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Events & News

For current and upcoming events, refer to the Biology Department Calendar link above.

News about Faculty, Current Students and Alumni:

Neurobiology Class Visits Primate Lab
Dr. Lori McGrew, Associate Professor of Biology, recently had her Neurobiology class visit a non-human primate lab at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Jeff Schall, a neuroscientist who uses macaque monkeys to study brain regions involved in controlling eye movements, provided the class with a tour of the facilities and the opportunity to watch some of the monkeys performing their visual discrimination tasks. The group also discussed important ethical considerations of working with primates as well as the sort of information that can only be obtained by using primates or humans. Michelle Howell-Young, a Belmont alumna, is Schall's lab manager and works extensively with the macaques.

Dr. Murphree named 2013 TSTA Higher Education Science Educator of the Year

murphreeDr. Steve Murphree, professor of biology, was named recipient of the 2013 Tennessee Science Teachers Association Higher Education Science Educator of the Year Award. The Tennessee Science Teachers Association (TSTA) is Tennessee’s largest science teacher organization. The award was presented to Murphree at a reception on Nov. 8 at the TSTA annual conference in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Murphree joined the Belmont faculty in 1991 and has taught a wide range of science courses including Biodiversity, Zoology, Principles of Biology II, Comparative Anatomy, Parasitology and graduate courses for the Teacher Education program.

Murphree has also been a leader of promoting science in the community. Since 1992 he has served as the Director and Instructor of the annual “Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies” summer camp at Belmont University. Over 1,000 students between first and sixth grade have participated in this camp. He also hosts sessions of Home School Science Discoveries labs at Belmont which are offered free to home school participants. In addition, Murphree has given 72 insect/arachnid presentations to children in over 25 Middle Tennessee schools. Since 1993, he has given 13 presentations or led bioblitzes for Metro Nashville parks. Beginning in 1995, he has made 12 presentations or led nature walks in Tennessee State Parks and Natural areas. He has judged numerous science fairs, held workshops and served in leadership roles in important science organizations such as the Tennessee Academy of Sciences, the Tennessee Entomological Society and Nashville’s Adventure Science Center.

His works continues in the broader based community on matters of science as he has written articles and been interviewed by local and national-level media outlets. He has written 20 articles for the Tennessee Conservationist magazine, responded to 20 interviews for newspapers and been interviewed 17 times for television. He has also given many presentations to adult groups including popular talks entitled, ” Insects in Victorian Art” and “Insects & Disease in the War Between the States.”

Murphree actively mentors undergraduate student research. His own research interests include morphology, taxonomy, and ecology of biting flies and other insects of medical and veterinary importance with emphasis on the immature stages; collection of mammalian ectoparasites, particularly ticks from whitetailed deer; field collections of ticks; field investigations of biting midges; field investigations of mosquitoes; enhancement of the Sentricon@ (Dow AgroSciences) termite elimination system; morphology, taxonomy and ecology of the Arachnida.

He is also a Fellow in the Tennessee Academy of Sciences and received the 2004 Tennessee Environmental Education Association Environmental Educator of the Year Award.


Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.

Belmont events for the 2014 Brain Awareness Week:

March 10               10:00-11:00 AM             

Dr. David Miller, Vanderbilt University, will present: Keeping in Touch: Genes that define the architecture and function of sensory neurons
Sensory neurons in the skin adopt diverse architectures to detect a wide array of external stimuli including touch and temperature. To simplify the challenge of investigating mechanisms that control these features in mammals, the Miller lab uses the small, soil nematode, C. elegans, to identify conserved genetic pathways that define neuron shape and function.

March 11 12:00 noon-1:00 PM HSB207

Learn about your brain during Brain Awareness Week. Dr. Lori McGrew and Dr. Nick Ragsdale will be leading a discussion and demonstration of the structures of brains. Come learn about the areas and functions of your cranial matter.

March 11 6:30-9:30 PM McWhorter 114  Brain Awareness Week movie:  Memento
Memento is a movie about a man suffering from short-term memory loss.  After the movie, Dr. Lonnie Yandell will discuss short-term memory loss and the brain. 

March 12 10:00-11:00 AM Dr. David Charles, Vanderbilt University, will present: Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's Disease
Vanderbilt Department of Neurology is currently treating Parkinson's disease patients with deep brain stimulation of the bilateral subthalamic nucleus. This FDA approved therapy is an effective intervention for some Parkinson's disease patients. They are investigating the effects of bilateral subthalamic nucleus stimulation in early stage Parkinson's disease to better understand if this treatment may slow the progression of the disease.

March 13 12:00 noon-1:00 PM HSB207 Learn about your brain during Brain Awareness Week. Dr. Lori McGrew and Dr. Nick Ragsdale will be leading a discussion and demonstration of the structures of brains. Come learn about the areas and functions of your cranial matter.

