May 18, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 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.


LYNN J. PILLITTERI (2008) Chair and Professor. BS, State University of New York at Binghamton; MS, PhD, University of California, Riverside.
ALEJANDRO ACEVEDO-GUTIÉRREZ (2002) Professor. BSc, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, Mexico; PhD, Texas A&M University.
SHAWN ARELLANO (2018) Associate Professor. BS, University of Kansas; PhD, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.
MARION BRODHAGEN (2006) Professor. BS, University of Wisconsin; MS, PhD, Oregon State University.
JIM COOPER (2020) Assistant Professor. BS, Florida State University. MS, Florida State University. Ph.D., The University of Chicago.
CAROLINE DAHLBERG (2014) 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.
NICK GALATI (2018) Assistant Professor. BS, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; PhD, University of Colorado-Boulder.
DAVID U. HOOPER (1998) Professor. BA, Middlebury College; PhD, Stanford University.
SUZANNE LEE (2015) Associate Professor. BA, Wellesley College; PhD, University of California Berkeley.
BENJAMIN MINER (2006) Professor. BA, University of California-Santa Cruz; PhD, University of Florida.
CRAIG L. MOYER (1997) Professor. BS, MS, Oregon State University; PhD, University of Hawaii.
M. BRADY OLSON (2018) Associate Professor. BS, University of Idaho; MS, Western Washington University; PhD, University of Washington.
MERRILL A. PETERSON (1997) Professor. BS, University of Washington; PhD, Cornell University.
LAURA M. PILLAY (2022) Assistant Professor. BS, University of Alberta; PhD, University of Alberta
DANIEL POLLARD (2015) Associate 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.
ANNELISE G. SNYDER (2023) Assistant Professor. BA, Williams College; PhD, University of Washington
CHRISTOPHER N. TEMPLETON (2023) Assistant Professor. BS, Denison University; MS, University of Montana, Missoula; PhD, University of Washington
ADRIENNE M. WANG (2017) Associate Professor. BA, University of California-Berkeley; PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
MATTHEW S. ZINKGRAF (2017) Associate Professor. BS University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; PhD, Northern Arizona University.

Affiliated Teaching Faculty

ELIZABETH BINNEY (2004) Senior Instructor. BA, Antioch College; MS, Western Washington University; PhD, University of British Columbia.
GEORGIANNE CONNELL (2004) Senior Instructor. BA, Seattle Pacific 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.
DAN VAN HEES (2018) Senior Instructor. BS, University of Wyoming; MS, Western Washington University; PhD, University of Western Australia. 

Research Associates

JOHN BOWER BS, PhD, Cornell University.
CASEY T. CLARK BS, University of Santa Cruz; MS Moss Landing Marine Laboratories; PhD, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
ERIN D’AGNESE BS, Seattle University; MS, Western Washington University; PhD, University of California, Davis
MELISSA MINER BS, University Of California-Santa Cruz; MS, University of California, Moss Landing Marine Lab.
FREDERICK M. RHOADES BA, Swarthmore College; 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, Pennsylvania State University.
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 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 the laboratory and field skills needed 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 comprehensive, supportive advising
  • Providing for timely completion of degree

Other Departmental Information

Facilities and Resources

The 82,000 square-foot Biology Building features teaching labs and research labs equipped with up-to-date instrumentation for molecular, organismal, and ecological analyses, environmental control rooms, a seawater lab, image analysis labs, state-of-the-art microscopy facilities, and multimedia lecture halls. The department also maintains two greenhouses on campus that support teaching and research activities. The beautiful, nearby Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges 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

Admission and Declaration Process

Admission to the Biology Major is selective and is based upon an application procedure that allows us to gauge students’ preparation (assessed by an entrance exam), prior academic performance (specifically GPA in prerequisite courses), and academic experiences, motivations, and goals (determined via student responses to focused prompts). Note that neither completion of the prerequisite courses nor attainment of any specific GPA or entrance exam score guarantees admission to Biology Major status. 

Pre-major Declaration

Students who have begun the introductory biology (BIOL 204, BIOL 205, BIOL 206) series and/or the introductory chemistry series (CHEM 161/175, CHEM 162/176, and CHEM 163/225), but have not yet completed CHEM 163/225 and BIOL 206 are granted pre-major status. Students who have been formally admitted into Western may declare a biology pre-major by filling out the Student Academic Declaration and Change Form. Pre-majors are assigned biology faculty advisors and receive helpful announcements regarding registration and other information of use to pre-majors.

Application to the Major

Students may apply to Biology Major status when they: 1) have completed BIOL 204, BIOL 205, CHEM 161/175, and CHEM 162/176 with grades of C- or higher, and 2) have completed the Biology entrance exam. Application involves submitting a completed application form, including responding to prompts about the applicant’s experience, motivation, and goals. See the Biology Department’s website at for more details, including information about the entrance exam and application prompts, application deadlines and review timeline, and limits on the number of times students can take the entrance exam and apply to the major. The Biology Department’s website at also has information specific to transfer students interested in applying for admission to the Biology Major, such as application eligibility, transfer equivalencies, how and where to take the entrance exam at locations other than WWU, and advice regarding when to apply.

Students are strongly encouraged to apply to the major prior to having completed BIOL 206 and/or CHEM 163/225 to ensure timely progress towards graduation. Admission to the major following a successful application is contingent on completing both BIOL 206 and CHEM 163/225 with a grade of C- or higher.

Departmental Policies

All Biology courses (except independent study, research, teaching practicum, and graduate-level courses) will be part of Western’s automatic waitlist system. Except as noted below, the Biology Department does not actively manage waitlists for 100-level, and most 200-level courses. Students who are on a waitlist for such courses will be offered seats on a “first in, first out” basis. Given the variability of enrollment needs across upper-division 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, BIOL 205 and BIOL 206 – Students (regardless of their major) who have been on the waitlist for the same course for two consecutive quarters will be given priority. It is the responsibility of the student to notify the department and make the request for waitlist prioritization.

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.

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 ( In addition, many of our upper-division courses are offered only once per year or once every other year. Students should plan ahead in consultation with their advisor if they are interested in taking specific upper-division courses.

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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