Faculty works with a student  in a research lab

Research in the Biology Department is organized around several broad themes. All faculty participate in one or more research groups, promoting productive exchanges of ideas and collaborations within and across disciplines, and providing a stimulating and supportive environment for graduate students.

Cell Physiology

Sample lab report

The cell is the fundamental building block of life. Members of the Biology department use a variety of approaches to understand cell function, including biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, microscopy, electrophysiology, proteomics, and bioengineering. Cell Physiology group members also participate in the Neuroscience and Cell & Molecular Biology graduate programs and they are affiliated with the Vermont Genetics Network Proteomics Core Facility and Bioinformatics Core Facility.

Faculty: Bryan Ballif, Bin Deng, Brent Lockwood, Melissa Pespeni, Judith Van Houten, Jim Vigoreaux, Jim Vincent, Junji Yano

Sensory Biology

Closeup under a microscope

Sensory systems provide a fundamental link between organisms and their environment. The Biology department includes multiple faculty whose research programs focus on molecular mechanisms, signal transduction, neural processing and behavior of a diverse set of sensory systems, including olfaction and taste in rodents and chemosensing in Protozoa. The Sensory Biology group is affiliated with the Neuroscience graduate program and maintains active collaborations with faculty in Communication Sciences and Psychology.

Faculty: Bryan Ballif, Judith Van Houten, Alicia Ebert, Junji Yano

Social Insect Biology

Insects colonizing

The social insects are one of the most ecologically dominant groups of organisms in nearly every terrestrial habitat on earth. Research on social insects in the biology department intersects with a range of biological disciplines, facilitating integrative investigations of ecological, evolutionary, and mechanistic questions. Current projects include community assembly, the role of social insects in ecosystem patterns and processes, the evolution of social behavior within and across species, invasive species ecology, and proteomic, biomechanical and genetic mechanisms underlying social traits. Members of the Social Insect group have collaborations across UVM as well as with faculty at other US and international institutions.

Faculty: Bryan Ballif, Alison Brody, Nicholas Gotelli, Ken Helms, Ingi Agnarsson, Sara Helms Cahan, Jim Vigoreaux

Evolutionary Biology

3-D graphing

The department has strengths in both theoretical and empirical aspects of evolutionary biology. Theoretical topics of interest include analytical and simulation modeling of epistasis, levels of selection and sex ratio evolution, molecular evolution, and mathematical theory underpinning phylogenetic reconstruction. These are combined with empirical work in taxonomy and systematics, molecular ecology, and field and laboratory investigations of selection and evolutionary dynamics. Members of the Evolutionary Biology group collaborate with faculty in the departments of Computer Science and Mathematics, the Vermont Genetics Network Bioinformatics Core Facility, the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and the Rubenstein School of the Environment, as well as with faculty at other US and international institutions.

Faculty: Alison Brody, Nicholas Gotelli, Ken Helms, Sara Helms Cahan, C. William Kilpatrick, Brent Lockwood, Melissa Pespeni, Lori Stevens, Ingi Agnarsson, Jim Vigoreaux, Jim Vincent

Ecological Parasitology

Cells under the microscope

Parasites and pathogens are important drivers of evolutionary dynamics, and understanding how parasites interact with their hosts and vectors is vital for the fields of epidemiology and public health. Faculty in the department of Biology work with three parasites of major economic and medical importance: malaria (Plasmodium spp.), Chagas's disease (Trypanosoma cruzi), and Whirling disease (Myxobolus cerebralis), using population genetic and evolutionary ecology approaches to investigate the role of parasite genetic diversity in host-parasite interactions, the extent of parasite and vector dispersal, and sex ratio evolution, and to evaluate methods for control and management of infection rates. Members of the Ecological Parasitology group collaborate with faculty in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and School of Natural Resources as well at other US and international institutions.

Faculty: Lori Stevens

Population and Community Ecology

Seedling sprouting

Species coexist and interact with many other species in nature.  Understanding how biological communities form and function, the nature and strength of interspecific interactions, and the ways in which biologists can detect and evaluate such processes in natural systems are all subjects of active research in the Biology department.  Faculty in the Community Ecology research group collaborate with researchers at a variety of US and international institutions.

Faculty: Alison Brody, Nicholas Gotelli, Ken Helms, Sara Helms Cahan, Brent Lockwood, Lori Stevens

Faculty News

Brandon Ogbunu, along with 4 other UVM faculty, was awarded the Collegial Network Award from the Humanities Center, for our Spring 2016 working group on “Race, gender and gamification.” 


Ph.D. students and Dr. Melissa Pespeni set up for April's sea urchin larval selection experiment where they spawned urchins, made sea urchin babies, and raised them in different constant and variable CO2 treatment conditions. 

Tiny starfish


Associate Professor Brent Lockwood co-writes new book titled, Response to Environmental Challenges from Life’s Origins to the Anthropocene, that explores how life on earth has evolved to cope with changes in the environment.

Biochemical Adaption book cover