• September 19, 2018
    Résumé: Alaska, Galapagos
    Senior marine biology major finds CMU puts top research sites within reach

    Sam engster in alaskaA high school student who wants to become a marine biologist might naturally look beyond mid-Michigan to go to college. But as senior biology major Samantha Engster discovered, Central Michigan University offers waves of opportunities to get your feet wet. Since her arrival as a freshman, the Lapeer, Michigan, native has been scuba diving with sharks in the Galapagos Islands, splashing with sea lions in Alaska and tussling with turtles right here in Michigan. "Being able to get the experiences as an undergraduate is one of the big draws for CMU," said Bradley Swanson, biology faculty member in the College of Science and Engineering. "We might not be as large as U-M or MSU, but we have the same quality of opportunities. And students here have a higher likelihood of taking advantage of those opportunities because of the fewer students."

  • September 17, 2018
    Sniffing Out Sharks
    UCSB researchers use eDNA protocols developed at CMU to detect the presence of white sharks in local waters

    Photo courtesy of Chris Jerde, UCSB
    illustration demonstrating the e d n a cycle(UCSB - Santa Barbara, California) A white shark’s acute sense of smell is legendary, giving it the ability to detect a potential meal several miles away, and giving those of us who work and play in the ocean something to think about when we’re in the water. Now, thanks to a collaboration between USGS and UC Santa Barbara researchers, as well as with colleagues from California State University Long Beach (CSULB) and Central Michigan University (CMU), we can smell them right back. Through developments in environmental DNA (eDNA), scientists — and perhaps soon any curious individual — can determine if these sharks have been in the area.

    “The ultimate goal is for a lifeguard to walk down to the shore, scoop up some water, shake it and see if white sharks are around,” said Kevin Lafferty, a United States Geological Survey ecologist and researcher with the UCSB Marine Science Institute, and lead author of the paper “Detecting southern California’s white sharks with environmental DNA,” published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

    The results of the paper add to a growing body of evidence that white sharks, which had been experiencing a decline in numbers due to overfishing, have for the last several years been experiencing a comeback along the California coast.

    “This is growing evidence for population increase of white sharks in the entire Northeast Pacific region (Oregon to Mexico) based on successes stemming from state and federal protections from fishing, recovery of marine mammal populations and better fisheries management,” said CSULB white shark expert and study co-author Chris Lowe. “However, white shark population recovery has co-occurred during a period when more people are using the coastal ocean for recreation than ever before, ultimately increasing the likelihood for interactions. While sightings of juvenile white sharks have risen considerably along California over the last eight years, there has been no dramatic increase in shark bites on people.”

    Environmental DNA is genetic material collected from the environment, as opposed to within a living organism. Things animals may leave behind — such as mucus, feces, or shed skin — contain their genetic signatures, which can be parsed out and identified through genetic sequencing. Scientists can extract and amplify specific genes within the DNA fragments found in water samples, and determine if the DNA contained in the water sample is from a specific species they are looking for.

    Down the coast from UCSB in Carpinteria, Lowe had been acoustic and satellite tracking tagged juvenile sharks at one of several summer/fall nurseries along southern California. Lafferty and Lowe wondered if these sharks were leaving a detectable eDNA plume. Lafferty had little success using eDNA to sample for sharks until eDNA expert and MSI researcher Chris Jerde shared a new protocol he had developed with Andrew Mahon at Central Michigan University.

    “Ten years ago we started working on eDNA,” said Jerde, who is a co-author of the paper. “The advances in technology since then have dramatically improved the reliability, portability and widespread application of the method.”

    Using a new species-specific genetic analysis called digital droplet PCR, CMU biology professor and study co-author Andrew Mahon, designed specific genetic markers from white shark tissue that Lowe mailed him. Then Mahon’s student Kasey Benesh analyzed the water samples and controls blindly. Samples near the shark aggregation matched the genes in the white shark tissue, whereas water samples a mile away did not, confirming that a water sample could sniff out white sharks.

    Because eDNA can drift with currents, and sharks can swim long distances in the time it takes eDNA to degrade, the new approach only gives a rough idea about where sharks actually are in a particular moment. Still, “Chris Lowe can now add eDNA to his new white shark monitoring program, which includes real-time acoustic tracking and drone flights,” Lafferty said.

    For surfers, ocean swimmers and beach goers, the increase in white shark population may be a cause for concern. Although white sharks don’t feed on humans (and juveniles favor rays and other fish), they have certainly been known to bite out of defensiveness, curiosity or mistaken identity, causing grave or lethal injuries. Environmental DNA monitoring could give lifeguards and other people responsible for public safety a clue as to whether to be extra vigilant, and also help marine biologists understand how well white sharks are recovering in response to protection. “We can now sample eDNA along the coast to make better maps and seasons for white sharks,” Lafferty said, “And if we can do it for white sharks, we can do it for other marine species too.”

