Apr 15, 2024  
2014-2015 Catalog 
2014-2015 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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Biology is the study of living organisms and is one of the broadest fields in science. It ranges in scale from the molecular and cellular to ecosystems and evolutionary biology. Biology at Western Washington University gives students the opportunity to explore this breadth in all degree programs, as well as to specialize.


JOANN OTTO (2004) Chair and Professor. AB, AM, Mount Holyoke College; PhD, University of California-Irvine.
(2002) Professor. BSc, Universidad Autonama de Baja California Sur, Mexico; PhD, Texas A&M University.
(1994) Professor. BS, University of Minnesota; MA, University of California-Riverside; PhD, University of California-Los Angeles.
(2006) Associate Professor. BS, University of Wisconsin; MS, PhD, Oregon State University.
CAROLINE DAHLBERG (2014) Assistant Professor. BS, Haverford College; PhD, University of Washington.
(2006) Associate Professor. BA, University of California-San Diego; MS, University of Hawaii-Manoa; PhD, University of Colorado-Boulder.
(1998) Professor. BSc, MSc, University of California-Davis; PhD, University of British Columbia.
(1998) Professor. BA, Middlebury College; PhD, Stanford University.
(2012) Assistant Professor. BS, University of Wisconsin; PhD, Harvard University
(1991) Professor. BS, University of Washington; PhD, Indiana University.
SUZANNE LEE (2015) Assistant Professor. BA, Wellesley College; PhD, University of California Berkeley.
(2006) Associate Professor. BA, University of Florida; PhD, University of California-Santa Cruz.
(1997) Professor. BS, MS, Oregon State University; PhD, University of Hawaii.
MERRILL A. PETERSON (1997) Professor. BS, University of Washington; PhD, Cornell University.
(2008) Assistant Professor. BS, State University of New York at Binghamton; MS, PhD, University of California, Riverside.
DANIEL POLLARD (2015) Assistant Professor. BA, Bowdoin College; PhD, University of California Berkeley.
(2006) Associate Professor. BS, University of British Columbia; PhD, Simon Fraser University.
(2008) Assistant Professor. Diplom Biology, Christian- Albrechts Universität, Kiel, Germany; PhD Pennsylvania State University.
ANU SINGH-CUNDY (1996) Associate Professor. BSc, MSc, Delhi University, Delhi, India; PhD, Cornell University.
(1989) Professor. BS, Indiana University; PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
(1999) Professor. BA, PhD, Ohio State University.

Affiliated Teaching Faculty

GEORGIANNE CONNELL (2004) Senior Instructor. BA, Seattle Pacific University; MS, Western Washington University.
JANICE LAPSANSKY (1985) Senior Instructor. BS, Seattle University; MS, Western Washington University.
CARRIE SCHWARZ (2008) Senior Instructor. BS, University of Maryland; MS, PhD, Pennsylvania State University.
JOSÉ SERRANO-MORENO (2007) Senior Instructor. BS, Universidad Central de Venezuela; MS, Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research; PhD, Case Western Reserve University.

Research Associates

DAVID L. ALLES BS, University of Colorado; MS, Western Washington University.
BS, University of Hamburg; MS, Northwestern University; PhD, University of Göttingen.
BS, University Of California-Santa Cruz; MS, University of California, Moss Landing Marine Lab.
BA, Swarthmore; MS, Oregon State University; PhD, University of Oregon.

Adjunct Faculty

JOHN BOWER BS, PhD, Cornell University.
BS, MS, Stanford University; PhD, University of California-Santa Barbara.
SUZANNE STROM BA, Middlebury College; MA, Harvard University; PhD, University of Washington.
KATHRYN L. VAN ALSTYNE BS, University of Rhode Island; PhD, University of Washington

Departmental Mission

In support of the mission of Western Washington University and the College of Sciences and Technology, the mission of the Biology Department is to provide an outstanding learning environment that integrates education, scholarship, and service in order to actively engage students in the biological sciences and foster their development as lifelong learners. Successful graduates of our Department will understand fundamental biological principles in depth, will have laboratory and field skills to address biological questions, will have enhanced critical thinking and quantitative skills, will be able to communicate precisely and analytically in written and oral forms, and will be able to engage independently and collaboratively to be thoughtful and productive contributors to society. 

