Research Facilities

Teaching Facilities

The Department of Biology offers classes and instructional laboratories in the Rankin Science Building complex. These three buildings, all new or renovated in the last ten years also house the Departments of Geology and Geography and Planning, thus promoting interdisciplinary work by faculty and students. Biology classes are primarily scheduled in four Rankin Building lecture rooms (with capacities of 25, 50, 70 and 135 students). Laboratory instruction is integral to most of the Department’s courses and the Department utilizes eleven teaching laboratories and one computer laboratory for this purpose. These laboratories are designed and equipped for a 24 student capacity, but many upper level Biology laboratory sections are limited to  fewer students , providing higher quality  student-teacher interactions

Teaching is supported within the Rankin Science complex by the availability of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dewel Microscopy Center and the Animal Care Facility. Biological specimen collections are also available to support teaching of botany, plant systematics and taxonomy, mammalogy, ornithology, ichthyology, herpetology, invertebrate zoology, and entomology. The Department’s Greenhouse provides integral teaching support for many classes through use of its facilities and by culturing a broad taxonomic array of live plant specimens. Natural areas (see below) managed by the Department and extensive local public lands provide field locations for many ecological and environmental laboratory activities.

Through the Belk Library and Information Commons’ online catalog students and faculty can access over 486,000 electronic titles & subscriptions. The library  houses over 938,000 books and bound periodicals and 82,000 audiovisual materials. A full-time librarian devoted to the sciences is on staff. This new facility located near the Rankin Science Building also provides areas for individual and collaborative group study and the atrium/cyber café area, with wireless access and seventeen computer workstations.

Research Facilities

The Department of Biology has twenty-three specialized laboratories to support a wide range of research activities. Faculty and students utilize these laboratories for the research on plant ecophysiology, plant-animal interactions, animal physiology, molecular biology, microbiology and virology, behavioral ecology, mycology, immunology, cell biology, developmental biology, parasitology, freshwater and marine ecology, molecular systematics, conservation biology, conservation genetics, endocrinology, science education, biogeography, evolutionary biology, environmental toxicology, ecosystem ecology, and landscape ecology.

Multiple specialized facilities and natural areas are integral to faculty and student research in the Department of Biology. These include:

William and Ruth Dewel Microscopy Facility. The microscopy facility houses an array of digital light microscopes, a Zeiss 510 laser scanning confocal microscope, a Quanta 200 environmental scanning electron microscope, an Olympus IX81/DP71 optical microscope, a Polaron sputter coater and critical point dryer, and other ancillary equipment for sample preparation. A full-time director of the facility provides both academic and technical support services.

ASU Animal Care Facility.   This state-of-the-art center maintains small research animals in multiple rearing rooms, including a zebra fish rearing facility. It is also equipped with facilities for animal behavior work in enclosed environments.

Scientific Computing and Visualization Laboratory. This new and developing facility currently houses one Linux workstation (dual quad core processors, 24 GB RAM, 600 GB hard drive) with dual 30” monitors, two high-end graphics rendering machines with dual monitors, two medium-end workstations with dual monitors, one Mac Pro workstation (dual quad core processors, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB hard drive) with dual 30” monitors, two large format wall-mounted LCD displays, and various supporting equipment,   In addition, faculty and students have access to supercomputing facilities within the UNC System.

I.W. Carpenter Herbarium. While several inpidual faculty members maintain biological collections for specific research purposes, the most extensive research collection is housed in the I.W. Carpenter Herbarium.  The Herbarium is both a local and regional resource for botanical research, housing approximately 25,000 specimens, largely representing both common and endangered plant species from the Southern Appalachians and high elevation wetlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The adjacent Anthony H. Payne Botany Laboratory  uses the herbarium as a research and teaching tool.

Department of Biology Greenhouse. Our greenhouse is located about 2 miles from the main campus. A 3,125 square foot facility, it has two separate research houses, a propagation house, and a large conservatory that houses a teaching/display collection, all connected to a head house which contains the manager's office, preparation and storage rooms, and a laboratory/teaching classroom. An additional 1,000 square feet of space is available outside the greenhouse for research and teaching. A full-time botanist, Jerry Meyer (meyerja@appstate.edu), oversees the greenhouse and is available to assist faculty and students. Mr. Meyer also provides information, consultations and botanical workshops to businesses and the general public.

Appalachian State University Nature Preserve. The Appalachian State University Nature Preserve consists of 67 acres of protected woodlands in the heart of the campus. There are two headwater streams and a small pond in the Preserve. The Preserve is interlaced with a network of hiking trails. There are several plant communities in various successional stages that are utilized by the faculty and students in the Biology Department. In addition to research, the Preserve affords Appalachian students the unique opportunity of being able to walk to sites for outdoor labs in introductory and upper division biology classes; the site is used in several graduate level courses as well.

Robert Gilley Field Station. The Robert Gilley Field Station is over 250 acres and extends along a section of the South Fork of the New River in Watauga County, North Carolina. Plant communities include a mature oak forest, a selectively cut hardwood forest, an old field undergoing secondary succession, and mixed hardwood forests. The last habitat contains an Appalachian endemic, the Carolina Hemlock. There is a high persity of spring wildflowers on the slopes above the New River. Some ongoing projects at the Gilley Field Station include archeological surveys, soil ecology research, extensive plant canopy analysis, an examination of plant-insect interactions in a common garden experiment, and a planted persity of dogwood species from temperate regions around the world that have been characterized at a molecular level.

Elicia Caroon Johnston Biological Reserve.  The Elicia Caroon Johnston Biological Reserve is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Aho Gap, North Carolina. The Reserve  is  approximately 100 acres including a deep gorge with mountain streams and cliff faces. The slopes of the reserve have a rich persity of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees typical of the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Most of the forest growing on the talus slopes of the reserve is represented by cove hardwood species such as a variety of magnolias, buckeyes and maples interspersed with hemlocks and rhododendrons. Several small clear-cut plots and an area subjected to a severe burn several decades ago allow for observation of plant succession following these disturbances

Featured Faculty

For the Fall 2016 installment of our Featured Faculty series, we sat down with Dr. Mary Kinkel, an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department, who specializes in Developmental Biology. Her philosophy of teaching and a short description of her research make for fascinating read! 

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