    “The other great thing about eDNA is that we can not only use it to determine whether white sharks have been present at a beach, but we can also use this technology to determine if their favorite food is there is well, such as stingrays,” Lowe said. “Once we are able to better refine and calibrate the methods, the goal will be to integrate eDNA technology into autonomous surface vehicles that can be programmed to move along the coast sampling water and will send data into the cloud along with text alerts to local lifeguards of the presence of white sharks at a particular location. This technology holds great promise for future, near real-time monitoring.”

    The result of the scientists’ study proves that eDNA sequencing has become a powerful tool for tracking the general movement of single species, as well as for the monitoring the biodiversity of a region in real time. Initially a tool to detect the presence of invasive species, such as Asian carp and bullfrogs, eDNA has also been used to detect threatened and endangered species that are often elusive, such as arroyo toads, California red-legged frogs and tidewater gobies.

    “New advances in eDNA are allowing for not just a single species to be detected, but instead the DNA for the water sample is screened for all fish species or all amphibian species,” Jerde said. “The same technology used to decode the human genome is now used to sequence all the DNA in a water sample. From this we can monitor fish stocks, measure the presence or absence of rare species, and better connect how climate change and pollution are impacting biodiversity.”

    This study was made possible with support from UCSB’s Marine Biodiversity Observation Network and through the Central Michigan University College of Science and Engineering to A. Mahon through his 2017 CSE Outstanding Research Award.
  • August 14, 2018
    Lakes summer program gets boost
    National Science Foundation grant will broaden reach, add mentors, programs

    Caroline Zabinski in a coastal wetlandThe early morning fog was thick on Beaver Island as Caroline Zabinski waded into the cold Lake Michigan water with a hand net. At about 50 feet out, the biology junior from Georgia Tech froze as a haunting sound pierced the haze. "Oh, my God! I heard a loon!" she yelled in excitement. "Oh, yes, I love the loon, too!" shouted Kevin Pangle, Central Michigan University biology faculty member. "This is the best!" By the end of Zabinski's 10 weeks in the CMU Great Lakes Summer Research Program at the Biological Station on Beaver Island, she not only added research skills to her scientist's toolbox but mastered making a loon's call with her hands. "It was one of the best summers I've ever had," said Zabinski, one of the five students in the program that brings five to seven students from around the country to work with CMU faculty members related to the Great Lakes ecosystems.

  • June 13, 2018
    CMU students receive grant to study impact of recreational trails
    Considerable research has been done on the impact such things as roads and large predators have on the wildlife of a specific ecosystem; however, we don’t know much about the impact of human recreational trails.

    Two CMU undergraduate honors biology students will be spending this summer studying just that. Shane Guenin and Carson Pakula recently received the Undergraduate Research Education for the Environment (URGE) Grant to study the feeding behavior of mammals, and how it differs at varying distances from a man-made hiking trail.

    Guenin and Pakula will spend this summer at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, located about 8 miles south of Hastings, Michigan. The PCCI is a beautiful 742-acre piece of property that contains swamps and marshes, old growth and newer forests, and restored prairie habitats. There they’ll study the effects anthropogenic trails have on small mammals.

    To do this, they will use 40 different motion-sensor trail cameras to capture animal movement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    “We're looking for patterns in the duration of a species' time feeding, their flight and return times when humans approach, and the species abundance and diversity at 0, 15, 30, and 45 meters from the trail”, said Guenin.

    “Depending on what we find here, it can assist in a more holistic approach to recreational management not only at the Institute (PCCI) but at recreational areas across Michigan.”
  • May 8, 2018
    2018 Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Begins
    Great Lakes coastal wetland monitoring began for the 2018 season with visits by CMU students and staff to Lake Erie near Luna Pier and Lake Michigan near Douglas. The crew checked for fish and macroinvertebrates, as well as testing water quality. Data is collected as part of a USGS-funded complementary project to CMU’s 10 year multi-institution EPA-funded project monitoring wetland health across the Great Lakes basin.









    Bridget Wheelock holding fishJessica Koriara sampling for invertebrates
  • April 23, 2018
    Beaver Island classes revamped
    Summer courses shortened, several opened to nonstudents

    CMU Biological StationGraduate student Shannon McWaters describes her weekslong Central Michigan University undergraduate biology class at the Biological Station on Beaver Island as "kind of like a college summer camp. "You have your classroom with a view of the water, and right after the lecture you go out to the field and actually see what you have learned." Her experience gave her not only a new view on education, but also a new direction: It was her class on animal behavior with faculty member Wiline Pangle that led to the opportunity to pursue her master's degree and become Pangle's graduate assistant. "I wouldn't be in grad school today if I hadn't gone up to Beaver Island," said McWaters, from Dorr, Michigan.

