News & Events

College of Science E-Newsletter

April 2011

Dear Friends of the College of Science:

Welcome to the April 2011 issue of the College of Science E-Newsletter.

For those of you have been receiving the College of Science E-Newsletter for some time, you know that we like to feature one department or program in the College each month; this month's featured department is the Department of Botany.  We also like to brag just a bit about the terrific work that is being done by our faculty, students, and alumni.

Weber State University is rushing toward the end of the 2010-2011 academic year!  On Wednesday, April 13 at 7:00 PM in Lind Lecture Hall LL 125-126 we will be recognizing special achievements of our students and faculty during our annual College of Science Awards Program.  This year we also begin a new tradition by honoring an outstanding alum from the College of Science.  This special honor is awarded by the College of Science Advancement Board and will be presented to Mr. Don Paul, a graduate of the Department of Botany, who has played a major role in conservation of vital ecosystems in Utah and throughout the Northern Hemisphere.  We will also be recognizing this year's scholarship and fellowship awardees, and have the opportunity to publically thank those friends of the College of Science who have so generously supported scholarships and fellowships through their gifts to our departments and the College. 

Classes wrap up on Friday, April 15, with final exams the following week.  Then, on Friday, April 22 we will celebrate a major milestone in the lives of our graduating students; a degree from Weber State University!  The celebration is in two parts, the 137th Commencement Exercises for the University at 8:00 AM in the Dee Events Center, followed by the College of Science Convocation Ceremony at 10:30 AM in the Shepherd Union Building Ballrooms.

We would also like to hear from you.  Please send us an e-mail from time to time letting us know your thoughts.  If you are a graduate of WSU, be sure to let us know what you are up to these days, and how your education at Weber State has helped prepare you for your career.  If you are aware of family or friends who should be receiving this monthly E-Newsletter, please forward their e-mail addresses and we would be happy to add them to our distribution list.

Dr. Dale A. Ostlie, Dean

Weber State University and College of Science End-of-Year Events

With the end of the academic year comes the opportunity to recognize our outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and of course our graduates.  While the number of events across the university is large at this time of year, some important events worth putting on your calendar are:

  • April 13, 7:00 PM, LL 125-126:  The annual College of Science Awards Program

  • April 22, 8:00 AM, Dee Events Center:  Weber State University's 137th Commencement Exercises

  • April 22, 10:30, Shepherd Union Building:  College of Science Convocation



A Feature from the Department of Botany

This has been a successful year for the Botany Department.  We have begun to move in a number of exciting new directions that will provide new recruitment, retention, research and employment opportunities for our students.  We are establishing associations with local and national schools, groups and institutions that will increase the visibility of WSU’s Botany Department.  Ours is one of a very few remaining undergraduate Botany Departments left in the nation and our students have impressed many, including the Chicago Botanic Gardens, the US Forest Service, and the Institute for EthnoMedicine in Wyoming with the depth and breadth of their knowledge of botany. 

Department Highlights of 2010-2011

  1. Pre-Natural Medicine Option: The Botany Department received approval of a second option under Track A of the Botany Major.  Track A is our pre-professional track.  Students interested in pursuing graduate studies or lab-related careers in Botany will take the traditional Option 1.  Option 2 is a Pre-Natural Medicine curriculum.  This project began with a trip to Portland, Oregon last June (2010) to visit with the Admissions Director at the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM).  The degree option was designed in close consultation with him.  The President of the school wrote a letter of support when we submitted the curriculum proposal for review at WSU.  We are now in the process of supplying syllabi for courses that will fulfill the pre-reqs for their program in naturopathic medicine.  Once these syllabi are screened and accepted, an articulation agreement will guarantee that students who do well in these WSU classes will have met the pre-reqs for the post-graduate program.  Our program will be fairly rigorous and requires courses that NCNM currently suggests, but is thinking about requiring.  Hence, our students will have a distinct advantage as they apply to any of the seven accredited natural medicine schools in North America.  For details of the new option, see .

Botany is a perfect fit for these fields.  In fact, NCNM will soon offer a graduate certificate in Botanical Medicines for practicing MDs and DOs who feel an increasing need to learn about natural products as more of their patients seek alternatives to “pharmaceutical products”.

Without advertising, we already have three students who have chosen this degree option.  Once the articulation agreement is completed, we plan to advertise widely on and off campus.  NCNM is already passing out our flyers at conferences at which they have booths and will link to our website as the only state university in the west, and one of very few nation-wide, who offer a pre-natural medicine degree path.

