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Graduate Students Take Home Awards


Betancur chosen AU’s Outstanding International Graduate Student

Mr. Ricardo Betancur, a PhD candidate working with Professor Jon Armbruster, was selected one of AU’s Outstanding International Graduate Students for 2008-2009.

Ligon and Du win awards at AU Graduate Student Forum

Mr. Rusty Ligon, MS student in Dr. Geoff Hill’s lab, won the first place award for oral presentations in the Science category at this spring’s AU Graduate Student Forum. Ms. Yifeng Du, PhD candidate working with Dr. Marie Wooten, won first place in the poster presentation.

Morrow receives Dean’s graduate student research award

Ms. Kathy Morrow, PhD candidate in Nanette Chadwick’s lab, won the COSAM Dean’s Graduate Student Research Award in February 2009.

Skibiel chosen as AU Outstanding Graduate Student

Ms. Amy Skibiel, PhD student working with Dr. Steve Dobson, was chosen as one of 10 Outstanding Graduate Students for 2008-2009 by the AU Graduate School.

Cofield named Outstanding GTA for Biological Sciences

Ms. Jessica Cofield, a PhD student in Dr. Sanj Suh’s lab, was selected the Department of Biological Sciences’ Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant for 2008-2009.

Okekpe wins poster award at Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting

Ms. Camille Okekpe, MS student from Dr. Mary Mendonça’s lab, won the Best Student Poster award at the January 2009 meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Ellis wins Best Oral Presentation Award

Ms. Ivey Ellis, MS student working with Professor Steven Kempf, won the Best Oral Presentation Award at this spring’s Gulf of Mexico Graduate Student Symposium, held at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.


Drs. Mary Mendonça and Ken Halanych promoted to Full Professor

Mary MendoncaKen HalanychDr. Mary Mendonça and Ken Halanych have been promoted to the rank of Full Professor, effective Fall semester 2009. Dr. Mendonça is a vertebrate reproductive endocrinologist and physiological ecologist, and was selected as the department’s Graduate Program Officer in Fall 2008. Dr. Halanych studies the systematics of marine invertebrates and is Coordinator of the department’s Marine Biology Program.



Dr. Nanette Chadwick awarded tenure

Nanette ChadwickDr. Nanette Chadwick, Associate Professor, has been awarded tenure effective Fall Semester 2009. Dr. Chadwick, who joined the department in 2004, is a marine ecologist who studies coral reef and sea anemone ecology. She leads an Auburn Abroad program each summer to coral reefs in the Jordanian Red Sea.







Dr. Jim Barbaree named Scharnegel Professor

Dr. James BarbareeDr. Jim Barbaree was selected as the Department of Biological Sciences’ fourth Scharnegel Professor (past awardees are Marie Wooten, Geoff Hill and Ray Henry).   Dr. Barbaree is a microbiologist with expertise in rapid detection and subtyping of infectious pathogens, and currently serves as Associate Director for Research of the Auburn University Center for Detection and Food Safety. He served 6 years as department chair before stepping down in Fall 2008.





Mary Mendonca elected new GPO

Mary MendoncaDr. Mary Mendonça, Professor, was elected new Graduate Program Officer (GPO) for Biological Sciences in late October, 2008.  Dr. Mendonça is a vertebrate reproductive endocrinologist and physiological ecologist.
Her new duties as GPO include coordinating graduate curricula and admissions and, along with the Undergraduate Program Officer, assigning graduate teaching assistantships. Dr. Jack Feminella, Full Professor, who has ably served as GPO for the last nine years, has stepped up to be our new Department Chair.




Dr. Jack Feminella appointed new Department Chair

Jack Feminella

Dr. Jack Feminella was appointed the new Biological Sciences Department Chair by Dean Schneller and officially assumed the post on October 1, 2008. Dr. Feminella is an aquatic ecologist whose research focuses on the influence of environmental factors regulating the structure and function of stream communities. He ably served for 9 years as the departmental Graduate Program Officer before being appointed Department Chair.  





Dr. Jim Barbaree steps down as Department Chair

James Barbaree accepting plaque

Dr. Jim Barbaree, who guided the Department of Biological Sciences through a challenging time of great growth in the numbers of faculty and students, has stepped down from being Chair after six years of steadfast service. Dr. Barbaree returns to his research in Microbiology in association with the Food Detection Peak of Excellence. The department wishes to thank Dr. Barbaree for his many years of diligence and dedication.



Dr. Cobine joins Biological faculty

Dr. Paul Cobine joined the Department of Biological Sciences faculty in the Summer, 2008 semester as an Assistant Professor of Microbiology. Dr. Cobine has a PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia and and joins us after being a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Utah. His research focuses on the mechanisms for the recruitment of metals into mitochondria and their subsequent insertion, as cofactors, into the multi-subunit complexes of the electron transport chain.




