BI271 Intro to Ecology returns to the field!

October 14, 2021

After COVID-19 drove the Introduction to Ecology course online in Fall 2020, our research-oriented field experiences have returned in full force this autumn! Led by Ecology instructors Sarah Staffiere, Abby Pearson, Caitlin McDonough-MacKenzie, and Allison Barner, students have had two off-campus field labs so far this semester.

First, a trip to Reid State Park to explore how population size is estimated in rocky intertidal ecosystems, and to design a study to monitor changes in abundance of intertidal organisms for the next 10 years.

BI271 students at Reid State Park. Photo: A. Pearson


Photo: A. Pearson

Second, students spent an afternoon at the Colby-Marston Preserve, a unique kettlehole bog ecosystem, observing the diverse flora and fauna adapted to live in the extreme acidic, nutrient-limited environment.

Colby-Marston Bog. Photo: C. McDonough MacKenzie


STS course examines the history of biology at Colby College

During the 2021 Spring Semester, Professor Lijing Jiang in the Science, Technology, and Society Department taught ST237 History at Biology at Colby College. From their course website,

“…[Students developed] a virtual exhibit about the history of biology at Colby College and in Maine. They examined documents in the College’s special collections, read scientifica and college publications, viewed object collections at the Biology Department, and interviewed faculty members at Colby and elsewhere.”

Biology Department Webster Chester Museum. Date & Photographer Unknown. Source: Artstor

You can check out the rich and detailed work done by the ST237 students and Professor Jiang, including images and research essays at

Professor Judy Stone to join the National Science Foundation

In September 2021, Oak Professor of Biological Sciences Judy Stone will begin a two-year rotation as a Program Director within the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation. She will collaborate with other program officers to help shape the future of scientific discovery in her field of evolutionary biology.  Also, recently, she hugged a good-sized white pine.

Congratulations to Judy on her prestigious new position!

Alumni updates!

-Check out this article about our very own Sydney Greenlee (’20), who graduated with degrees in Biology: Ecology and Evolution, and Environmental Science!

-Bonje Obua (’20), has recently started working at the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Congratulations, Bonje!

Faculty and staff salute the graduating biology majors, class of 2020


Bangor Daily News

October 17, 2019 | by Aislinn Sarnacki

Research by Professor of Biology Catherine Bevier was highlighted in the Bangor Daily News article “The largest amphibians in Maine have invaded its lakes and ponds,” which looks at the invasive species Necturus maculosus, also known as mudpuppies, which were accidentally released into Great Pond by a Colby professor in 1939 and 1940. Now, Bevier is researching the diet of the mudpuppies to see if they’re eating threatened or endangered species. By dissecting hundreds of mudpuppies, she’s found they’re consuming “all macro invertebrates. We see a lot of crayfish and a lot of amphipods and stonefly larvae and dragonfly larvae. It’s been quite variable,” she told the BDN.

Bangor Daily News
October 15, 2019 | by Aislinn Sarnacki

Herb Wilson, the Leslie Brainerd Arey Professor of Biosciences, emeritus, was quoted in a Bangor Daily News article titled “Those flashy fall caterpillars aren’t as dangerous as you might think — well, most of them anyway.” This time of year, caterpillars are searching for food and shelter before winter sets in. “There are two ways that caterpillars get through Maine’s harsh winter,” Wilson told the BDN. “One way is the ‘freeze avoidance strategy,’ in which the animal produces a kind of antifreeze solution that prevents ice from forming inside their body. The other way is called the ‘freeze tolerant strategy,’ in which ice actually forms inside certain parts of the animal’s body.”

“Basically saving the frogs”

In the summer of 2019, Professor of Biology Catherine Bevier and her research students spent their days “basically saving the frogs,” including a day of research on Allen Island in St. George, Maine.

Bevier and her rising junior research assistants Emily Cunningham, Ming Fung and Laura Sokoloski travelled to ponds across Maine to collect health data from male Green Frogs. Green Frogs are tolerant of a pathogen called chytrid fungus which can cause chytridiomycosis, a deadly disease for many amphibian populations around the world. Scientists have been tracking the effects of the fungus on amphibians over the past 30 years.

“We’re curious because we know most Green Frogs don’t develop the disease, but maybe there are some effects of infection that influence reproductive success or aspects of the immune system,” Bevier said. “So we’re looking at adult males. We’re examining them in the breeding season when they’re calling—expressing a beautiful yellow throat color—and we also measure body parts, including their legs and eardrums, to check for symmetry.”