  • April 23, 2018
    Chemical leak in straits of Mackinac
    an "eye-opener" for wetland scientist

    Student paddling boat on Great Lakes WetlandA leading Great Lakes wetland scientist says the recent chemical leak from a pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac was an “eye-opener” that raised his concern for coastal wetlands in the area. “This time it was a substance that likely poses minimal risk, but next time that may not be the case,” Central Michigan University Professor Don Uzarski told Great Lakes Now.

  • April 18, 2018
    CMU students present and bring home awards from 6th annual Midwest C. elegans Meeting
    students with Dr. Jennifer SchisaA group CMU students from two different labs recently participated in the 6th annual Midwest C. elegans Meeting at Eastern Michigan University.

    All together 17 CMU students (13 undergraduate and 4 M.S.) attended the meeting with two talks given by M.S. students from Jennifer Schisa's lab, two posters presented by students from Jennifer Schica's lab, and 3 posters presented by students from Xantha Karp's lab.  

    Students from Dr. Karp's LabOne poster from the Karp lab won best poster (undergraduate), and another won an honorable mention for best poster (undergraduate).








  • April 4, 2018
    Biology students bring home awards from microbiology meeting
    Bria Graham, Amber Ide, Kory Hobbs, and Matt BuccilliA handful of CMU biology students recently made the trip to Davenport University in Grand Rapids for the American Society for Microbiology Michigan Chapter meeting. Bria Graham, Amber Ide, and Kory Hobbs each presented posters while Matt Buccilli was chosen to give a talk. Graham won best graduate student poster and Buccilli won best graduate student talk.



  • March 27, 2018
    Name tags for Great Lakes fauna
    Grants support cataloging invertebrates, searching for human impact on ecosystem

    students in coastal wetlandCentral Michigan University Great Lakes researchers are taking the tedium out of identifying lab specimens of invertebrates found in Michigan coastal wetlands, such as larval insects and snails. Their work got a recent boost when CMU's Institute for Great Lakes Research received additional grants of $400,000 and $226,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey to help protect and improve Great Lakes coastal wetlands. This is in addition to the current $20 million Great Lakes coastal wetland grant led by Don Uzarski, IGLR director. The first $400,000 grant was obtained by faculty member Andrew Mahon and Uzarski, who are working to develop a bar code system using DNA that will let researchers quickly and accurately identify lab specimens. The coding can save countless hours spent looking through microscopes, and the data will be entered into a national database for broad use.

  • March 26, 2018
    Mussel-strengthening research
    CMU teams to assess health of Kalamazoo watershed by testing condition of mollusks

    student examining mussles in riverAsk Central Michigan University biology faculty member Daelyn Woolnough why she studies freshwater mussels, and she brings up canaries. "They are kind of like the canary in the coal mine," she explained. "If you start to see them declining, we start to see the decline in water quality. Then, we see a decline of higher level organisms, like fish, being affected." Preventing that decline is the mission she and her team of students will take this summer to the Kalamazoo watershed, a large portion of which was devastated by an oil spill in 2010. Bolstering the project is a three-year, $499,000 grant from the Kalamazoo River Community Recreational Foundation. CMU also is partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on the research.

  • February 22, 2018
    Salamanders with personality
    Biology graduate student finds CMU the perfect habitat for his research

    Shaundon MooreIn case you've ever wondered, salamanders have personality. Not so much that they can do TV commercials, but some are aggressive, others are not. Central Michigan University biology graduate student Shaundon Moore knows that from previous studies. What the second-year student wants to know now is if their personalities affect the surrounding ecosystem. Amphibians are an important part of our ecosystem, said Moore's faculty advisor and fellow herpetologist Kirsten Nicholson, and the ones he is studying, though prevalent in Michigan, have not been studied much.

  • February 22, 2018
    CMU Alumns Return As Now Environmental Health Specialists
    Elizabeth KalninsLast January the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality held a well training workshop at CMU. Presenting the workshop was Elizabeth Kalnins, Environmental Quality Analyst for MDEQ and 2012 CMU Environmental Health & Safety alum.Zachary Shaeding, Elizabeth Kalnins, and Adam Byrne Also participating in the workshop were Zachary Shaeding from the Bay County Health Department, and Adam Byrne from the Mid-Michigan Health Department, both 2016 CMU Environmental Health & Safety graduates.

    The Environmental Health & Safety program at CMU is an interdisciplinary program with the College of Health Professions and the College of Science and Engineering.
  • February 12, 2018
    Biology professor discusses science of attraction, mate choice
    Starr WalkerWho you end up in a relationship with might have more to do with your genes than your personal preferences says one Central Michigan University professor. Wiline Pangle of the Department of Biology studies the relationship between animal behavior and environmental conditions. At CMU, the behavioral ecologist teaches courses pertaining to animal behavior, evolution and ecology. She also teaches general biology classes for biology majors and non-majors. Every spring around Valentine’s Day, Pangle lectures students in her non-major biology class about the science of love.