We accomplish this mission by:

  • Offering a broad-based, rigorous, and integrative curriculum
  • Providing diverse upper-division courses that foster critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills
  • Offering opportunities for undergraduate research and writing
  • Providing for timely completion of degree

Other Departmental Information

Facilities and Resources

The Biology building includes well-equipped teaching and research labs, and two multimedia lecture halls and two on-campus greenhouse facilities that support teaching and research. The Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes supports research and teaching in marine science. Western’s geographic location offers fascinating learning opportunities for students in biology. The variety of plant communities and climatic patterns of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains and nearby lowlands, the numerous ponds and lakes, streams and rivers and the many marine habitats provide a rich diversity of organisms for students to encounter and study.

Undergraduate Programs

Our programs are designed for students with broad or specialized interests in the biological sciences. They are intended to (1) prepare undergraduates for graduate studies in diverse areas of biology; (2) prepare students for advanced study in the health professions [e.g., medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry]; (3) provide a broad exposure to biology for students who want a general science education as biologists and teachers; and (4) provide students with a foundation in biology that is combined with another discipline. 

  • BA Biology - flexible, student-advisor designed program
  • BS Biology - General Emphasis - flexible, student-advisor designed program 
  • BS Biology - Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology Emphasis - focuses on the structure, function, ecology & evolution of organisms
  • BS Biology - Marine Emphasis - focuses on the structure and function of marine organisms and their relationship with the environment
  • BS Biology - Molecular and Cell Emphasis - focuses on biochemistry, cell biology, molecular genetics and genomics of prokaryotic and eukaryotic model organisms
  • BS Biology - Secondary Teaching Emphasis - prepares students for a state teaching endorsement in biology
  • BS Biology/Anthropology - focuses on human biology and behavioral science
  • BS Biology/Mathematics - brings biology together with linear algebra, advanced calculus and methods of computer programming and mathematical modeling
  • BA Behavioral Neuroscience - emphasizes neurobiology and the psychology of normal and abnormal behavior at the molecular and organismal level
  • BAE Chemistry/Biology - Secondary - a combined study of biology and chemistry courses for teaching endorsements

Declaration Process

The Biology Department has a two-step process for admission into our degree programs. Phase I students are those who have declared their intent to major in biology, and are in the process of completing the introductory courses. Admission to Phase II is based on academic performance in the introductory courses (CHEM 121, 122, 123 and BIOL 204, 205, 206). Students must achieve an average grade of 2.9 or higher in their introductory biology and general chemistry courses before they can advance to Phase II and begin taking upper-division coursework.

Mid-Program Checkpoint

Students seeking to complete a BS degree in biology within a four-year time span should have completed these courses prior to their junior year: MATH 124 ; CHEM 121 , CHEM 123 , CHEM 122 ; BIOL 204 , BIOL 206 , BIOL 205 ; CHEM 351 , CHEM 352 ; ENG 101 ; plus 18 credits from the non-science/math GUR sections. Major omissions from this list will make it difficult to complete this degree within two additional years.

Teaching Careers in Biology

Students wishing to teach at the high school-level in the Washington State public schools need to seek advisement prior to or at the beginning of their third year of college. A Biology Endorsement is earned by completion of the courses in the Biology BS-Secondary Teaching Emphasis and the certification program in Woodring College of Education (www.wce.wwu.edu/Resources/Certification/).

A Science Endorsement may be completed by taking the additional courses of GEOL 211 , GEOL 212 ; and ASTR 315 . All courses for the state teaching endorsement must be completed with a C (2.0) or higher. Students who wish to teach at the college-level complete a Biology BS or BA degree and continue graduate work leading to a master’s or doctoral degree.

Transfer Students

Transfer students will be well prepared for admission and able to complete a biology major in two more years if they have completed MATH 124 and an introductory biology, an introductory chemistry and an introductory physics series intended for biology majors; have earned excellent grades in each of these courses; and state in the personal letter for admission their educational goals and that they can no longer progress toward these goals at their present institution.

Access to Biology Classes

Because of high student demand for many upper-division biology courses, the Biology Department must give enrollment priority to students for whom these courses are required for their major over students who want to take them as electives. Registration details for biology courses are listed on the Biology Department Registration webpage at: http://www.biol.wwu.edu/biology/registration.shtml.

Graduate Study

For concentrations leading to the Master of Education or the Master of Science degrees, see the Graduate School  section of this catalog.


    Undergraduate MajorUndergraduate Combined MajorUndergraduate MinorGraduate



      Courses numbered X37; X97; 300, 400, 500 are described in the University Academic Policies  section of this catalog.

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