Natural medicine is a growing field nation-wide as well as in Utah.  Interestingly, Utah is the only state that currently requires a residency for naturopathic doctors.   This degree option could help us attract more in-state, out-of-state, international, and perhaps Native American students to our program.

  1. Two New Computer Programs:  Stephen Clark approached Robert Hilton (Computer Sciences) this past year to have computer science students develop two computer programs for the Botany Department as class group projects.  They were a great success (and free)! 
    1. One of the programs is designed to inventory plant specimens in the WSU Herbarium.  Data on the plant name, who collected the specimen, the location, elevation, date of collection, etc. can be entered and searched and specimen labels created.
    2.  The second program allows for GPS coordinates of certain plants to be entered as well as data and images.  Plant names, coordinates and information will be entered in themes (coniferous plants, plant adaptations to drought, etc.) that will be on our departmental web site.  In this manner, the popular family activity of geocaching will be modified so that children can find and learn about Utah plants, rather than collecting trinkets.  This will increase the visibility of the Botany Department at WSU, get many more people visiting our website, and potentially increase interest in Botany as a career.  Once the program is up and going, we plan to contact travel magazines, family magazines, and geocaching websites to establish links to our website.
  1. Hemingway Grant Proposal: WSU Community Garden: Dawn Gatherum, in consultation with Barb Wachocki, Facilities Management, Student Housing, and the International Student Office, received a Hemingway grant entitled, WSU Community Garden.  If funded, the grant will provide funding for the establishment of a community garden on WSU’s campus.  Garden plots would be available for a small fee first to students who live on campus, students who live off campus, student organizations, and lastly to faculty and staff.  The garden has tremendous support from several departments, and environmental groups on campus.   If funded, the grant would provide a summer stipend for a Botany student to manage the day-to-day oversight of the garden.  In the long-term, student fee funding will be sought to maintain the garden.
  1. Hemingway Grant Proposal: GPS: Great Plant Search Program with Ogden Schools (for K-12 Outreach, Community Education, and Long-Term Recruitment): Last year we planned to try to increase outreach to local K-12 schools and help teachers and student become more aware and educated about plants.  Barb Wachocki, in collaboration with Stephen Clark and Robert Hilton (Computer Sciences), was awarded a Hemingway grant entitled, GPS: Great Plant Search Program with Ogden Schools.   The grant requested money to purchase GPS units for 6 local schools.  Several teachers from public, private, kindergarten through high schools are participating in the grant.  If funded, a Botany thesis student will work with the teachers to train them in the use of the GPS units.  They will use the newly developed computer program to enter the GPS coordinates, names, and images of plants found on the school campuses and in the schools’ neighborhoods.  The information will be entered on our homepage as well as that of each school.  We can also link it to the herbarium website, once it is established. 

Search themes will be designed to incorporate state core curriculum concepts involving plants.  Students will learn about adaptations to different environments, inheritance of traits, ecological principles, Utah flora (as well as fauna), plant form and function, photosynthesis, etc.  In addition, this will help teachers feel more confident teaching about plants if their own education was a bit lacking.  Another benefit to this program is that the GPS units can be shared among classes and disciplines within a school.  Hence classes and field trips could use GPS to help students learn about botany, soils, zoology, geology, etc.

If successful, we plan to expand the program to include GPS coordinates for plants near tourist locations so that national parks, etc. can link to our website as well.  In this way, families on vacation in Utah, from all over the country and the world, can have a free, family activity that is both fun and educational.  It will also increase the exposure of our department dramatically.  The possibilities are endless, as future funding could take the program nation-wide.  As we continue to develop a closer relationship with the Chicago Botanic Gardens and the Botanical Society of America, we hope they will be our allies in increasing the visibility of our program. 