March 14 10:00-11:00 AM McWhorter 114 Dr. Lori McGrew will present:  Serotonin: The Link Between Mood Disorders and Heart Disease
Dr. McGrew will review the location of serotonin production and its action and discuss the link between serotonin and the brain as well as the cardiovascular system.     

Belmont Undergraduate Research Symposium
April 15, 2014
Keynote Address 5:30 PM
Student Presentations 12:00 - 5:00 PM and 7:00 - 10:00 PM

2013 Southeast Population Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics (SEPEEG) meeting

sepeegDr. John Niedzwiecki, Associate Professor of Biology, and four Belmont Biology and Environmental Science students attended the 2013 South Eastern Population Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics (SEPEEG) conference.  The 40th anniversary meeting was held at the University of Virginia's Mountain Lake Biological Station, outside Blacksburg, Virginia, on September 27-29, 2013.  SEPEEG brings together scientists from institutions in the Southeastern U.S. to discuss their research on ecology, population biology, evolution, and genetics.

At the Saturday evening Poster Session, Belmont students  Kyle Sullinger, J. Court Reese, Hannah Martin, and Valini Ramcharan presented the research projects they worked on during Summer Scholar's  with Dr. Niedzwiecki . In addition to the Poster Session, students attended talks and interacted with graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty, from more than 20 Universities from across the south including the University of Virginia, University of Georgia, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Florida, East Carolina University, Duke University, and the University of Tennessee.

Students Present at the Tennessee Academy of Science Annual Meeting

The 123rd Tennessee Academy of Science (TAS) Annual Meeting was held November 15, 2013 at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, TN. The Tennessee Academy of Science, founded in 1912, organizes symposia, manages on-going programs in many fields, and communicates with the national scientific culture. The Tennessee Academy of Science is affiliated with two national societies and seven Tennessee societies. Dr. Steve Murphree, Biology, serves as Treasurer of TAS.
Biology Department faculty members Drs. Bob Grammer, Steve Murphree, Darlene Panvini, Nick Ragsdale, Jennifer Thomas, and Chris Barton attended the meeting along with 29 Belmont undergraduate research students from Environmental Science, Biology, and Neuroscience. Belmont students presented posters at the meeting and attended presentations from graduate students and faculty from a wide variety of Tennessee schools.

Please click here to see a listing of all 29 research projects.

Biology Department Seminar Series

April 7          10:00 AM      HSB408     "Bioinformatics" -- Charles Alexander will discuss the way in which bioinformatics utilizes computer skills to analyze the plethora of data generated by many current research strategies in biology. 

Dr. Panvini and students lead Belmont to Arboretum Status

arbor1What began as a botany class project has blossomed into an outdoor museum that puts Belmont on a regional map for its diverse landscaping. The University hosted a ceremony on September 30th for the Nashville Tree Foundation to designate Belmont one of eight new tree arboretums. Belmont Provost Thomas Burns, College of Arts & Sciences Dean Bryce Sullivan, Dr. Darlene Panvini and alumna Megan DeVries, received bronze plaques in the shape of a yellow popular leaf to recognize Belmont's official designation as an arboretum during the ceremony

"Each of the properties has met the stringent requirements to be recognized an arboretum which include 75 or more named and labeled specimens or as few as 25 in unique, natural or wayside areas and a subsequent inspection by a professional forester," said foundation President Pat Wallace.

The purpose of establishing arboretums is to increase environmental awareness, provide a learning experience, encourage the creation of arboretums and enhance the image of Nashville for visitors and travelers.

arborBelmont's tree identification project began in 2006 with students in Associate Professor Darlene Panvini's botany class identifying tree species and taking samples on the main quad. Since then, 45 students have worked on the project and cataloged trees on most of the main campus. While engaged in this project, students learned about plant morphology, how to use a taxonomic key, techniques of drying and mounting specimens, and the ecological importance of herbaria. 

"An important skill for students to learn is to take specimens of plants and preserve them in an herbaria, so I thought it would be good to document the trees on Belmont's campus to teach them," said Panvini, also chair of the Biology department. "It was just a project to help students learn the technique and skills. As I kept doing the project, I realized we have a great diversity of trees. It wasn't until fall of 2010, when I started listing all of the species on a poster, that I realized we could have an arboretum."

signThere are more than 48 species of trees and shrubs on the campus' 75 acres. Students and landscaping staff have designated trees part of the arboretum with ground-stake markers listing their scientific name, family and common name. Alumna Megan DeVries ('12) began documenting trees in 2010 and created a reflective brochure with Bible verses and prayers to correspond with several campus trees for an Eco Justice and Faith course taught by religion Professor Judy Skeen.

This semester, Dr. Panvini required her students to come up with a plan to promote the arboretum beyond the classroom. One group will host a convocation lecture and tour this fall. Another group is recording an arboretum audio tour that can be downloaded onto smart phones. Other students are writing booklets for children and adults with cultural, economic and scientific information about Belmont's trees.