Jun 15, 2024  
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Graduate Catalog

Biology Department

Chairperson: Jacob L. Kerby, Ph.D.
Graduate Program Director: Andrea L. Liebl, Ph.D. 

Department of Biology
Churchill-Haines, Room 191
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57069
Phone: 605-658-6700




Mark D. Dixon, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison. Specializations: Landscape and Community Ecology, Plant Ecology, Riparian Systems.
Karen L. Koster, Ph.D., Cornell University. Specializations: Plant Physiology, Cell Biology, and Environmental Stress Tolerance in Plants.
Jacob L. Kerby, Ph.D., University of California-Davis. Specializations: Ecotoxicology, Conservation Biology, and Behavioral Ecology.
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: Behavioral Neuroscience, 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.
Jeff Wesner, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma. Specializations: Food Webs, Aquatic Ecology, Community and Ecosystem Ecology, Ecotoxicology.

Associate Professors:

Christopher V. Anderson, Ph.D., University of South Florida. Specializations: Functional Morphology, Biomechanics, Muscle Physiology, and Physiological Ecology.
Andrea L. Liebl, Ph.D., University of South Florida. Specializations: Ecological Physiology, Stress Physiology, Ecological Epigenetics, Animal Behavior, Cooperation.
Bernard Wone, Ph.D., University of Nevada. Specializations: Metabolism, Aging, Metabolomics, Functional Genomics, Abiotic Stress, and Biostatistics.

Assistant Professors:

Yohaan Fernandes, Ph.D., University of Toronto. Specializations: Behavioral Neuroscience, Behavioral Genetics, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Gene by environment interactions and effects on behavior.
Ranjeet John, Ph.D., University of Toledo. Specializations: Landscape and Ecosystem Ecology, Biogeography, Ecological Modeling, Remote Sensing.
Omera B. MatooPh.D., University of North Carolina. Specializations: Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology.

Affiliate Professors:

Jeffrey Beck, Ph.D., University of South Dakota.
Erik Ehli, Ph.D., University of South Dakota. Specializations: Human Genetics
Michael Wimberly, Ph.D., Oregon State University

Emeritus Professors:

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


Master of Science in Biology   
Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences   


Conservation and Biodiversity (M.S.)
Neuroscience (M.S.)
Conservation Biology Ph.D.)
Integrative Biology (Ph.D.)
Neuroscience (Ph.D.)

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 fifteen 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. program in Biology is 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. has a thesis plan and a non-thesis plan. The M.S. is the non-thesis plan. The Ph.D. in Biological Sciences is intended for students who are interested in careers in research and/or academia.

WICHE Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) eligible program. 


  1. Completed Graduate Application form found at: https://www.usd.edu/grad/how-to-apply and a non-refundable application fee of $35.
  2. Official transcript(s) verifying receipt of an undergraduate degree and all academic work at the undergraduate and graduate levels (in English or with translation). Transcripts must be complete (e.g., if currently enrolled, work-in-progress coursework must be included, foreign transcripts must include a grading scale, and for countries that issue, copy of degree certificate/diploma i.e., India, Nepal, etc.). The USD Graduate School and/or academic units retain the right to require credential evaluations from organizations, such as Educational Credential Evaluators/World Education Services (ECE/WES), for a student if such an evaluation is deemed necessary.
  3. Baccalaureate degree or an equivalent degree from an institution with Institutional 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 a high school diploma, undergraduate, or graduate degree from an institutionally accredited American college or university or from an accredited institution in the approved list  of English-speaking countries are not required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score. For all other applicants with degrees from other countries, a minimum score of 79 on the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT), 550 on the Paper-Based TOEFL (PBT), 8.5 on the TOEFL Essentials, 6.0 on the IELTS Academic, 53 on the PTE, or 110 on Duolingo is required for graduate admission. 
  5. Applicants are required to submit a statement of purpose explaining the choice to pursue graduate education through the program. 

Additional Program Admission Requirements:

  1. Resume/CV.
  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. Reach out to possible research mentors in the Biology department to discuss your research interests. Identify the possible mentor on your admission application.

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

Application Deadlines

  • Fall Start 2024
    • Priority Deadline: first Friday in February
    • Final Deadline: two weeks before the start of the semester
  • Spring Start 2025
    • Priority Deadline: first Friday in October
    • Final Deadline: two weeks before the start of the semester
  • Fall Start 2025
    • Priority Deadline: first Friday in February.
    • Final Deadline: three weeks before the start of the semester.
  • Spring Start 2026
    • Priority Deadline: first Friday in October
    • Final Deadline: three weeks before the start of the semester.

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, controlled environment animal quarters, a histology facility, cold rooms, aquarium rooms, an aquatic mesocosm facility, wet and dry collection rooms, molecular biology core facility, 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 on campus provides a focal point for scholarly activity, education, and outreach pertaining to all aspects of the Missouri River Basin.

Student Learning Outcomes for Biology (M.S.)

  1. Students will demonstrate their understanding and ability to evaluate background knowledge of the field. 
  2. Students will demonstrate competency in designing, conducting, and interpreting research. 
  3. Students will demonstrate competency in scientific writing. 
  4. Students will demonstrate competency in presentation of scientific information.

Student Learning Outcomes for Biological Sciences (Ph.D.)

  1. Students will demonstrate competency in designing, conducting, and interpreting research. 
  2. Students will demonstrate thorough background knowledge of the field. 
  3. Students will demonstrate thorough background knowledge of the field. 
  4. Students will demonstrate competency in presentation of scientific information.