  • December 18, 2017
    Fired Up & Focused! Meet Starr Walker
    Starr WalkerStarr Walker knew at a young age she was interested in science. As a younger student, she completed a project on coral reefs and was devastated to discover that the coral reefs are projected to go extinct within the next 100 years. Since then, Starr has been passionate about studying and researching biology to help save the reefs and positively impact the environment. This passion led her to CMU, and she found a community that was welcoming, friendly and just as passionate about issues that matter.

  • December 18, 2017
    Doing good research in Badlands
    Biology graduate student works to increase survivability of black-footed ferrets
    Payton PhillipsWhen biology graduate student Payton Phillips was young, she wasn't allowed to have a ferret. "I always wanted a ferret as a pet and to name it Niffler after the creature in the Harry Potter books and movies, but my mother thought they were smelly and would get into stuff," she said. Now she handles as many as she can get her hands on. Phillips is a graduate research assistant to biology faculty member Bradley Swanson, who has been researching ways to increase the long-term survivability of black-footed ferrets in the wild.

  • November 30, 2017
    Fired Up and Focused! Meet Donald Uzarski
    Donald UzarskiDonald Uzarski grew up in the outdoors. It was the natural world, and how it was connected, that drew him to it. It's no wonder he became a biology major, with a focus on natural resources. "I have known that I wanted to go into biology for as long as I can remember," he said. "I grew up outdoors and have always been fascinated with biodiversity and ecology."

  • November 20, 2017
    CMU biology student bound for Yale
    John McCartyJohn McCarty, biology major and small forward on Central Michigan University's basketball team, has made a lot of sacrifices along the way, but he'll pack his bags this summer and head to New Haven, Connecticut. He is a member of the honors college, a student athlete, and will be attending Yale School of Medicine Physician Associate Program this August.

    After a two-day interview process, including time with students and faculty, McCarty knew if he got the call, he was going to Yale. "I fell in love with the curriculum style," McCarty said. "They bring in physicians from Yale New Haven Hospital and they guest lecture, so the lecturers are extremely passionate about the subjects that they teach."

    "They let us sit in on a lecture, so we got to sit in on Parasitology and there was a Gastroenterologist that gave that lecture." McCarty continued, "all the faculty are extremely supportive of their students there's an open-door policy, everybody's approachable."
    His journey hasn't been an easy one. "It's been difficult, that's for sure, " McCarty said. "Sometimes on Friday night if I wanted to take a break or go out with my friends, maybe I had to do a little bit of homework because I knew all of my Saturday was booked with a game."

    "It's all been towards my main goal of going to PA school and it just happened that I worked hard enough and made enough sacrifices that I've been able to reach my goal at a place like Yale."

    As a biology major, McCarty conducts research with Dr. Cynthia Damer and Dr. Michelle Steinhilb.

    "Dr. Steinhilb is studying how the protein tau becomes toxic in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, while I use the single-celled model organism, Dictyostelium discoideum, to study basic cellular processes," said Dr. Cynthia Damer. "John is working on putting the human tau gene into Dicytostelium and characterizing how tau becomes toxic to cells."

    "I'm working to express the wild-type version of human tau along with three mutant versions of tau," McCarty said. "We hope to see how the tau proteins are modified in Dictyostelium and then, hopefully relate that back to how tau is modified in human brains to cause Alzheimer's disease."

    Tau is a protein we all have in the neurons in our brain. It attaches to microtubules, similar to the way railroad ties attach to train tracks. These microtubules help shuttle key materials throughout the brain. Tau proteins keep the microtubules, the tracks, stabilized. When tau proteins dissociate from the microtubules, the "tracks" fall apart. When this happens, transport of critical cellular cargo fails, and neurons eventually die. When the neurons die, patients experience the classic clinical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease such as memory loss, confusion, and personality changes.

    In the long run, "we hope that Dictyostelium may be able to provide an inexpensive system to test pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease," McCarty said.

    Challenging course work as well as being a student athlete has certainly helped McCarty prepare for this next step. "I've been loaded up with 15 credits every semester since I've been here. I've played on the basketball team, which has forced me to manage my time between practices, and then of course I've done research as well."

    "Having to schedule all three things throughout the week can be difficult. It's definitely prepared me to move into the rigorous course load that I'll see in PA school especially at Yale."

    McCarty will begin attending Yale in August. "I'll have 12 months of didactic education, which is just basically book work and then after that I start my clinical period," McCarty said. "I'll have seven 4-week rotations that are mandatory and then 4 elective rotations."

