Now!

Over the past few weeks, we received 57 name suggestions for the resident Timber Rattlesnake.  The members of Dr. Howey’s Lab picked the top 15 names, and now it is your turn to vote for your favorite!  Follow the link below and choose the name that you think should win!  You can only vote once, and all votes are confidential.  Voting will end on December 7th.

As a reminder, the person who submitted the winning name will win a $25 Starbucks Gift Card.

The Timber Rattlesnake that now resides outside of Dr. Howey’s office (LSC 251) is a female, yellow morph Timber Rattlesnake.  In addition to her common name (Timber Rattlesnake), she was also given a scientific name by Carl Linnaeus back in 1758 – Crotalus horridus.  The genus, Crotalus, actually means “rattle”, and all rattlesnakes throughout North America share this same genus name with the exception of pygmy rattlesnakes.  In addition to these names, Timber Rattlesnakes have also been called the Gentleman’s Rattlesnake because they are less aggressive than other rattlesnake species.  The name that we will pick through our competition, will serve as a nickname for our friend that has become part of the Scranton family.


To vote for your favorite name, click here!



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Name the Snake! … and win $25 Starbucks Gift Card!

This past summer, the Biology Department gained a new member – A Snake!

To be exact, the snake is a Timber Rattlesnake, and it is the center of Dr. Chris Howey’s research here in the Biology Department.  Much of Dr. Howey’s research focuses on understanding the ecology of reptiles, how changes in the environment affect these reptiles, and how we can conserve and manage these reptilian populations.  Maintaining healthy populations of Timber Rattlesnakes within our woods actually provides many benefits for other members of those ecosystems, as well as humans that come to visit those ecosystems!  However, many folks are scared of snakes.  Dr. Howey believes that much of this frightfulness stems from a lack of knowledge about snakes.  The more we know about Timber Rattlesnakes, perhaps we will be less scared of these animals.  Therefore, in addition to conducting research on rattlesnakes, Dr. Howey also conducts outreach with rattlesnakes – teaching people more about these animals, more about their ecology, behaviors, their history, how our Nations History intertwines with this animal, and how we can safely interact with these animals on the landscape.

The Timber Rattlesnake’s scientific name is Crotalus horridus and it is one of 3 venomous snakes found within Pennsylvania.  The other venomous snakes are Copperheads and Pygmy Rattlesnakes.  The venom produced by a rattlesnake is primarily used as a digestive enzyme – the more the food item is broken down into smaller pieces, the easier it is to absorb those nutrients.  The diet of the Timber Rattlesnake typically consists of mice, voles, shrews, and chipmunks.  Larger rattlesnakes may eat slightly larger prey like rabbits and squirrels, but that would be a very big rattlesnake.  The Timber Rattlesnake typically exhibit one of two color patterns – a Black Morph or a Yellow Morph.  A Timber Rattlesnake cannot change this trait throughout it’s lifetime – a yellow morph will always be a yellow morph.

The Timber Rattlesnake that now resides outside of Dr. Howey’s office (LSC 251) is a female, yellow morph Timber Rattlesnake.  Some time in the past 5-8 years, she was illegally captured from the wild by someone who was trying to collect many different reptile species for their own personal collection.  When this collection became known to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the illegally captured reptiles were confiscated.  Unfortunately, because we do not know where this individual came from, we cannot release her back into the wild (she would not know how to locate a den to overwinter within and she may not know where to find food within her environment).  Therefore, she will live out her life as a steward of her species; helping to educate the public on Timber Rattlesnakes.  Hopefully, with the aid of this beautiful animal, we can help change the negative outlook that many people have regarding Timber Rattlesnakes.

The Timber Rattlesnake is in the top cage with the light on. She is currently sitting under the rock. The Ballot Box is shown below the cage, and ballots must be inserted into the mouth of the snake!!!!

So now that she has taken up residence among the halls of the Loyola Science Center, it is only fitting to provide her with a name!  Of course, she will always have the name bestowed on her by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 as Crotalus horridus, but we can provide her with a more updated name as well.  So, we need your help in thinking up the perfect name for this beautiful animal!  Swing by Loyola Science Center and introduce yourself to the rattlesnake.  Then, when you have a good name, write it on a ballot slip and place it in the Deposit Box sitting next to her cage.  Everyone is always welcome to come and visit the snake whenever you wish.  And similar to zoos and aquariums, please don’t knock on the glass or try to scare the snake, because that is just rude.  We want to make sure our new friend is comfortable and at ease the entire time she lives here.

