Category: Outreach

Biology and KIP host Houghton High School

Houghton VisitFriday 15 April,

The Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology hosted a joint visit for Houghton High School’s Anatomy and Physiology classes.  The teacher, Alex Geborkoff, accompanied 35 students who spent a day on the Michigan Tech campus learning about health careers from Pre-med advisor Stacy Cotey and faculty member Steven Elmer, attending a college lecture in Anatomy and Physiology, experiencing lunch at Wadsworth Hall Dormitory and taking part in many hands-on lab activities.  Some of the lab activities in KIP included learning about the influence of stress on blood pressure in Dr. Jason Carter’s lab and conducting an experiment comparing concentric versus eccentric muscle groups in Dr. Steven Elmer’s lab.  In Biological Sciences students learned how to measure aortic blood pressure in Dr. John Durocher’s lab and being led through a dissection by Travis Wakeham in the anatomy and physiology teaching lab.

News coverage of the visit included TV6 news.



Biology Week March 28-April 1

Biology Week flyerSponsored by Phi Sigma Biological Honors Society

Biology Week March 28-April 1

Monday – MEDLIFE presents MEDTALK 2016 – Come hear from health professionals and students of MEDLIFE from their mobile clinic to Riobamba, Ecuador over spring break.  7pm in Fisher 101

Tuesday – Research presentations – If you’re interested in biology related research, come hear about what others students have been working on!  You could be next!  6pm in Fisher 131

Wednesday – Jeopardy Night – Join us in a fun-filled night of biology related questions with fellow students to test your knowledge and your competitive nature. 7pm in Dow 642

Thursday – Move Night: Concussion – During an autopsy of a NFL player Mike Webster, a finding similar to Alzheimer’s disease is discovered, published and made aware to others.  6pm in Fisher 101.

Friday – Book/Plant/Bake Sale – Biology books, plant seeds and fresh baked treats!  Need we say more? 10am – 3 pm in Fisher Hall


Dr. Kerfoot attends Torch Lake Watershed Project Public Meeting

kerfootDr. Kerfoot was one of many Michigan Technological University faculty and staff to present at the recent Torch Lake Watershed Project Public Meeting

An account of the meeting can be found in the 9 February 2016 blog post from Keweenaw Now


What do you know about the Torch Lake Watershed, the Torch Lake Superfund and stamp sand, the Torch Lake Area of Concern, PCBs and fish advisories, ongoing research and remediation of contaminated sites in the area? The Torch Lake Watershed Project public meeting is one way to learn about these issues and to become involved in a community effort to plan the future of this area.

More at Keweenaw Now

Michigan Tech Experts Weigh in on Mine Remediation

See the original Michigan Tech Article here

Released: 13-Aug-2015 1:05 PM EDT 
Source Newsroom: Michigan Technological University

Mine waste is dangerous to human and environmental health. The recent mine waste spill in Colorado is a stark reminder of that, but while details on the event may be sparse, the science behind remediation is not. Rupali Datta, an associate professor of biology at Michigan Tech, delves into how the heavy metals found in mine waste affect biological systems. She focuses on biochemistry and genetics to understand how metals are taken up by plants and animals–and how those metals are detoxed.

“The impacts from acid mine drainage affect the aquatic ecosystem mainly due to very low pH and high levels of bioavailable heavy metals,” Datta says, “Which can severely affect the biological community structure.”

Datta collaborates with Dibs Sarkar, a professor of environmental geochemistry in Montclair State University, New Jersey who is also an adjunct professor at Michigan Tech. They work on an abandoned coal mine site in Southern Illinois, testing the effectiveness of a “green” technology that they have developed to combat acid mine drainage problems in impacted water and soils. Sarkar says the spill is not a unique situation and could have been prevented.

“This was a totally avoidable situation,” he says. “It shouldn’t have happened with proper oversight, which unfortunately, is the case with many mine sites that produce acid mine drainage.”

Acid mine drainage is a routine problem in surface coal mines and metal mines, but are mostly not properly managed and the sites are abandoned. This current spill, which is from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River outside Durango, Colorado is getting media attention because of its scale, which is so vast that it would be difficult to fully gauge its impact on the environment right away. Long term impacts of the spill on the Animus River basin will need to be studied carefully. Datta and Sarkar do say the Environmental Protection Agency has taken quick steps to tackle the situation.

“However, their treatment process is generating a huge amount of solid waste in the form of contaminated sediments that they have to deal with down the road, and I hope, they will look for “green” methods instead of just dumping them in landfills,” Sarkar says.

Datta and Sarkar are available for comment on the Colorado spill to better put the event in the context of remediation science and long-term impacts of heavy metals.You can reach Rupali Datta at, office: 906-487-1783 and Dibs Sarkar, office: 973-655-7273

Calumet High School Places First in Bioathlon

Calumet 1st place smallby Jenn Donovan

A team of high school students from Calumet High School took top honors in Michigan Tech’s annual Bioathlon, a biology competition held Wednesday.

A team from West Iron County High School placed second and a team from A.D. Johnston HIgh School in Bessemer was third.

