Category: News

In the News – Trista Vick-Majors Interviewed on ParAqua Podcast

Trista Vick-Majors (BioSci/GLRC) was interviewed on a science podcast supported by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology, the ParAqua Podcast. The ParAqua Podcast highlights new and interesting research in aquatic and marine ecology. Episode 5 of the ParAqua Podcast, released May 19, focused on Vick-Majors’ research in the polar regions on aquatic ecosystems.

Trista Vick-Majors conducting winter microbial research at MTU's Great Lakes Research Center.
Trista Vick-Majors conducting winter microbial research at MTU’s Great Lakes Research Center.

Trista Vick-Majors is a microbial ecologist who studies the reciprocal relationships between microbial communities and biogeochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems. She is interested in understanding how chemical and physical characteristics interact with microbial communities, and influence or are influenced by microbial metabolism and diversity. Trista’s work is also aimed at understanding energetic constraints on microbial metabolism that could result from seasonal or ecosystem change change, such as the formation of ice-cover. Her field work locales span temperate environments with seasonal ice-cover, where rapid environmental change is affecting ice duration and thickness, and polar environments where ice-cover can be a permanent fixture. Vick-Majors’ research happens at the interface of biogeochemistry and microbial ecology.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

BioSci Instructors Earn Exceptional Student Evaluation Scores!

Congratulations to the following 9 instructors from Biological Sciences identified as among only 55 MTU instructors campus-wide that received an exceptional “Average of 7 Dimensions” on student evaluations for Spring Semester 2024!

Casey Huckins, Professor and Chair
Robert Larson, Assistant Professor
Brigitte Morin, Teaching Professor
Jill Olin, Assistant Professor
Gordon Paterson, Assistant Professor (Nominated for the 2024 MTU Distinguished Teaching Award)
Thomas Werner, Professor
Jenna Disser, MS Graduate Student
Alexzandra Markle, PhD Graduate Student
Hunter Roose, MS Graduate Student

Their evaluation scores were in the top 10% of similarly sized sections university-wide, with at least a 50% response rate, and a minimum of five responses. Thank you, instructors, for being such an important part of Biological Sciences’ key role in fulfilling the educational mission of MTU!

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

West Iron County High School Wins 34th Annual Bioathlon!

To stimulate an interest in biology, the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University has sponsored a single-day, hands-on, problem-solving competition known as the Bioathlon each May since 1989. As many as 20 high schools from across the Upper Peninsula have participated in the day-long competition, using their biological skills and knowledge to solve the problems presented to them.

This year, 6 high schools competed in the 2024 Bioathlon: Calumet, Houghton, Dollar Bay, Luther L. Wright, A. D. Johnston, and West Iron County. The event consisted of 3 sub-competitions: a microbiology gram staining and cellular structure competition, an anatomy and physiology dissection competition, and an ecological scavenger hunt and trophic interactions competition.

Prizes and Results

2024 Bioathlon 1st place team West Iron County High School
2024 Bioathlon 1st place team West Iron County High School

Prizes for 2024’s Bioathlon winners included a generous $100 for each member of the 1st place team, $75 for the 2nd place team members, and $50 for those who took 3rd.

West Iron County High School traveled a long way to compete in this year’s Bioathlon, and it was well worth it… West Iron County earned 1st place, Luther L. Wright High School came in 2nd, and A. D. Johnston came in 3rd! Each of the winning teams went home with an award certificate, and all of the participating students and teachers left with their brand new 2024 34th Annual Bioathlon t-shirts, some extra goodies, and bright smiles.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

In the News – Aimee Marceau and Tick Disease Surveillance

Aimee Marceau (BioSci) and Kristin Brzeski (CFRES) were featured in a  WLUC TV6 story about Michigan Tech’s Tick Talk project, a crowdsourced tick collection to aid research on tick-borne diseases and tick populations in the Copper Country.

Crowdsourcing Ticks for Disease Surveillance

Tick Talk, the crowdsourcing tick collection project that was conducted at Michigan Tech last year, has returned for a second year. Tick collection has already begun for 2024.