    The end of his journey is in sight though. When it's all over, McCarty says he will either stay in New Haven or come back to Michigan and start working.
  • October 12, 2017
    Alumnus speaks to students about turtle conservation
    Photo courtesy of CM Life
    Matt CrossMatt Cross, conservation biologist and Central Michigan University alumnus spoke to biology students about his project regarding the conservation of Eastern Box Turtles and his job at the Toledo Zoo Oct. 12 in the Biosciences building.  Cross received his bachelor’s degree in biology and his master’s in conservation biology and geography from CMU. He received his doctorate from Bowling Green State University in 2016.  While at BGSU, Cross studied the behaviors and movement patterns of Eastern Box Turtles in the Oak Openings Preserve, a nature preserve located between Swanton and Whitehouse, Ohio. He and his team worked with park managers to find ways to protect the endangered species within the nature preserve.

  • August 22, 2017
    Invasive of not? A Great Lakes puzzle
    Scott McNaught and Emily Wimmer with graduate studentsAround the Great Lakes, millions of dollars are spent to fight invasive species like Asian carp. They cause a lot of damage. But when scientists discover a new animal or plant in the region, it’s not always clear if it’s harmful - or helpful.  That debate has begun over a shrimp.   The bloody red shrimp is roughly the size of a pencil eraser. They came to the Great Lakes around 2006, hitching a ride in the ballast water of cargo ships from the Black Sea.   Since then, they’ve worked their way into all of the Great Lakes except Superior.   Scott McNaught, a biology professor at Central Michigan University, says food sources for the shrimp are mainly animal plankton and algae. But mention the bloody red shrimp as "invasive," and he grimaces.

  • August 7, 2017
    Are chemicals making mussels sick?
    CMU researchers simulate effects of contaminated waterways
    Grace Henderson (left), a junior biology student, and Lacey Rzodkiewicz, a graduate biology student, go over tanks containing baThe next time you pour a drink of filtered water, you can raise your glass to a natural ally: freshwater mussels.  Each one filters bad stuff out of water to the tune of 60 gallons a day.  But today's mussels have a lot more on their plates than the fine organic matter their ancestors enjoyed back in the day. The menu now includes herbicides, medicines, toothpastes, perfumes, deodorants and any other chemicals that find their way into the water system.

  • August 6, 2017
    New curriculum builds better biologists
    CMU majors are streamlined, but offer more opportunities than ever
    A revised biology curriculum at Central Michigan University appears to be paying off in a big way. The plan, introduced last fall, has streamlined the course offerings while providing a wider learning base that builds on itself. The new curriculum also allows for more hands-on research and makes graduates more marketable to employers.

  • July 28, 2017
    CMU students work to solve mystery of disappearing Lake Whitefish
    Dr. Uzarski and students in Lake MichiganThere’s a mystery on the Great Lakes and it’s one that students at Central Michigan University are trying to help solve.  CMU biology students are putting in detective work to help solve the mystery of disappearing lake whitefish.  The species’ importance to northern Michigan is undeniable: The popularity of Great Lakes whitefish as a food source fuels a solid commercial fishing industry.  But their numbers are dropping. Younger ones remain plentiful for sure, but the adults are getting scarcer.

  • July 24, 2017
    With fewer predators, chipmunks enjoy island life
    CMU graduate student finds critters aren't as vigilant about their safety
    Grad student, Shannon McWaters on Beaver IslandFor the chipmunks on Michigan's Beaver Island, life's a bit like a class with a substitute teacher: It's easy to slack off and not pay attention.  But for their cousins on the mainland, ceaseless vigilance remains the ticket to staying alive.  Shannon McWaters, a first-year graduate student at Central Michigan University, is studying the level of chipmunk watchfulness on and off the island. She's finding the island critters are taking full advantage of the relative dearth of predators such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons, weasels and hawks.

  • July 5, 2017
    Beaver Island attracts next generation of Great Lakes Scientists
    When you talk with Great Lakes scientist Jessica Kosiara it helps to be ready for terms like "trophic level fish" and "wetland food webs".  It's the language of her profession, aquatic ecology.  Don't worry, Kosiara will break it down for you.  She knows it's important for today's Great Lakes scientists to communicate in understandable language.  Language that families can relate to like those in Flint and Toledo who have experienced the sting of drinking water failures.

  • June 28, 2017
    The last line of defense say CMU scientists on Beaver Island, Lake Michigan
    Don Uzarski in front of MV ChippewaWhen Don Uzarski graduated from college, a career as a Great Lakes scientist wasn’t in his plans.  He had majored in computer science in college and taken a programming job.  “That lasted about a day,” Uzarski told Great Lakes Now as he was revving up the engine on the Great Lakes research vessel “Chippewa” off Beaver Island in Lake Michigan.  Uzarski re-tooled to become an aquatic ecologist after realizing that the passion and interests he developed from living near lakes in his youth were meant to be his profession.  Fast-forward a couple of decades and Professor Uzarski now directs the Institute for Great Lakes Research at Central Michigan University.