On November 21st, we will stop accepting ballots.  Then, over Thanksgiving Break, we will pick a name from among the ballots.  If your entry gets chosen, then you will win a $25 Gift Card to Starbucks and you will get a picture with the snake!  Of course for safety reasons she will remain in her cage 😉





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SynAPSE brings science-in-action to local Elementary

On October 19th, a group of 12 Biology students and two faculty visited a local elementary school (McNichols Plaza) to give a program about the nervous system and their senses to the 4th graders. These fantastic hands-on activities get the elementary students excited about the real-life implications of what they learn in the classroom.

This event is part of the annual activities of SynAPSE (Synergistic Activity Program for Science Education). In the spring, the same students will take a field trip to the University for a more advanced set of activities introducing them to experimental design and data collection. Any University students interested in volunteering to help should contact Dr. Gomez or Dr. Son.

To read more about the programs presented this fall, check out this article.

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American Museum of Natural History Trip

The Biology Department is sponsoring a trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on November 10th.  A bus will leave the Loyola Science Center at 8:30 am and will depart the Museum at 5:30 pm.  Transportation and admission into the museum is covered!  So this is an amazing trip that will cost you nothing.

There are only a few seats left on the bus!  So, if you are interested in joining us for an amazing trip, please contact Dr. Cara Krieg as soon as possible.  You can reach her at cara.krieg@scranton.edu or just swing by her office (LSC374).


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Understanding when we can dig deeper to discover more information on archaeological bones

When archeologists discover bones lying deep underground, within ruins, or hidden inside a dark cave, these scientists can use methods like radiocarbon dating to age the bones, or methods like stable isotope analysis to discover the diet of the organism to whom the bones belong. In order to use these methods, the scientists extracts collagen from the bone, and it is with that collagen that the scientist can run the aforementioned tests.  Unfortunately, there are many cases when scientists go to extract collagen from a bone and it is not there – over the many years the bones laid dormant within the earth, the collagen escaped the confines of the bone (i.e., decayed).  When scientists do find collagen, the extraction process causes damage to the bone and negates the preservation of the artifact.

Recent work by Dr. Maria Squire and colleagues identifies non-destructive methods that can be used by scientists to first determine if collagen is present within a bone before any destructive techniques come into play.  Dr. Squire used microCT scanning to take high resolution images of the minuscule structures of bone (see Fig. 1 below).  She found that bones with high corticol porosity, that is a large number of holes within the bone, are unlikely to contain enough collagen for analyses like radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis (see ET50 in Fig. 1). However, she also found a large amount of variation with the microCT results.  So, Dr. Squire and colleagues used additional tests – one being mercury porosimetry – to further test the porosity of the bones.  These other techniques can detect pores so small, that they do not show up on microCT images.  For example, specimen ET60 (see Fig. 1) appears to lack many pores according to the microCT image, and thus one would expect to find a suitable amount of collagen within the bone for additional analyses; however, this bone does actually contain pores, but these pores are extraordinary small!  These minuscule pores were detected by mercury porosimetry, and thus, this bone would be deemed unacceptable for further analyses as there is a good chance it does not contain collagen.  In fact, ET60 contained no collagen and if someone tried to extract collagen from it, then they would be destroying the artifact for nothing.

Figure 1. Two microCT scans of bones examined the Tripp et al. paper. Specimen ET50 exhibits a much greater amount of porosity compared to specimen ET60; however, additional analyses revealed small pores throughout ET60 as well.

The destruction of this bone can aid in our on-going quest for knowledge about that organism, but this comes at the cost of the damage done to the bone.  The fantastic research by Dr. Squire and her colleagues, however, should limit this destruction as scientists can now use these less invasive techniques to identify suitable bone candidates.

To read more about Dr. Squire’s research, please keep on the lookout for the release of this article “Use of micro-computed tomography imaging and porosity measurements as indicators of collagen preservation in archaeological bone” in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

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Biology Seminar Series

The monthly departmental seminar series is up and running again, with a new speaker coming at the end of each month. Everyone is welcome – including faculty and students from every part of the University. We’re halfway through the speakers for the fall, with two more coming.

Wednesday, October 24th, alumna Maria Gubbioti (currently a PhD candidate doing research at Jefferson Medical College, Jefferson University) will talk about her work from 3:15-4:15 in LSC 233.

Dr. James Sobel (an evolutionary ecologist studying speciation and local adaptation in monkeyflowers at Binghamton University) will give the last seminar of the semester, on Thursday, November 29th, 11:30am-12:30pm. Location TBA; watch for flyers around the LSC in the days before each seminar.

We have an exciting line-up for the spring, with names, dates and titles set for release in early January. Bring a friend!


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