Research Programs

Research plays a major role in Biology Department's curriculum. Both Biology Department faculty and students actively pursue research on a variety of topics. Furthermore, all biology majors conduct independent research on a topic of the student's choosing, utilizing state of the art facilities and equipment.

In addition conducting research at the G.H. Gordon Biology Station and the Slayton Arboretum, the Biology students can participate in two research programs:

Conservation Genetics Laboratory


The mission of the laboratory is to train undergraduate students to use molecular biology tools for the study of living organisms.

Students are taught techniques in molecular genetics which allow them to investigate biodiversity, biogeography, biomonitoring, DNA barcoding, wildlife forensics, and conservation questions. Sophisticated laboratory techniques and analytical methods of conservation genetics are used extensively to assess the conservation status of a wide array of organisms including animals, plants and bacteria.  Students use genetic data to reconstruct phylogenies, elucidate patterns and levels of differentiation between geographically isolated populations and to investigate demographic parameters of populations.  Genetic data are used in connection with morphological, behavioral, ecological and environmental data to gain a multidisciplinary picture of organisms and their environment.

Laboratory Operations

The conservation genetics laboratory is equipped with state of the art instrumentation to carry out genetic analyses using nucleic acids.  Students are trained to use the instruments and methods as well as to interpret the data.  They receive a hands-on laboratory experience while also examining the theoretical framework necessary to place their project into a sound scientific scheme.  Students learn how to extract DNA from different animals, plants and bacteria, and to perform genetic analysis such as PCR, RT-PCR, DNA sequencing and fragment analysis.  They also learn to analyze and interpret genetic data using a suite of specifically designed software packages that address ecological and evolutionary questions.  Research within the lab is conducted by volunteers, work-study and senior thesis students.

 Aquatic Ecology & Palaeoecology Research

The Aquatic Ecology & Palaeoecology Research Program is directed by Dr. Anthony Swinehart. Research is regularly conducted at Hillsdale's G. H. Gordon Biological Station in Luther, Michigan. Dr. Swinehart’s students work very hard on their research, and many have received awards at scientific meetings for their research presentations. Many of his students are currently involved in preparing manuscripts for publication. Graduates receive master's and doctorates in biology at top universities or gain employment immediately after graduation. If you are a high school student interested in aquatic ecology or palaeoecology, please take a moment to peruse the Aquatic Ecology & Palaeoecology Research homepage and associated links. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule a visit to Hillsdale and meet with Dr. Swinehart, please e-mail him.