  • May 30, 2017
    Tiny world of microscopy opens up giant career prospects
    Here are five reasons why CMU program deserves a hard look
    Student Using Electron MicroscopeMay 30, 2017 - Remember the first time you looked at a leaf or an anthill through a magnifying glass? Or a fly's wing through a science-class microscope? Multiply that thrill by 3 million times. That's what undergraduates in Central Michigan University's microscopy program experience when they take the controls of powerful electron microscopes in the university's new Biosciences Building — equipment that students at other schools might not get to touch until grad school.

  • May 22, 2017
    CMU part of group receiving $20 million to keep tabs on Great Lakes
    Biologist says grant cements university's role as key research institution
    Boat House and MV Chippewa on Beaver IslandCentral Michigan University will be one of nine research institutions participating in a new effort to head off crises on the Great Lakes. It's quite a feather in CMU's cap, according to Donald Uzarski, a biology professor and director of the CMU Institute for Great Lakes Research. The university currently is a Level 2 research school — rankings are similar to divisions in college sports — but Uzarski says this proves CMU can hold its own with anyone.

  • May 19, 2017
    CMU Biologist receives $740,000 early career award
    Xantha Karp will use grant to study mysteries of organism development
    Xantha Karp and student examining image on screenThe ways organisms develop, and how they adapt when things go wrong, fascinate biologist Xantha Karp. For Karp, an assistant professor in Central Michigan University's College of Science and Engineering, they're part of "the big, big question." Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, Karp will receive $740,000 over the next five years to follow her passion in depth. This month the foundation announced Karp received its Faculty Early Career Development Program award.

  • May 2, 2017
    Invasive species gang up on native crayfish
    Invasive species in the Great Lakes are ganging up against native species. A study looking into invasive zebra and quagga mussels’ relationship with invasive rusty crayfish illustrates how the harm they cause together can be greater than either of them alone. “What we found was that these invasive crayfish are really good at exploiting the resources provided by the (invasive) mussels,” said Mael Glon, who worked on this research while pursuing a Master’s degree at Central Michigan University. “I don’t just mean eating them, because they are eating them, but they’re also eating what grows from what’s filtered from the mussels.”

  • March 16, 2017
    Joanne Dannenhoffer to receive President's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity
    The President's Award recognizes outstanding senior faculty members for their scholarship of national and international Merit.  Dannenhoffer is one of the country's leading plant structural biologists, with three main focuses in cellular molecular characterization of seed storage products, developmental anatomical studies of phloem - the sugar-conducting tissue in plants - and paleo botanical studies of...




  • March 2, 2017
    Waist-deep in wetlands for research
    Graduate student uncovers evidence for change in Great Lakes management
    Nutrient imbalances in the Great Lakes, once under control, have begun to reappear, bringing with them harmful algal blooms and toxic water conditions. These algal blooms are responsible for killing wildlife and shutting down beaches. Central Michigan University graduate student Laura Moore is looking to find the culprit.

  • February 6, 2017
    Game-changing research examines Great Lakes contaminants
    Daelyn Woolnough in front of a table full of musselsHow pharmaceuticals, shampoo and chemicals could affect freshwater mussels and our water.







  • January 10, 2017
    CMU Biological Station looks ahead and reflects on busy and vibrant 2016 season
    2017 promises to be another busy year at CMUBS.  Please join us for another series of Field Trips, Seminars and Scientific Cruises once again focusing on changes in the Lake Michigan Food Web. 

    Here's a brief look back at 2016:

    CMUBS celebrated its 50th year anniversary of becoming a Biological Station with the annual open house celebration at Whiskey Point boathouse seeing a record crowd taking part in activities, touring the M/V Chippewa, Mesocosm, exploring the various research that is ongoing at CMUBS and reminiscing over the past 50 years.  In addition, a special evening honoring the people responsible for the success of CMUBS was held at the main CMUBS campus.

    Researchers from CMU's Institute for Great Lakes Research installed a one-of-a-kind monitoring system on board the Beaver Island Boat Company's Emerald Isle Ferry that collects data on climate change factors and water quality issues in the Great Lakes.  For more information visit: https://www.cmich.edu/colleges/cst/iglr/pages/lakemichigandata.aspx

    Research Experience for undergraduates continued in 2016 and will again in 2017.  This program has brought some of the brightest undergraduate students from across the country to CMUBS.

    M/V Chippewa took trips on 26 days with a total of 164 aboard in 2016 using the CTD and ROV on nearly every trip.

    Mesocosm Facility at the Whiskey Point Boathouse was once again in use this past summer.  Be sure to stop by the boathouse on Tuesday July 18th during museum week to see what research is taking place in 2017.
  • December 28, 2017
    IGLR at CMU is looking forward to continuing its work in 2017
    The Institute for Great Lakes Research at Central Michigan University has been sampling wetlands and watersheds throughout the basin since 2010.

