Issue 3: March/April 2011

Bi-Monthly Newsletter of the GVSU Biology Department for Graduate Students, Prospective Students, and Faculty.


My GVSU Experience and Where I am Today

Matt Altenritter
Ph.D. Student
University of Maine

When I reflect on my six years as an undergraduate and graduate student at Grand Valley State University, a number of experiences come to mind that I feel prepared me both personally and professionally to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Maine. As a freshman coming into GVSU, I found myself sitting down and discussing fisheries biology with Drs. Mark Luttenton and Jodee Hunt. Both were personable, approachable, and provided useful insight into establishing a strong undergraduate career. Mark also provided a healthy dose of comic relief, which could brighten up most days! As I progressed through my undergraduate career, I gained a strong appreciation for the small class sizes offered at GVSU in concert with the enthusiasm that many professors brought to the classroom. One example I remember vividly is of Dr. Jim Dunn describing how grazing insects feed by getting on all fours on a table at the front of the classroom and wildly shaking his head back and forth. Needless to say I am confident in his periphyton removing abilities! In my final years as an undergraduate, I had the unique opportunity to conduct a research project with Dr. Carl Ruetz. During this project, I gained valuable insight into what it takes to conduct an independent research project from organization to dissemination of results. This served as an important introduction to life as a graduate student.

As I transitioned into the master’s program at GVSU, it was immediately evident to me that a higher level of independence was expected. I was charged with organizing and developing a research project on a much broader scale than I had done previously. This fact required that I delve into literature, talk to other researchers, and collaborate with outside agencies. Eventually, with the guidance of my primary advisor Dr. Carl Ruetz and the rest of my committee, I formatted a project that had important implications for threatened species management throughout much of the Great Lakes region. Additionally, the emphasis placed on presenting my work at professional conferences by GVSU faculty allowed me to meet peers and professionals in my field and gain insight into my work through their suggestions and ideas.

Currently, I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Maine working with federally endangered shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) and threatened Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus). While I was not entirely sure what to expect in Maine, I found that the skills I took from my time at Grand Valley State University are currently very useful to me. Multi-agency collaboration, reporting, and professional conferences are an integral part of my current project and my time at GVSU prepared me for all of these. Additionally, the values instilled in me through my interactions with the faculty at GVSU provided insight into useful teaching and mentoring techniques I will require in the near future.


Lyndsey Adams

Expected Date of Graduation:
April 2011

Lyndsey's previous work has postulated that microbial sharing, the transfer of bacteria between group members, is an underappreciated benefit of, and potential mechanism for, the evolution of social living. Considerable research has addressed the social transfer of microbes in birds and mammals, but none has examined the phenomenon in teleost (bony) fishes. Her objective is to compare microbes associated with parental convict cichlids (Cichlosoma nigrafasciatum) to those associated with subsets of broods receiving parental care and others where parental contact is prevented to infer whether parental care facilitates transmission of microbes. This research represents a novel contribution to the study of parental care and the evolution of social behavior in fishes.

Graduate Mentor: Dr. Jodee Hunt
Future Plans:
"I am actually in the interviewing process at a handful of Universities to pursue my doctorate. Being at Grand Valley has allowed me to embrace an interdisciplinary education and apply to programs in Psychology, Biology, and Neurosciences. I plan to continue researching the impacts of sociality, translating it to current issues in mental health."


David Baisch

Expected Date of Graduation:
April 2012

David's thesis project looks at the phylogenetic history of the different strains of brown trout (Salmo trutta) which are present in the Great Lakes. These evolutionary histories are determined from various sequences from the mitochondrial genome as well as information from microsatellite analysis. The markers provide indicators for genetic diversity, movement of populations, and measurement of inbreeding in populations.

Graduate Mentor: Dr. Alex Nikitin

Future Plans: "After graduation I plan on heading south to pursue a career in Conservation Genetics with an emphasis on marine systems. Eventually I would like to continue on to my Ph.D. , studying similar aspects of Molecular Ecology in marine populations."

Laurelin Martin

Expected Date of Graduation:
December 2012

Laurelin will be researching biodiversity establishment in a native prairie restoration and assessing the impacts of spotted knapweed control methods, including controlled burning, hand-pulling and herbicide application, on native species establishment. Information gained from this study will provide further insight into restoration projects
looking to increase site biodiversity to combat insurgence of invasive plant species or on sites that are already infested with a non-native species.