Department loses one of its finest:
George W. Folkerts (1938-2007)

FolkertsGeorge W. Folkerts was born November 26, 1938 and died December 14, 2007 at his residence in Auburn. He was a valued member of Trinity Lutheran Church and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University for the past 38 years. He earned a B.A. degree in zoology and a M.A. degree in botany from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. in herpetology from Auburn University. During his career as a teacher and researcher, George studied every aspect of nature. His comprehensive knowledge of the plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates inhabiting the Southeast was second to none, and he was a renowned expert in the ecology of disappearing habitat types and declining species. George’s passion for conserving nature made him a leader for local, state, and national conservation efforts. Part of his legacy for these efforts was his being honored by having multiple native species named after him. In the late 1990s, he led a successful effort to save Auburn University’s Davis Arboretum from building encroachment and ensure its preservation as a sanctuary for native plants. During his tenure as a faculty member at Auburn University, George was a dedicated teacher who loved teaching and was loved by his students; however, his purpose was never to be the teacher but, rather, to teach students to learn. He won numerous teaching awards and exposed countless students to the wonders of the natural world both in the classroom and field. His courses were truly inspirational and his classroom teaching style was one in which students were simultaneously challenged and made to feel comfortable in the presence of a friend and mentor. He successfully trained many graduate students who have gone on to secure positions as teachers and scientists across the United States. George was kind to all who met him, generous with the time he offered to others, and humble despite his exceptional accomplishments. He had a magnetic personality that enlivened every gathering and made him a beloved member in the local trivia community.

George is survived by his loving wife, Debbie (Dr. Debbie Folkerts), his sister, Trudy, his daughters Molly and Merrill, and his son Evan.

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Biology faculty, Dr. Geoff Hill, publishes book on Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Hunt

Ivorybill Hunters BookNoted ornithologist, Dr. Geoffrey Hill, has just had his latest book, “The Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness”, published by Oxford University Press.  In it, he tells the story of how he and two of his colleagues stumbled upon what may be a breeding population of the long- thought extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the swamps of northern Florida. He relates their laborious attempts to document irrefutable evidence for the existence of this shy, elusive bird following the failure of a much larger research team to definitively prove the bird's existence.  Written like a good detective story, Ivorybill Hunters also delves into the science behind the rediscovery of a species, explaining how professional ornithologists follow up on a sight record of a rare bird, and how this differs from the public's perception of how scientists actually work. Hill notes the growing role of amateurs in documenting bird activity and discusses how the community of birders and nature lovers can see, enjoy, and help preserve these birds. 


Drs. Aaron Rashotte and Wendy Hood join Biological Sciences faculty

Aaron Rashotte

Dr. Aaron Rashotte has joined the Department of Biological Sciences in the Summer, 2007 semester as an Assistant Professor of Developmental Genetics. Dr. Rashotte has a PhD from the University of Arizona and joins us after being a NASA/NSCORT Postdoctoral Fellow at Wake Forest University and a NIH/NSRA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Wendy Hood Dr Wendy Hood has joined the Department of Biological Sciences as an Assistant Research Professor of Nutritional Ecology.  Dr. Hood has a PhD from Boston University and was on faculty at Coastal Carolina University for 5 years before coming to Auburn.  Her research combines her training in physiology, nutrition, and behavior to address questions regarding how animals adapt to limiting dietary resources. 


Dr. Roland Dute wins prestigious Leischuck Teaching Award

Roland Dute Leischuck Teaching Award Recipient  Dr. Roland Dute was named one of Auburn University’s top teachers for 2007. He was the recipient of the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.






Deep South plants to go digital

   Deep South plants 

AUBURN - Auburn University’s College of Sciences and Mathematics is part of a project to create high-resolution digital images of 100,000 plant specimens found in the East Gulf Coastal Plain that will be accessible to scientists and students everywhere via the World Wide Web.

AU and its project partners, Florida State University, Troy University, the University of South Alabama and the University of Southern Mississippi, kicked off the Deep South Plant Specimen Imaging Project this spring with a two-year, $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The East Gulf Coastal Plain region stretches across Alabama from the Florida Panhandle to the Mississippi River and about 175 miles inland. It is home to about 3,000 native plant species, 125 of which are endemic to the deep south and found nowhere else on earth.

According to Leslie Goertzen, assistant professor of biological sciences at AU and principal investigator for the project, the East Gulf Coastal Plain region is one of the nation’s hotspots for biodiversity and species endangerment, and yet is one of the least documented. Goertzen said that many of the counties in our eco-region are in the 95th percentile of all U.S. counties when ranked by the number of threatened and endangered species.


Lishak, Halanych honored

Ken HalanychBob Lishak    

    As part of the university’s sesquicentennial celebration, Auburn honored, along with others, two Biological Sciences faculty members at the Faculty Awards for Excellence in Instruction, Research, and Outreach ceremony on September 7.

    The two Biological Sciences faculty recognized for their achievements were Dr. Robert Lishak, Associate Professor and Dr. Ken Halanych, Associate Professor.

    Dr. Lishak is one of two recipients of this year’s Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching is a prestigious honor which recognizes those faculty members who have demonstrated effective and innovative teaching methods and a continuing commitment to student success through advising and mentoring inside and outside the classroom.

   Dr. Kenneth Halanych was named as one of Auburn University’s Alumni Professors for 2006.  The professorships are sponsored by the Auburn Alumni Association and are presented on the basis of research, publishing and teaching.


Fielman joins Biology Faculty 

Kevin Fielman

Dr. Kevin Fielman has joined the Department of Biological Sciences in the Fall, 2006 semester as an Assistant Professor of Physiological Genomics. Dr. Fielman has a PhD from the University of South Carolina and joins us after being a PISCO/NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara.




Roberts elected new UPO

Sharon Roberts     Dr. Sharon Roberts, Associate Professor, was elected new Undergraduate Program Officer (UPO) for Biological Sciences on September 8.  The UPO coordinates undergraduate curricula and other teaching matters and, along with the Graduate Program Officer, assigns graduate teaching assistants. Dr. Robert Locy, Full Professor, steps down from being UPO for the last three years.






COSAM Professors' Finch Research Featured on ABC News

Auburn Scientists Publish Evidence of Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers in Florida