  • December 1, 2016
    What do you mean fish are swimming in the walls?
    A conversation with CMU’s first-ever aquatic vivarium manager
    The living wall and two freshwater aquariums are like natural works of art adorning the first floor hallway of Central Michigan University's new Biosciences Building. Michael O'Neill — CMU's first-ever aquatic vivarium manager — is the point person for maintaining these and the building's vivarium, which includes water tanks and temperature-controlled spaces that replicate real-life aquatic conditions for research.

    Read the rest of this story HERE
  • November 10, 2016
    New Residents Move into the Biosciences Building
    You'll notice some new additions the next time you walk the halls of the new Biosciences Building at CMU.  A group of Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Sea Lamprey have made a new home in the two fish tanks on display in the North hallway.

    "We are just starting out and getting the aquarium going," said Michael O'Neill, CMU Aquatic Vivarium Manager, "we are going with exhibiting Michigan fish that are both native and non-native to the local waters."

    Currently the Brook trout, the state fish of Michigan, are the only fish on display that are native to Michigan. 

    The rainbow trout and brown trout (native to Germany) were introduced as a sport fish as well as to help control populations of an invasive species, the alewife.  The sea lamprey are native to the Atlantic Ocean and were introduced accidently through shipping canals.  They nearly decimated the Lake trout population (another native Michigan fish) within the great lakes.  There are currently efforts by the DNR and Fish and wildlife to reduce their populations in local waters.

     "We plan to add other species in the future. I think the next possible species will be the Lake Trout and some bass species," Said O'Neill.

    The tanks also exhibit fish that are part of the research going on at CMU.  Dr. Kevin Pangle and his Graduate Student, Carson Prichard, are working together with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to improve our understanding of steelhead population biology in Lake Michigan and its tributaries. The name 'steelhead' describes a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that exhibits a migratory life history. Juvenile steelhead that are born in tributaries to the Great Lakes will make a downstream migration at 1-2 years old into the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes provide more abundant prey resources than the rivers in which steelhead are born, and as a result, steelhead grow to larger sizes than non-migratory rainbow trout.

    Each year, adult steelhead return to rivers and streams connected to the Great Lakes to spawn. This means that steelhead are able to support two large recreational fisheries – an open lake summer trolling fishery and an inland, river angling fishery in the fall thru spring months. Fishing for steelhead is very popular; since 1990 the annual lake wide recreational angling harvest of steelhead in Lake Michigan has ranged from about 30,000 to 130,000 per year. This figure does account for the inland fall-spring fishery whose harvest likely exceeds the summer trolling fishery.

    Although about 1.3 million steelhead are stocked within the Lake Michigan basin each year, a large portion of the Lake Michigan steelhead population is comprised of wild naturally reproduced fish. Rivers that have suitable-sized gravel (into which the eggs are laid), and cool summer water temperatures within the thermal requirements of juvenile steelhead, support natural reproduction. Many Lake Michigan tributaries support steelhead natural reproduction, however, the extent to which natural reproduction in each of these tributaries contributes individuals to the Lake Michigan steelhead population is unknown.

    The Lake Michigan steelhead population comprises what is known in fisheries science as a 'mixed-stock fishery' because it is composed of individual fish originating from many different tributaries, or stocks. Mixed-stock fisheries present difficulties for fisheries management because the composition of the mixed-stock fishery is often poorly understood. This makes it challenging to understand the role of certain influences, such as harvest, on the individual stocks, which are typically reproductively isolated, but are mixed during the period of harvest.

    Their research utilizes natural markers uniquely imprinted on wild fish originating from different Lake Michigan tributaries to estimate where individual adult steelhead were born. The technique we are using is called otolith microchemical analysis. Chemical traces in otoliths (fish ear bones) can be used to reconstruct the environmental history of fish. This is because:

    1. Otoliths grow incrementally, implying that elements incorporated as the otoliths grow may be representative, chronologically, of the environments in which a fish has resided, and
    2. Otoliths are metabolically inert, meaning elements incorporated into the otolith structure are permanently retained (i.e., not subject to resorption).

    Several previous studies have demonstrated relationships between the concentrations of certain elements measured in fish otoliths and the abundances of these elements in the environment. By measuring the concentrations of certain elements within the region of an otolith corresponding to the juvenile portion of that fish's life, we may be able to infer where it was born and reared. By generating diagnostic otolith microchemical signatures from streams across the Lake Michigan basin using juvenile steelhead, we can then apply these diagnostics to assess the natal origins of wild steelhead caught in the open-lake trolling fishery. This research will help fishery managers understand stream-specific recruitment success, spatial and temporal patterns in adult steelhead movement, and how these relate to angler harvest.
  • October 26, 2016
    CMU's Fabiano Botanical Garden Wins KMB's President's Award
    Each year, Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. recognizes programs that enhance the beauty of our state and award those who significantly contribute to environmental improvement, clean up, beautification, site restoration, and historical preservation.

    The CMU Fabiano Botanical Garden at Central Michigan University was recently awarded The President's Award, the highest award given, from Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. The President's Award is given to exceptional programs, projects, or individuals who most exemplify the goals of Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc.