One goal of the conservation project is to identify beneficial microbes from fungus-resistant Green Frogs; researching these bacteria might ultimately help scientists develop probiotics for more vulnerable frog species. It might even lead to prevention of chytridiomycosis.

“I think a lot of times frogs get overlooked. People think, “oh, they’re slimy” but they’re such an important part of the ecosystem and really vital,” Cunningham said. “I think that was a really big draw for me, as well as all the amazing experience we’re getting with fieldwork. It’s so fun to be out in the field! To come out to Allen Island and be able to work with live animals is so cool.”

Allen Island, a private 450-acre former fishing island in southern Muscongus Bay, is owned by Up East Incorporated, a Wyeth family foundation. Partnerships with Up East and the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde in 2016 turned this Maine treasure into a learning laboratory for Colby students, providing unique experiences in multiple subject areas.

Video of “Basically saving the frogs”
























Herb Wilson in the news: Mexico bird trip report, public talk on bird migration

Portland Press Herald
March 4, 2019 | by Herb Wilson

Herb Wilson, the Leslie Brainerd Arey Professor of Biosciences, is in the news this week. Two reports of his January birding trip to Mexico were published: in the Portland Press Herald and in Yucatán Ex-Pat Life. Both articles recount a particularly successful day birding at Rio Lagartos, a “well-known birding hot-spot” on the Yucatán Peninsula.  “Altogether we saw 83 species on our morning trip, including renewing friendships with a number of species whom we look forward to seeing again when summertime returns to Maine,” Wilson reported.

Wilson will be at the University of Maine Farmington March 13 giving a talk on bird migration and climate change and reporting on his citizen science project. “There have been changes in the dates of arrival and dates of departure for the many of the species of birds seen in Maine. What factors underlie these changes? How big a factor might climate change be?” the Portland Press Herald reports promoting the talk


Other Biology department news:

Herb Wilson is in the Central Maine Sunday Paper every other Sunday! Access this week’s article here.

Ron Peck runs in the Boston Marathon 2015! Way to go Ron! Read the article here.

Biology professor Ron Peck wins the Bay of Fundy International Marathon! Full article can be found here.

David Angelini (Assistant Professor of Biology) was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to intensify research on the soapberry bug’s unusual development of its wings. Read the complete article here.

Alumni Updates!

Amy Bruce ’19 will be working at UMass Med. Amy is excited to show how prepared Colby has made her for the position!

Renner Thomas ’19 will be working in a mouse lab in the Department of Neurology at Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Will Simmons ‘17 has decided to go to the Johns Hopkins Medical School PhD program in Molecular Biology. Will has been working at NIH since he graduated in 2017.

Julia Rogers (’16, Environmental Studies) presents her research project at the ESA conference in Costa Rica in the photo below.


First article highlights a paper by Jennifer Malpass (Biology ’08)

Here’s a link to her page on the OSU web site:

Sydney Tiemann ’18

Sydney has just taken a job as a research technician in the lab of developmental biologist Amy Shyer at Rockefeller University in New York. She got two other job offers for similar positions.

Will Simmons ‘17

Will is applying this fall to a number of PhD programs in cell bio and molecular genetics. He’s been working as a technician in Dave Bodine’s lab at NIH since he graduated from Colby.

Mark Chaffin (’12 Biology & Math Sciences:Statistics) is headed to graduate school at Harvard!

“I will be entering Harvard University’s masters program in Computational Biology and Quantitative Genetics this coming fall. I ended up getting accepted to all 6 schools I applied to which made this an incredibly challenging decision on my part, but after weighing the pros and cons of each program, Harvard stood out as the best option.”

Ellie Linden (’14, Biology, Environmental Studies:Science) is off to University of Connecticut’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to pursue a Master’s in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology.

Katerina Faust (’14, Biology:Neuroscience) is headed to Cornell University to pursue a Ph.D. in Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology.

Ali Smith (’14, Biology: Cell and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) is headed to Cornell University to pursue a Ph.D.

Jay Liu (’14, Biology: Neuroscience) has accepted a position as a Research Technician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Research Lab in Boston.

Andrew Beauschesne and Leigh Fryxell, class of 2014, travel through the Bandlands on their way to California.