MTU’s Genomic Sequencing Lab wants ticks from you, your family and your pets. The goal of this project is to identify the prevalence of tick-borne illnesses in the Copper Country. Please bring any ticks you find to one of two collection boxes on the Michigan Tech campus:

  • Great Lakes Research Center — First Floor
  • U. J. Noblet Forestry Building — Main Entrance

Current Results

Results from the community tick submission so far are available on the Tick Talk Dashboard. If you have any questions, please contact lab lead Aimee Marceau at ahmarcea@mtu.edu.

  • 174 blacklegged ticks and four brown dog ticks have been collected.
  • 20% of the blacklegged ticks submitted tested positive for Lyme.

How to Remove and Preserve Ticks

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause its mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by:
    1. Placing it in a sealed plastic storage bag. Multiple ticks from the same location can be placed in the same bag.
    2. Once the tick is sealed inside the plastic storage bag, bring it to a drop-off point within eight hours or place the bag with the tick in a freezer until dropping it off at Michigan Tech.
  5. Follow the directions at the drop-off site to ensure the tick is properly preserved.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Grace Gonzalez – Journey through MTU’s Biological Sciences

Grace Gonzalez graduated from Michigan Tech’s Medical Laboratory Science program in 2023, but her passions didn’t end with only MLS. During her time at Michigan Tech, Gonzalez delved into her interests in human medicine as well as animal care. She began doing aquatic research with Biological Sciences professors Dr. Casey Huckins and Dr. Jill Olin, started Michigan Tech’s Aquarium Society, and even volunteered at the local wildlife rehab, just to name a few. Now, she is beginning her journey into veterinary medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Read more about Grace’s experiences at Michigan Tech, what inspired her to lead this journey, and those who supported her along the way—including MLS’s Claire Danielson, Sarah LewAllen, and Brigitte Morin—on our Pre-Health Professions blog post From Fish Tanks To White Coats: Grace’s Vet School Journey.

Grace Gonzalez
Grace Gonzalez

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Kemmy Taylor Chosen for US Army Educator Tour

Kemmy Taylor (BioSci/KIP), was selected as one of only 25 educators from across the United States to participate in the 2024 U.S. Army Educator Tour at Fort Stewart in Savannah, Georgia.

Taylor was nominated by the Milwaukee Army Healthcare Team for her willingness to go above and beyond sharing the programs and scholarships in health-related professions offered by the Army. She was chosen by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in recognition of her demonstrated dedication and openness in ensuring current and future pre-med and pre-health students are aware of the Army’s health-related opportunities.

Kemmy Taylor
Kemmy Taylor

Fort Stewart is the home of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, 75th Ranger Regiment, and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). The medical professionals at the Winn Army Community Hospital and Hunter Army Airfield Clinic on base support all 4,000+ soldiers and their families.

During the tour, Kemmy will skydive with the Army’s premier parachute demonstration team, the Golden Knights, as well as attend various exhibits hosted by each of the units on base and tour both the community hospital and clinic. Most importantly, Taylor will get to work with and witness firsthand the soldiers and families supported by Army Medicine.

By sharing information about the Army’s programs and scholarships, Taylor is directly developing future medical professionals who will be providing care for soldiers. The tour will also provide opportunities to network with other university representatives and showcase Michigan Technological University’s dedication to supporting the health and welfare of our troops.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Casey Huckins Rises as the Chair of Biological Sciences

Dr. Casey Huckins is the new chair of the Biological Sciences Department. He served as interim chair since July 1, taking over from long-time chair and now professor emeritus Chandrashekhar Joshi.

Casey Huckins
Casey Huckins

“I am excited to continue leading such an outstanding department with its excellence in research, teaching, and service,” said Huckins. “Four of our faculty have been Distinguished Teaching Award winners in recent years and others have been nominated. Our faculty and staff are recognized and awarded for their service, and our students are inspiring. The department is at the forefront of basic and applied research, with over $2.27 million of research expenditures last year. This funding covers the broad array of faculty expertise in biology including biochemistry and molecular biology, ecology and evolution, environmental science, and health sciences. This research seeks better ways to treat cancer and improve health, understand, and restore populations and ecosystems, decipher genetic influences, and reduce plastic waste, among others.”