    For 30 years, Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. has recognized programs around the state that involve environmental clean-up, historical preservation, site beautification and restoration, native species protection and environmental educational programs for children and adults.

    Annually four awards are given: The President's Award, the Michigan Award, the Distinguished Service Award, and an Award of Merit, in five classifications: City, Count and State Government, Community Groups, Youth-Schools and Clubs, Business or Industry, and Individuals.

    To learn more about Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. visit their website here.
  • October 25, 2016
    Biology Graduate Student Wins Student Writing Award
    Nicole Watson, a Graduate Research Assistant in Dr. Kevin Pangle's lab at Central Michigan University, recently brought home the Student Writing Award through the American Fisheries Society for her article titled Wild: Determining Natal Origins of Juvenile Steelhead Using Otolith Chemical Analysis.

    The American Fisheries Society Student Writing Award is presented to a graduate or undergraduate student who submits an outstanding short report about their original research that combines scientifically sound writing with an appeal to a general audience.

    A similar version of the article was published in the Fall 2015 edition of Dun Magazine, an online magazine directed toward women fly fishers.

    After graduation Nicole plans to pursue doctoral research in fisheries biology, working with native fish species either in rivers/streams or in the Great Lakes.

    "I am leaning towards focusing on inland trout research and would like to use a holistic approach to fisheries conservation and management," Watson said. "We can not simply focus on the species of interest and ignore all other abiotic and biotic factors. We must consider the entire ecosystem of the fish and ensure a healthy environment that satisfies the needs of the fish through habitat, prey availability, etc."

    She plans to become a fisheries research biologist in the Au Sable River region. "I have recently been elected to the board of directors for Anglers of the Au Sable, a conservation group focused on the protection of the Au Sable River," she said.

    Watson attributes her award to a strong and supportive thesis committee and a great thesis research project.

    Nicole has also presented her data at professional conferences including the American Fisheries Society, the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, International Association of Great Lakes Research, and to several angling groups including the Saint Joseph River Valley Fly Fishers, the Ann Arbor Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and the Gary Borger Chapter of Trout Unlimited. 
  • September 22, 2016
    University unveils Biosciences Building
    The ribbons are cut and Central Michigan University’s new Biosciences Building is officially open. 

  • September 19, 2016
    Biosciences Building open to biology classes next semester
    After two years of construction and $95 million, Central Michigan University is ready to open its largest capital project in history.

    On Thursday, Sept. 22, the university will host a grand opening for the newly-completed Biosciences Building. In January 2017, the 169,000 square-foot facility will house faculty from the biology department, and offer classes to students studying the biological sciences.

  • September 7, 2016
    Chasing Pokemon to illustrate biology
    CMU professor turns popular game into classroom tool
    In the first lab session of his Honors biology course Foundations of Evolution and Diversity, Brad Swanson chose a trendy, unconventional vehicle to illustrate his point. Using the mobile game "Pokemon Go," Swanson split his class into three teams and unleashed them onto Central Michigan University's campus with a single directive: gotta catch 'em all.

  • August 9, 2016
    On board the MV Chippewa
    Throughout the summer, residents and those visiting Beaver Island have the opportunity to participate in one of our scientific cruises.  We head out approximately four nautical miles to an ancient island that has been forested.  We cross over water that is roughly 150 feet deep to an area that is 30 feet deep.  Our ROV (Remotely Operated underwater Vehicle) is then hooked to a large monitor so those on board can watch what happening under the water as CMU researchers take their samples.

    In this video watch the ROV follow the CTD (also known as a Sonde, an instrument used to determine the conductivity, temperature, and depth) to the bottom and then again as it lifts back to the surface.

    The ROV also finds a 6,000-7,000 year old tree stump from a time when Lake Michigan was called Lake Chippewa and the Beaver Island archipelago was connected to the mainland via Waugshance Point.

    It is here, while the ROV sits quietly on the bottom, that you can get an idea of how many of the invasive fish, Round Gobies, are covering the entire bottom of the lake.

    Finally, the ROV follows the Ponar Grab Sampler (a device used for taking sediment samples from the bottom) to the bottom, watches it "grab" its sample, and back to the vessel. In just this one "grab", several hundred zebra mussels, another invasive species, were found.

  • July 18, 2016
    Stuck on the island...happily
    CMU's "northern campus," as some call it, is an island only accessible by plane or boat and sometimes neither, when the weather's nasty.  People still leave the keys in their cars here. The community school is one building for K-12, and fewer than 100 students attend. It's a place where everybody really does know your name.

  • June 6, 2016
    CMU student researchers on Beaver Island for 10-week program
    One Central Michigan University student will attend a 10-week program at CMU's Biological Station on Beaver Island to work on projects related to the Great Lake ecosystems.

    Read the rest of the story here