The Bioathlon’s goal is to stimulate interest in biology and in problem-solving among high school students. Teams from 15 Upper Peninsula high schools participated. Each team consisted of four students who have not taken biology classes beyond the traditional sophomore general biology course.

The teams tackled the same four problems: dissection of a dogfish shark; biochemical effects on enzymes; field identification; and a medical laboratory science challenge.

A workshop on animal migration was offered for the teachers who accompanied the students to the competition.

Undergraduate and graduate students and biology faculty participated in designing the problems and supervising the competition.

Funding for the Bioathlon was provided by Michigan Tech Admissions, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Michigan Tech Fund and alumni Mark Cowan, Robert and Kathryn DellAngelo, Olive Kimball, Nancy Auer and Janice Glime.

More information on Bioathlon is available here.

Marquette High School, one of many high schools visiting this year

20150327_12542345 Marquette Senior High School students received the opportunity to travel to Michigan Tech University last Friday, March 27th. During their visit, students learned about the many new careers in life sciences and listened to professors discuss the ground breaking research that they are conducting in genetic research. Students were also allowed to visit an anatomy and physiology lecture and do labs in the life sciences with MTU students! Part of the day was devoted to helping the high school students understand the many different careers there are in the emerging fields of life science studies.



Portage Library Hosts Presentation on Butterflies and Moths of the U.P.

From Tech Today.

4. Portage Library Hosts Presentation on Butterflies and Moths of the U.P.
The Portage Lake District Library will host assistant professor Thomas Werner (BioSci) on Monday, June 30, from 7–8 p.m. for his slide show presentation on “Butterflies and Moths of the Upper Peninsula.”

Werner’s program will illustrate the difference between butterflies and moths, describe their complete life cycles and explain how to mount them for collections. His presentation will cover 30 common species of the Upper Peninsula including the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Monarch, Red Admiral, White Admiral, Luna Moth and Wooly Bear. Participants will have time to ask questions and browse through Werner’s favorite books on this topic.

Werner studied biology in Jena, Germany, and got his Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology and insect immunology in Umea, Sweden. He later moved to the United States as a postdoctoral fellow in Madison, Wisconsin. Werner is now an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Tech where he studies animal color pattern evolution and the evolution of mushroom toxin resistance in fruit flies.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information please call the library at 482-4570 or visit Portage Lake District Library.

25th annual Bioathlon a huge sucess

May 7, 2014


The twenty-fifth annual Department of Biological Sciences Bioathlon for high school biology students was held on Wednesday, May 7, at Michigan Technological University.  Simultaneously, a workshop was held for the accompanying biology teachers.

The Bioathlon serves as a means to stimulate interest and problem-solving in biology among our area youth.  Teams from 16 Upper Peninsula Michigan high schools participated.  The three top scores go to these schools.

The team winning FIRST PLACE was Hancock High School from Hancock, MI.

Team members:  Shannon Nulf, Ruth Venegus, Mary Jarvis, Alexis Aho

Instructor:  Brian Rajdl

The team winning SECOND PLACE was L.L.Wright High School from Ironwood, MI.

Team members: Margaret Meyer, Kathleen Mieloszyk, Corissa Mattson, Leah Braucher

Instructor: Paul Mattson

The team winning the THIRD PLACE was West Iron County High School from Iron River, MI.

Team members: Madiline McNamara, Emmy Kinner, Michelle Wiegand, Izaya Bengry

Instructor: Joel VanLanen

Each team was composed of four students who have not had formal class work in biology beyond the traditional sophomore high school general biology course.  All teams tackled the same four problems:

The four problems for the competition include:

Dissection: designed by Biological Sciences Graduate student Robert Larson and assisted by Travis Wakeham and Jenna Edwards with input from Dr. John Durocher.

Molecular Biology: designed by Biological Sciences graduate student Emily Geiger, assisted by Jennifer Connors.

Field Identification: designed by Biological Sciences graduate student Ashley Coble assisted by Tony Matthys and Troy Long.

Medical Laboratory  Science: designed and proctored by Medical Laboratory Science undergraduate students, Alyssa Elegeert, Rebecca Kurt, Roger Ellis, Sarah Westdorp, Danielle Dawson and Misty Brouilette with input from Professor of Practice Karyn Fay[j1] .

Through these exercises, students needed to demonstrate organizational skills, knowledge of facts and concepts, laboratory skills and creativity.

Each member of the first, second and third team will receive a small cash award along with a plaque.  Each student participating in the competition will also receive a certificate of participation and a Bioathlon T-shirt.

The teacher activity was: The Fungus among Us

In this workshop teachers explored some of the different roles of the fungi and conducted several simple, inexpensive activities to help students overcome their mycophobia.  The workshop was designed and taught by Stacy Cotey, Academic Advisor of Biological Sciences. Lynette Potvin, Ecologist for the US Forest Service Northern Research Station also provided a view of below-ground fungal processes with a tour of the Rhizotron and Mesocosm facilities.


Funding was provided by MTU Admissions, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Michigan Tech Fund, MTU Alumni Mark Cowan, M.D., Robert C. and Kathryn DellAngelo, M.D., Olive Kimball, D.Ed., Ph.D., Nancy Auer, Ph.D. and Janice Glime, Ph.D.,