Graduate Mentor: Dr. Neil MacDonald

Future Plans:
"I hope to either work for a local non-profit organization or continue my education in pursuit of a PhD."


PACES: Graduate Student Success Topics:

Thursday, March 24th
Pursuing Ph.D. Studies & Fellowship Applications
(Faculty Panel)

Thursday, March 31st

    Job Search Strategies & Interviewing Skills

Thursday, April 14th
Ethical Issues in Research

Thursday, April 28th
Working in an International Setting 

Biology Seminar Series:
Thursday, March 3rd 

308 Padnos Hall, Noon
Bob Lessnau
Detroit Zoological Society
Seminar Title: Lemurs, Capuchins, Howlers, and Tamarins: Working with Nonhuman Primates in the Field

Thursday, March 31st
308 Padnos Hall, Noon
Jay Mager
Ohio Northern University
Seminar Title: Making Sense of Looney Tunes: Studies of the Function of the Territorial Yodel of Common Loons

Thursday, April 7th
308 Padnos Hall, Noon
Asgi Fazleabas
College of Human Medicine
Michigan State University
Seminar Title: Animal Models for Research in Reproduction: A Brief Perspective

AWRI Seminar Series:

Friday, March 4th
Lake Michigan Center, Muskegon 2 to 3pm

Joseph V. DePinto
Senior Scientist
Ann Arbor, MI
Seminar title: Development and application of as linked hydrodynamic sediment transport - water quality model for the Lower Maumee River - Lake Erie western basin

Friday, March 11th
Lake Michigan Center, Muskegon 2 to 3pm

Andrew Gronewold
Physical Scientist/Hydrologist
  Ann Arbor, MI
Seminar title:
Propagating uncertainty into water resource management decisions

Friday, April 8th
Lake Michigan Center, Muskegon 2 to 3pm

Walter Dodds
University Distinguished Professor
Division of Biology
  Kansas State University
Seminar title: Valuation of aquatic ecosystem goods and services


  • Lyndsey Adams
  • Jordan Allison
  • David Baisch
  • Julie Batty
  • Jeffrey Beurkens
  • Kathryn Brandt
  • Jessica Brinks
  • Melissa Conte
  • Megan Cookingham
  • Angela Defore
  • Deborah Dila
  • Nicholas Ettema
  • William Flanagan
  • Travis Foster
  • Elizabeth Hanna
  • Jared Homola
  • Nicole Horne
  • William Keiper
  • Edward Krynak
  • Angela Larsen
  • Elizabeth LaRue
  • Kenneth Leister
  • Jennifer Liebig
  • Laurelin Martin
  • Jeremy May
  • Sheila Miara
  • Whitney Nelson
  • Rebecca Norris
  • Timothy Paver
  • Amanda Potter
  • Robb Roos
  • Andrew Sisson
  • Rob Slider
  • Neal Swanson
  • Hannah Tavalire
  • Jacqueline Taylor
  • Beth Walker
  • Alexander Wieten
  • April Wright
  • Matthew Zuellig


Have questions about a M.S. in Biology? Please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator, Dr. Mark Luttenton, at OR check out our website at

Please e-mail any questions or comments regarding B.U.G.S. BUZZ to Christina Helsel, Biology Office Student Assistant, at

Issue 3 

Birthday Bugs!

Timothy Paver:
March 2

Jeremy May:
March 5

Jessica Brinks:
March 9

Hannah Tavalire:
April 28

Bug Bites:

Graduate Showcase 2011: Education for the future

The Office of Graduate Studies and Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence will be hosting the Graduate Showcase 2011 on March 28 and March 31 on the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Each event will feature poster presentations on a wide variety of research conducted by our outstanding graduate students and their faculty mentors. Next, faculty representatives from each graduate program will give a brief overview of their program followed by a short presentation of scholarship and research activities from the program.

It’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about how Grand Valley is preparing its students for the future – and how may be able to take advantage of our graduate programs yourself, either as a student or an employer.

March 31, Hager Auditorium, 4:30 – 7:30 pm

Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Biostatistics, Cell and Molecular Biology, Computer Information Systems, Engineering, Medical and Bioinformatics, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant Studies, Professional Science Master’s

Whatever your interest, whatever your industry, we can make your future brighter. We look forward to seeing you on March 28 or March 31 at our downtown Grand Rapids campus. For more info, including directions and parking, call (616) 331-7105 or email

Bug Report:

Please e-mail
any questions, comments, or ideas to Christina at:

We look forward to hearing from you!


































Page last modified March 1, 2011