  1. U.S. Forest Service grant: Lichen Monitoring in the Manti-La Sal National Forest Dawn Gatherum was awarded a USFS grant to monitor lichens in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.  He will be on sabbatical in Fall 2011 to work on the project.
  1. Sue Harley selected as Honors Eccles Fellow 2011-2012: Sue Harley will be team-teaching a cross-listed Honors course in Fall 2011 with Kathryn MacKay (History) entitled The 19th Century American West and Its Naturalists.
  1. Two of our 2010 graduates who were awarded the prestigious Chicago Botanic Garden’s Conservation and Land Management (CLM) Internships last year spring worked throughout the summer and fall of 2010.  Much of the work was with the Seeds for Success Program.  This involved finding populations of specific plants throughout Utah and collecting seeds for seed banks and reseeding projects.
  1. Many of our students have become incredible plant taxonomists.  Work done by students conducting field work this past summer uncovered taxonomic problems in several plant groups in the Wasatch flora.  These observations led to the most complete revision of A Flora of the Central Wasatch ever written and senior thesis problems for two of our majors.
  2. The Botany Department continued its tradition of taking general education students on field trips to the Uinta Mountains (Fall 2010) and Antelope Island (Spring 2011).  Each trip involves the entire Botany faculty and about 80 students who are registered for a Botany course at the time.  Students learned a lot, the weather was great and a good time was had by all.
  3. The Botany Club had a very successful year.  They raised money for the Botany Club scholarship through plant sales, sponsored speakers, and held activities throughout the year.  They were also involved in Science Saturdays.


Botany Faculty:

Dr. Eugene Bozniak is half-time now and has spent his time travelling, collecting plant specimens and photographing flowers to be used in PowerPoint presentations and guides.  This year he made presentations to community groups such as the Wasatch Audubon Society, Weber County Master Gardeners, the Botany Club, and is scheduled to present to the Davis County Master Gardeners.  The talks include Galápagos Island Flora and Fauna, Flora of Ecuador, Flora and Fauna of South America, and Flora of Turkey.  He has completed a multi-year collection of Desert Wildflowers from the Mojave Deserts of Nevada and Southern California.  Gene now has four PowerPoint presentations (each of 300 + flowers) on the topic that he will present to various in the future.  He has also compiled a PowerPoint presentation on the Flora of the USA and Canada following trips to Canada, desert SW of the USA and a trip across the USA to North Carolina and back.  He spent time the last several summers photographing wildflowers of Northern Utah for an-upcoming field guide-book.  He continues to add to his collection of plants and algae from around the world that can be used in several classes.

He continues to serve as Co-Chair of the Ogden City Urban Forestry Advisory Committee.

He served as the Botany Faculty Advisor to a BIS student, Betty Swedin, on her thesis entitled, “Understanding Landslide Potential Involving Arsenic Contamination in South Weber, Utah”, presented March, 2011.

Dr. Stephen Clark is the curator of the WSU Botany Department’s Herbarium, which is considered one of the finest in the region.  In the Spring 2010 he was awarded an RSPG/Instructional Improvement Grant entitled, Re-building the teaching plant collection for six botany courses and has been collecting plants to rebuild the teaching collection in the herbarium. 

He completely revised A Flora of the Central Wasatch to create A Field Guide of the Flora of the Central Wasatch and Adjacent Valleys and has continued his revision of A Wetland Flora of Utah.  He is also in the process of writing a textbook on Ethnobotany. 

Stephen developed a training program for the Boy Scouts of America to teach adult leaders outdoor survival skills.  He will begin teaching this program to the local Boy Scout Council in Spring 2011.  He has also worked with Rob Hilton (Computer Sciences), whose class developed  a computer program for the Herbarium as a group project, to label and catalog specimens electronically.  He and Rob Hilton are working to develop Herbarium software for the IPhone, so that the data could be accessed from remote locations.

Stephen is serving as the faculty advisor for two Botany student thesis projects.  He is also collaborating with faculty at BYU on issues of phylogeny in the genus Penstemon, is continuing his research on Scirpus maritimus as a food source, is working with The Army Corps of Engineers to re-evaluate certain wetland sites in Northern Utah, an continues to provide technical assistance in plant identification for various state, federal and community groups/individuals.  He also has serves as a reviewer for articles on plant taxonomy submitted to the journal Great Basin Naturalist.

Dr. Ron Deckert has continued with his individual research and to mentor undergraduate student research students, including the following Botany Thesis students:

  1. Aaron Ogden, Subcellular Pathogen Fractionation as a Method for Chitinase Induction within the Arabidopsis thaliana – Alternaria brassicicola System, (to be presented April 2011).
  1. Jace Van Leer, Cataloguing the Macrofungi of the Uinta Mountains (in progress)
  1. Elizabeth Mora, Biologically active substances from endophytic fungi (in progress)

Ron has also continued to review articles:

Mycoscience (the journal of the Japanese Mycological Society): Effects of environmental moisture on twig litter decomposition by endophytic and saprobic fungi.