As a professor of biological sciences, Huckins’s main research interests include ecology and restoration of aquatic populations and ecosystems including lakes, streams, and the riparian ecosystems that connect them. He tends to focus on ecological patterns and processes in systems influenced by human actions and he applies the learned scientific understanding to inform their restoration and conservation. Projects examine the ecology and restoration of migratory coaster brook trout, and the reciprocal interplay and exchange between restoration and the advancement of scientific understanding. The goal is to increase understanding of the biology, ecology, and natural history of the organisms and systems of interest for their continued sustainability.

Congratulations Dr. Huckins! We are pleased to have you leading the Biological Sciences Department.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

In the News: Vick-Majors on Winter, Ecosystems, and Agriculture

Trista Vick-Majors (BioSci/GLRC) was interviewed in a WLUC TV6 segment about how a continuing lack of winter ice cover could change ecosystems, the Great Lakes, and the future of agriculture. It also touches on how these changes could impact small businesses and outdoor winter activities–such as ice fishing and snowmobiling. The WLUC TV6 story mentioned the project launched by Trista Vick-Majors to gather winter-specific lake samples for comparison to summer data, with researchers around the Great Lakes participating in sampling this month. The story was picked up by more than 300 news outlets nationwide, including the Washington PostHouston Chronicle and Seattle Times.

Trista Vick-Majors
Trista Vick-Majors

Dr. Trista Vick-Majors is a microbial ecologist who studies biogeochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems and microbial communities. She is interested in how microbial communities and their diversity are impacted by physical and chemical characteristics. In addition, her work focuses on how seasonal change or ecosystem change, such as the formation of ice-cover, has an effect on these microbial communities. The interface of microbial ecology and biogeochemistry is where her research takes place.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

In the News: Trista Vick-Majors and the Associated Press

Trista Vick-Majors (BioSci/GLRC) was quoted by the Associated Press, Canada’s National ObserverABC News, MLive, Daily Mining Gazette, and Yahoo! News U.K. in a story exploring how an ongoing lack of winter ice cover could change the Great Lakes. The story mentioned a project launched by Vick-Majors to gather winter-specific lake samples for comparison to summer data, with researchers around the Great Lakes participating in sampling this month. The story was picked up by more than 300 news outlets nationwide, including the Washington PostHouston Chronicle and Seattle Times. Vick-Majors was also interviewed in a WLUC TV6 segment about the impact low snow totals and ice cover have on ecosystems and agriculture.

Trista Vick-Majors
Trista Vick-Majors

Dr. Trista Vick-Majors is a microbial ecologist who studies microbial communities and biogeochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems. She is interested in how physical and chemical characteristics interact with microbial communities and their diversity. In addition, her work focuses on how seasonal change or ecosystem change, such as the formation of ice-cover, impacts these microbial communities. The interface of microbial ecology and biogeochemistry is where her research takes place.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

New Funding: Stephen Techtmann’s Ice Control Co-Op

Stephen Techtmann is the principal investigator (PI) on a project which has received a $798,426 research and development co-op joint agreement from the U.S. Department of Defense, DARPA. The title of the project is “Ice Control Compounds from Bacterial Isolates and Functional Metagenomics.”

Stephen Techtmann
Stephen Techtmann

Trista Vick-Majors is the co-PI on this potential two and a half year project.

Dr. Stephen Techtmann is an environmental microbiologist who studies microbial communities in diverse ecosystems. In addition to ice control compounds, he studies how complex microbial communities can perform functions of industrial interest. He seeks to use culture-based and culture-independent methods to understand how microbial communities respond to anthropogenic activity and environmental change, in addition to how we can leverage these microbes for a biotechnological application. 

Techtmann has experience in teaching Environmental Microbiology, Microbial Physiology, Applied Genomics, Modern BMB Laboratory, and Principles of Computational Biology.

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, or read the Biological Sciences Newsblog for the latest happenings.