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Biology Research

We are a multidisciplinary and highly interactive department dedicated to undergraduate and graduate education and research.

There are numerous PSU Research Facilities, as well as those in the Facilities in the Broader Community that support the research. Our research interests span Ecology and Evolution, Molecular Biology and Microbiology, and Organismal Physiology. See below for more details. 

  • Ecology
    • The research of Drs. Cruzan, Duffield, Eppley, Estes, Jones, Murphy, Ruedas, Reysenbach, Rosenstiel, and Stedman directly or indirectly has roots in ecology, and the faculty use combinations of classical and molecular tools to address questions in ecology. These faculty study the ecology of microbes and viruses that inhabit extreme environments such as marine and terrestrial hot springs and deep cold marine sediments; the population genetics of dolphins and whales; plant ecological genetics and phylogeography; invasive species biology; island biology; behavioral ecology of vertebrates; urban ecology and effects of fragmentation on vertebrate communities; extrapair mating systems of birds; and the coevolution of viruses and their hosts. Their research will interest students who wish to explore the contributions of microorganisms to natural ecosystems, naturally occurring factors that influence the structure of natural communities, and conservation ecology and phylogeography.
  • Evolution and Systematics
    • Drs. Bartlett, Cruzan, Duffield, Eppley, Estes, Masta, Reysenbach, Ruedas, and Stedman conduct research programs that focus on how genes and organisms change over time. Their work examines how populations change and ultimately how such genetic and phenotypic evolution affects species diversity, in organisms ranging from bacteria to plants and animals. In addition, they examine coevolutionary adaptations of viruses, and mechanisms of coevolution. These faculty integrate field sampling, field observations, and experimentation, with sequencing and other molecular techniques in order to address questions concerning historical and contemporary changes in organisms and populations. Their work encompasses aspects of conservation genetics, biogeography, phylogeography, speciation, hybridization, phylogenetics, molecular evolution, and systematics. Students who wish to understand the processes by which our world's biological diversity has evolved will benefit from this group's research and teaching in evolution and systematics.
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
    • Drs. Bartlett, Buckley, Courcelle, Cruzan, Estes, Masta, Podrabsky, Raghaven,  Reysenbach, Singer, and Stedman are investigating molecular and cellular mechanisms that influence cell and genome maintenance, comparing genomes and transcriptomes of different organisms, and using genomic and proteomic approaches to understand how organisms interact with their environments. One group focuses on organisms, viruses, and communities inhabiting extreme environments. This group is part of the multi-disciplinary Center for Life in Extreme Environments at Portland State University. This faculty group will be of particular interest to students who are interested in the use of molecular, genetic, genomic, and proteomic approaches for understanding the genetic and molecular basis of how organisms adapt to their environment.
  • Organismal Physiology and Behavior
    • Drs. Brown, Buckley, Garlid, Hillman, Lutterschmidt, Murphy, Podrabsky, Reysenbach, Rosenstiel, and Zelick comprise this research group and share a common focus on utilizing comparative models to understand physiological mechanisms of environmental adaptation from microbes to vertebrates. This group has extensive research capacity in cardiovascular physiology, mitochondrial physiology, temperature regulation and acclimation, neurobiology and sensory physiology, osmoregulation and dehydration tolerance, energetics and ecophysiology and behavior in both a laboratory and field context. Students interested in understanding how organisms adjust their physiology to exploit various environments as well as pre-professional students (physicians, nurses, dentists, medical-technicians, etc.) will find the research and courses offered by this group of particular interest.
  • Science Education and Society
    • Our faculty are all involved in some aspects of science education and outreach. In particular, Dr. Weasel's research draws together issues of biotechnology and genetic engineering; gender, race, and class in science; ethics and values in science; and the intersection of biology and society in shaping what we know about life. She seeks to improve scientific literacy at all levels of education and to promote equity for underrepresented groups in science. All of the faculty have ongoing collaborations with local public school districts, the Graduate School of Education, and ed-oriented groups on and off campus. Students who are interested in teaching science or in methods to improve learning in science, as well as those interested in ethics and values in science, will be attracted to the research and courses offered by Dr. Weasel. Direct opportunities for high school students and teachers range from courses offered at Yellowstone National Park and Mt Hood, to hands-on laboratory and field research.
  • Life in Extreme Environments
    • See our Center For Life in Extreme Environment's web page for more information