May 27, 2024  
2017-2018 Catalog 
2017-2018 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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The Biology Department offers a broad-based curriculum with the opportunity for undergraduates to explore specific areas of biology in depth through rigorous upper-division courses and participation in research, internships and independent study options. The department offers both Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degree programs and students may choose to become generalists or to specialize in one of 7 different emphases ranging from molecular biology to ecosystem ecology. Additionally, the Biology Department has developed several interdisciplinary program options in collaboration with the departments of Anthropology, Chemistry and Mathematics.


MERRILL A. PETERSON (1997) Chair and Professor. BS, University of Washington; PhD, Cornell University.
DAVID S. LEAF (1991) Associate Chair and Professor. BS, University of Washington; PhD, Indiana University.
ALEJANDRO ACEVEDO-GUTIÉRREZ (2002) Professor. BSc, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, Mexico; PhD, Texas A&M University.
ROGER A. ANDERSON (1994) Professor. BS, University of Minnesota; MA, University of California-Riverside; PhD, University of California-Los Angeles.
MARION BRODHAGEN (2006) Associate Professor. BS, University of Wisconsin; MS, PhD, Oregon State University.
CAROLINE DAHLBERG (2014) Assistant Professor. BS, Haverford College; PhD, University of Washington.
ERIC DECHAINE (2006) Professor. BA, University of California-San Diego; MS, University of Hawaii-Manoa; PhD, University of Colorado-Boulder.
DEBORAH A. DONOVAN (1998) Professor. BSc, MSc, University of California-Davis; PhD, University of British Columbia.
DAVID U. HOOPER (1998) Professor. BA, Middlebury College; PhD, Stanford University.
ROBIN KODNER (2012) Assistant Professor. BS, University of Wisconsin; PhD, Harvard University
SUZANNE LEE (2015) Assistant Professor. BA, Wellesley College; PhD, University of California Berkeley.
BENJAMIN MINER (2006) Professor. BA, University of Florida; PhD, University of California-Santa Cruz.
CRAIG L. MOYER (1997) Professor. BS, MS, Oregon State University; PhD, University of Hawaii.
LYNN J. PILLITTERI (2008) 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.
SANDRA SCHULZE (2006) Associate Professor. BS, University of British Columbia; PhD, Simon Fraser University.
DIETMAR SCHWARZ (2008) 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.
CAROL TRENT (1989) Professor. BS, Indiana University; PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
ADRIENNE M. WANG (2017) Assistant Professor. BA, University of CA Berkeley; PhD, University of Michigan Ann Arbor.
JEFF C. YOUNG (1999) Professor. BA, PhD, Ohio State University.
MATTHEW S. ZINKGRAF (2017) Assistant Professor. BS University of Wisconsin Stevens Point; PhD, Northern Arizona 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.
JUDE APPLE BS, Tufts University; MS, University of NC Wilmington; PhD, University of MD College Park.
SHAWN ARELLANO BS, University of Kansas; PhD, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.
JOHN BOWER BS, PhD, Cornell University.
MELISSA MINER BS, University Of California-Santa Cruz; MS, University of California, Moss Landing Marine Lab.
M BRADY OLSON BS, University of Idaho; MS, Western Washington University; PhD, University of Washington.
JENNIFER PURCELL BS, MS, Stanford University; PhD, University of California-Santa Barbara.
FREDERICK M. RHOADES BA, Swarthmore; MS, Oregon State University; PhD, University of Oregon.
SUZANNE STROM BA, Middlebury College; MA, Harvard University; PhD, University of Washington.
JENNIFER TENNESSEN BS, MS, University of Wisconsin Madison; PhD, Penn State University.
KATHRYN L. VAN ALSTYNE BS, University of Rhode Island; PhD, University of Washington.
BARRY WENDLING BS, MS, Western Washington University.

