About OEB

The Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology provides interdepartmental training for MS and PhD students in ecology, organismal and evolutionary biology. Graduate students, post-docs, and faculty study biological processes ranging from the molecular to the ecosystem level, often bridging the gap between basic and applied research. Our faculty and students conduct research in four broad areas:

Animal Behavior: Behavioral ecology, communication, learning
Ecology: Community ecology, population ecology, landscape ecology, conservation biology
Evolutionary Biology: Evolution, phylogenetics, population genetics, molecular evolution
Organismal Biology: Physiology, morphology, paleontology

News & Announcements

Peterson's collections-based research gaining attention

Daniel Peterson's recent Evolution paper "Phylogenetic analysis reveals positive correlations between adaptations to diverse hosts in a group of pathogen-like herbivores" is discussed under "Research highlights" in the current issue of Evolutionary Applications. Peterson is an OEB PhD candidate in the Normark lab.

Skye Long Dissertation Defense

11:30 a.m.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
209 French Hall
Dissertation Title:  Spider Brains and Behavior
Advisor: Beth Jakob

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Honors Margery Coombs

At the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s (SVP) 75th annual meeting in October in Dallas, professor emeritus Margery Coombs, Biology and OEB, was awarded honorary membership, one of the three major academic career awards given by the society, to recognize her long career of “distinguished contribution to vertebrate paleontology.”  The society is the premier international body for the interdisciplinary field of vertebrate paleontology. Coombs is internationally known for her research on fossil perissodactyls. News Release

Gilman and colleagues investigate springy mechanics of gecko toe pad adhesion

Gecko composite

Geckos employ dry adhesion, using a combination of microscopic hairs on their toe pads, as well as other aspects of internal anatomy, to climb vertical walls and run across ceilings, a skill that has long fascinated scientists. In particular, it’s a mystery how some species as much as 100 times heavier than others can use adhesion so effectively. Casey Gilman, OEB doctoral candidate, and colleagues have found that geckos have a spring-like mechanism in their bodies to enhance adhesion as they become larger. Gilman is first author on Geckos as Springs: Mechanics Explain Across-Species Scaling of Adhesion in PLOS One. In 2012, four of the authors, including Gilman's advisor Duncan Irschick, invented the flexible adhesive Geckskin. It mimics a gecko’s ability to strongly yet easily attach and detach their feet to walk on walls and ceilings.

Stengle Leading Nine-State Study of Fungus Deadly to Snakes

Rattlenake in den

OEB Ph.D. candidate Anne Stengle, is overseeing a federal grant in nine states that studies a mysterious fungus killing snakes in the Northeast. In less than a decade, the fungus has been identified in at least nine Eastern states, and although it affects a number of species, it's especially threatening to rattlesnakes that live in small, isolated populations with little genetic diversity, such as those found in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York. According to Stengle, the fungus has been found in all five rattlesnake populations in Massachusetts, but it doesn't appear to have had the high mortality rate reported elsewhere. Stengle's dissertation research is on habitat selection, connectivity and viability of the timber rattlesnake metapopulation in southwestern Massachusetts.