Dr. Dawn Gatherum will be on sabbatical in Fall 2011 to work on his U.S. Forest Service grant on Lichen Monitoring in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. He submitted a Hemingway grant to start a Community Garden at WSU.  He has continued to serve the department, college and university as chair of the COS Convocation Committee, director of the Ritchey Science and Engineering Fair of Utah, chairman of the departmental scholarship committee, faculty advisor to the Botany Club, and advisor for the maintenance of the Botany greenhouses.  As Chair of the Science Fair Committee, he will take the International Science Fair (ISEF) winners to the ISEF in Los Angeles, California in May, 2011. 

He served as the faculty advisor for Marie Fair’s Botany thesis project, Biochar applied as a soil amendment for fertility improvement and possible carbon sink in Welsh soils, presented December, 2010.

He is an active member of the Weber River Weed Management Cooperative, faculty advisor for the care and maintenance of the orchard planted adjacent to the Institute on WSU’s campus, and is working with the Boy Scouts of America to collect, identify, press and mount plant specimens for easy identification at local scout camps and to prepare PowerPoint presentation of live specimens.      

Dr. Sue Harley was selected as an Honors Eccles Fellow for 2011-2012 and will team-teach a course with Kathryn Mackay in Fall 2011 entitled The 19th Century American West and Its Naturalists.  She is actively involved in pedagogy and continues to pursue individual and collaborative research projects, as well as mentoring undergraduate research students.  She attended the Joint Annual Meetings of the American Society of Plant Biologists and the Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists in Montreal in Summer 2010 and has made the following presentations:

  1. Harley SM.  2010.  Dodos and moas: a case study of extinct birds and the trees that survived them.  Botany 2010; Montreal, Canada; July 31 - August 4, 2010
  1. Sitzman K, Elsely J, Harley S, MacKay K, Shigley S.  2011.  Re-imagining Pedagogy:  Scientists and Humanists Collaborate to teach Honors Students.  Western Regional Honors Council Conference; park City, UT; March 31-April 2, 2011.

In March, 2011, Sue served as the Event Supervisor for Group B (middle school) Microbe Mission at the Utah Science Olympiad.  She also served on the Executive Committee of the WSU Faculty Senate, the Athletic Board, and the Matthew Sheppard Scholarship Committee.

Dr. Barbara Wachocki was instrumental in creating the Pre-Natural Medicine Option within the Botany Major.  She submitted a Hemingway grant entitled, GPS: Great Plant Search Program with Ogden Schools and helped lay the groundwork for the WSU Community Garden proposal.  She has continued to mentor student research projects.  She has been involved in a study of pygmy rabbit habitat in northeastern Utah that has lead to the following presentations and a grant proposal:

2011 WSU Undergraduate Research Symposium:

  1. Jennifer M. Schmalz, S.  Zeveloff and B.  Wachocki), Habitat ecology of pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) in northeastern Utah.
  1. Jennifer M. Schmalz*, Samuel I. Zeveloff, Barbara Wachocki, Masako Wright, Habitat Ecology of pygmy rabbits in northeastern Utah, to be presented at the American Society of Mammologists Conference, Summer 2011, Portland, OR

Grant Proposal to Northern Region UPCD:

  1. Jennifer M. Schmalz*, Samuel I. Zeveloff, Barbara Wachocki, Masako Wright, Pygmy rabbits in the Woodruff area: vegetation and diet

Barb was also a presenter in the following:

  1. Shaun Jackson, Michele Skopec, Joan Thompson, Jennifer Turley, and Barbara Wachocki, Eating Sustainably, 2nd Annual Recycling and Sustainability Conference, March 4, 2011, WSU


Student Presentations

Botany Thesis Presentations:

  1. Marie Fair, Biochar applied as a soil amendment for fertility improvement and possible carbon sink in Welsh soils, December 2010.
  1. Aaron Ogden, Subcellular Pathogen Fractionation as a Method for Chitinase Induction within the Arabidopsis thaliana – Alternaria brassicicola System, to be presented April 2011.

2011 WSU Undergraduate Research Symposium Presentations:

  1. Jennifer M. Schmalz, S. Zeveloff and B. Wachocki, Habitat ecology of pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) in northeastern Utah, March 2011.