Departmental Mission

In support of Western Washington University and the College of Science and Engineering, 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 to 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 both independently and collaboratively as 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 82,000 square-foot Biology Building features teaching labs, research labs, environmental control rooms, a seawater lab, image analysis labs, and multimedia lecture halls. The department also maintains two greenhouses on campus that support teaching and research activities. The beautiful, nearby Cascade and Olympic mountains support a rich diversity of aquatic and terrestrial habitats that are frequently utilized for course and individual projects that focus on organismal or ecological aspects of biology. Additionally, our marine biology program is enriched through our affiliation with Western’s Shannon Point Marine Center near Anacortes, Wash.

Undergraduate Programs

Our Bachelor of Science curriculum is designed 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]; and (3) provide a broad exposure to biology for students who want a general science education as biologists and/or teachers. The Bachelor of Arts degree options in general biology and biology/anthropology are specifically designed to provide students with a foundation in biology that may be combined with another discipline. 

  • BA Biology
  • BS Biology - General Emphasis
  • BS Biology - Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology Emphasis
  • BS Biology - Marine Emphasis 
  • BS Biology - Molecular and Cell Emphasis
  • BS Biology - Secondary Teaching Emphasis 
  • BS Biology/Anthropology
  • BA Biology/Anthropology
  • BS Biology/Mathematics
  • BAE Chemistry/Biology

Declaration Process

To declare, students must contract the Biology Department and submit a major declaration request. For combined degree programs in biology/math and biology/anthropology, students must declare through the Biology Department.

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 in general chemistry and biology. 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 GPA 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. Students are encouraged to visit our website for more detailed information about the declaration process and the GPA requirement.

Departmental Policies

All Biology courses (except independent study, research, teaching practicum, and graduate-level courses) will be part of Western’s automatic waitlist system. The Biology Department does not actively manage waitlists for 100-level, and most 200-level courses. Students who are on a waitlist will be offered seats on a “first in, first out” basis. Given the variability of enrollment needs across courses within our department, we reserve the right to manage course waitlists as summarized below. Application of this policy may change your position on the waitlist without advance notice. It is the student’s responsibility to check their position on a course waitlist in order to make timely registration decisions.

BIOL 204, 205 and 206 – Students (regardless of their major) who have been on the waitlist for the same course for two consecutive quarters will be given priority. Waitlists in these courses will be evaluated during registration and reprioritized without advance notice.

Upper Division (300- and 400- Level) Courses – In courses where waitlist management is necessary, prioritization will be done primarily to expedite time to degree completion to accommodate students who are close to graduation. Students who have formally applied for graduation and who require a specific course as part of their degree plan, will be given the highest priority. It is the responsibility of the student to approach the Department as soon as possible for assistance if they are unable to get into a required course as specified on their approved graduation checklist. Additionally, students on the waitlist may be prioritized based on one or more of the following considerations: number of credits completed, declared major/degree requirements, and/or enrollment in the course for the first time.

BIOL 348 – Due to unprecedented enrollment pressure, waitlists for BIOL 348 are heavily managed each quarter and qualified students are prioritized based on number of credits and proximity to graduation. Further, students who are enrolled in the course but have completed BIOL 348 or its transfer equivalent with a C– or higher may be required to withdraw from the course in order to accommodate students who are enrolling for the first time AND who need the course to satisfy their major requirements.

Failed Prerequisite Policy

The Biology Department enforces Western’s campus-wide prerequisite policy. Students who are enrolled in a course but have failed to pass the prerequisite course with a C – or higher will be required to withdraw from the course immediately. Students who have failed prerequisites will be notified via email within a week after final grades are posted.

Registration and Access to Biology Courses

Most lower-level biology courses are open to all students who have successfully met the prerequisites. All 300- and 400-level courses are major restricted and the restrictions vary widely by course. It is important to review the department’s detailed registration information each quarter to fully understand the major restrictions that will be enforced and when it is appropriate to request an instructor override. For more information, students should review our Registration tab on our website (

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 (

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.

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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