Jul 18, 2018  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Biology Department

Department Chairperson: Kaius Helenurm, Ph.D.
Graduate Program Director: Hugh Britten, Ph.D. 

Department of Biology
Churchill-Haines, Room 191
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-677-5211




Hugh B. Britten, Ph.D., Montana State University. Specializations: Population Genetics, Evolution, and Conservation Biology.
Kaius Helenurm, Ph.D., Washington University-St. Louis. Specializations: Plant Conservation Genetics and Plant Evolution on Islands.
Karen L. Koster, Ph.D., Cornell University. Specializations: Plant Physiology, Cell Biology, and Environmental Stress Tolerance in Plants.
Paula M. Mabee, Ph.D., Duke University. Specializations: Bioinformatics, and Fish Evolution and Development.
Kenneth J. Renner, Ph.D., University of Kansas. Specializations: Neuroendocrinology and Reproductive Physiology.
Daniel A. Soluk, Ph.D., University of Toronto-Ontario, Canada. Specializations: Aquatic Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Endangered Species.
Cliff H. Summers, Ph.D., University of Colorado. Specializations: Neuroendocrinology, Reproductive Biology, and Vertebrate Stress Physiology.
David L. Swanson, Ph.D., Oregon State University. Specializations: Physiological Ecology of Vertebrates, Ornithology, and Vertebrate Cold Adaptation.

Associate Professors:

Mark D. Dixon, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison. Specializations: Landscape and Community Ecology, Plant Ecology, Riparian Systems.
Jacob L. Kerby, Ph.D., University of California-Davis. Specializations: Ecotoxicology, Conservation Biology, and Behavioral Ecology.

Assistant Professors:

Christopher V. Anderson, Ph.D. University of South Florida. Specializations: Functional Morphology, Biomechanics, Muscle Physiology, and Physiological Ecology.
Meghann E. Jarchow, Ph.D., Iowa State University. Specializations: Sustainability, Bioenergy Cropping Systems, Agroecology, Prairie Ecology.
Andrea L. Liebl, Ph.D. University of South Florida. Specializations: Ecological Physiology, Stress Physiology, Ecological Epigenetics, Animal Behavior, Cooperation. 
Jeff Wesner, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma. Specializations: Food Webs, Aquatic Ecology, Community and Ecosystem Ecology, Ecotoxicology.
Bernard Wone, Ph.D., University of Nevada, Reno, Specializations: Metabolism, Aging, Metabolomics, Functional Genomics, Abiotic Stress, and Biostatistics.
Erliang Zeng, Ph.D., Florida International University, Specializations: Bioinformatics, Computational Systems Biology, Biological Data Mining, Functional Genomics, and Biostatistics.


Lynn Riley, Ph.D., University of South Dakota. Specializations: Population and Conservation Genetics and Phylogeography. 


Master of Arts, Plan B only  
Master of Science, Plan A only  
Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences  



Program Description

The University of South Dakota’s Department of Biology is one of the largest departments in the College of Arts & Sciences and employs sixteen full-time, tenured (or tenure-track) faculty. The research interests of the faculty (see above) encompass the areas of aquatic and terrestrial ecology, conservation biology, sustainability, ecotoxicology, plant and animal physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, and evolution. Particular strengths of the department are conservation biology, environmental stress physiology, neuroscience, and population and evolutionary biology.  The Biology faculty collaborates with faculty in the Sanford School of Medicine, the USD Missouri River Institute, the USD Sustainability Program, and at South Dakota State University as well as with other institutions nationally and internationally. For information about the department, the faculty, and graduate programs, please consult www.usd.edu/arts-and-sciences/biology/graduate.cfm.

The M.S. and M.A. programs in Biology are recommended for students with professional goals in biology, such as continuing graduate education; working for a federal agency, state agency, or non-governmental organization; securing employment in industry; or teaching in secondary and higher education. The M.S. degree requires a thesis. The M.A. does not. The Ph.D. in Biological Sciences is intended for students who are interested in careers in research and/or academia.


  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: https://usd-web.usd.edu/apps/grad-app/login.cfm and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. One official transcript verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and previous graduate credit (in English or with translation) must accompany an application. Official transcripts of all academic work at the undergraduate and graduate levels are required for all applicants. The USD Graduate School and/or academic departments retain the right to require an Educational Credential Evaluators/World Education Services (ECE/WES) evaluation for a student if such an evaluation is deemed necessary.
  3. Baccalaureate degree or an equivalent degree from an institution with full regional accreditation for that degree. A minimum undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 on conferred degree and/or graduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, based on a 4.0 scale, on all graduate coursework is required for full admission. Each graduate program may admit students on provisional status per university policy.
  4. Applicants with degrees from countries other than the United States who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from a regionally accredited American college or university are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants, a minimum score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT) or 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), a minimum IELTS score of 6.0, or a minimum PTE score of 53 is required for graduate admission. Applicants from or who have obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree from these English-speaking countries (UK, Australia, Canada [except Quebec], Ireland, or New Zealand) are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score if their academic records indicate that English was the classroom language for the majority of their schoolwork.
  5. Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose.

Additional Program Admission Requirements:

  1. The GRE General test is required for those seeking the M.S. and Ph.D. in Biology. Although there is no formal minimum score required for admission, a 40th percentile score or better in the verbal and quantitative sections of the test is recommended. The GRE score is considered along with the other application materials for admission decisions.
  2. Three (3) professional letters of recommendation are required.
  3. Applicants should have a minimum of the undergraduate equivalent of the Biology core curriculum.
  4. Preferred application deadline for full consideration is February 15.

Subject to faculty approval, those who do not meet all of the criteria above may be admitted on a provisional basis.

Library and Research Facilities

A large collection of biological periodicals, government documents and other publications are available in the University Libraries (I.D. Weeks Library and the Lommen Health Sciences Library ). Online journals, database searches, electronic document delivery, and interlibrary loans are also available.

Other facilities include laboratories for faculty and graduate students, a greenhouse, environmentally controlled growth chambers, the South Dakota Herbarium, controlled environment animal quarters, a histology facility, cold rooms, aquarium rooms, an aquatic mesocosm facility, wet and dry collection rooms, computer labs, molecular biology core facility (genetic analyzer, etc.), and a shop. Close by, there are numerous aquatic and terrestrial habitats for field study, including native tallgrass prairie habitat, riparian forests, wetlands, and the Missouri River. The Missouri River Institute (www.usd.edu/mri) on campus provides a focal point for scholarly activity, education, and outreach pertaining to all aspects of the Missouri River Basin.