Biology

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology
    • Major
    • Minor
    • Accelerated Degree Program

    Get Involved

    A college education is more than just taking courses. Meet new people, apply your skills and stretch beyond your comfort zone. Make your education an experience.

    • Pre-Health Club: Brings together students with a common interest in health fields to network and to provide career preparation, advice and peer support. 
       
    • Research Assistantships: Many professors conduct externally-funded research and are always looking for student help.
       
    • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Western biologists and students collaborate with the world-renowned research station seven miles north of Crested Butte.
       
    • Thornton Biology Research Program: Students can receive funding and work with faculty on original research.
       
    • Tri Beta and The Wildlife Society: Student-run club that helps provide internships such as lynx tracking and watching wildlife. 

    Profiles

    Ryan Barnhouse

    ~Student~

    Ryan Barnhouse
    Ryan Barnhouse

    Ryan Barnhouse

    “Being an orientation leader and having that leadership position helped me branch out to try these other things. It gave me the confidence to express myself as a leader and learn what kind of leader I am. And then be able to use that leadership in other aspects.”

    Ryan Barnhouse is a sophomore at Western Colorado University and an Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) major with a minor in Biology and Chemistry. Ryan is also a student in the Honors Program.

    Ryan moved around a lot growing up, but he came to Western after graduating high school in El Paso, Texas. He discovered Western by doing a simple Google search. He knew he wanted a school that was great for outdoor adventures.

    “I just googled ‘Best outdoor universities,’ and Western popped up,” said Ryan. “After doing some more research, I realized the Exercise & Sports Science program was excellent, so it made sense. Once I visited, I knew this was the place.”

    On campus, Ryan is very involved with many different clubs and programs.

    “The main thing I am a part of on campus is the EPIC Mentorship Program,” said Ryan. “I am the student coordinator for that. I am the mentor of about 35 or so freshmen right now. I have also been a part of developing the program, because it is new. I help with hiring new mentors and train them.”

    EPIC is a mentoring program for the incoming freshman class. As soon as a student makes their tuition deposit, a mentor reaches out to them. A mentor helps incoming freshmen go through the process of getting to campus. The main goal is to help students find their passion and be there as a friendly face on campus.

    When Ryan was a freshman, he was stuck in that routine of going to class and then going back to his dorm. He was not really involved on campus until his sophomore year.

    “I think what really helped me [with getting more involved] was being an orientation leader this past year,” said Ryan. “Being an orientation leader and having that leadership position helped me branch out to try these other things. It gave me the confidence to express myself as a leader and learn what kind of leader I am. And then be able to use that leadership in other aspects.”

    “I am also the president for Operation Smile and the president for the Exercise & Sport Science Club,” said Ryan about what else he is involved with on campus.

    Ryan was given the opportunity to attend a conference in Virginia through Operation Smile.

    In his second year at Western, Ryan says that his favorite part about Western is how the campus community is like one big family.

    “It is incredible how nice everyone is on campus,” said Ryan. “Also, how almost everyone wants to have a genuine conversation and really wants to get to know you. Once you take hold of the opportunities available, the family seems to grow.”

    In his free time, when he gets it, Ryan “really enjoys being outside. Just getting outdoors really helps me take a deep breath and relax from being so busy at school. I also really enjoy building Legos and playing board games with my friends.”

    Profile by Western junior Taya Olson.

    Rya Berrigan

    ~Student~

    Rya Berrigan is a Nordic skier and Biology student, with a pre-medicine emphasis.
    Rya Berrigan is a Nordic skier and Biology student, with a pre-medicine emphasis.

    Rya Berrigan

    "I have always wanted to go into the medical field. ... I don't remember wanting to do anything else,"

    After a childhood spent in Alaska, sophomore Rya Berrigan enrolled at Western, becoming an enthusiastic Pre-Medicine Biology student and an influential Nordic skier with Western's Mountain Sports teams. 

    Rya is part of the Honors Program and works as a Supplemental Instructor, where she assists General Chemistry students outside of their usual lectures to help them better understand the course material. That's on top of her own coursework as a Biology major, with a Pre-Medicine Cell & Molecular Biology emphasis and a Chemistry minor, to kickstart her dream of entering the medical field. 

    "I have always wanted to go into the medical field, ever since I was super little. I don't remember wanting to do anything else," Rya said, saying she has many family friends who work in the health field. "Every time they told a story, I was fascinated." 

    Since she has gotten into the major classes of her program, Rya appreciates the flexibility and range of courses offered in the Biology program. 

    "It's nice because the Biology program offers a lot of different disciplines. It isn't strictly [focused on] medical all the time. Classes required for your major are geared towards a more general audience, so you get a broad overview of other disciplines," she said. 

    Another big factor in Rya's love of Western is the Mountain Sports program, where she competes in Nordic skiing and trail running. 

    "I was really competitive at skiing in high school, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to ... ski and do nothing else [in college]," Rya remembers. "It's good knowing I could come [to Western], ski on a competitive team and still do trail running." 

    According to Greg Chase, Director of Mountain Sports, Rya was "pivotal in the team's second-place finish at the Women's USCSA Nationals in Lake Placid for Nordic skiing." 

    Her performance at Lake Placid, N.Y., meant that she qualified for the World University Games held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, in March 2019. 

    "I'm really excited for the competition, to travel to Russia, hopefully meet a lot of athletes from around the world and I'm hoping to feel really good during the races," Rya said. 

    Overall, Rya thinks that Western stands out not only for its campus, faculty and small class sizes, but also for its proximity to many outdoor activities. 

    "[Western has] so many opportunities to go places and do so many cool outdoor activities. For me ... I can be skiing or running, or drive to Moab in the desert and bike," she said. 

    Jonathan Coop, Ph.D.

    ~Faculty~

    Jonathan Coop smiles at the camera
    Jonathan Coop smiles at the camera

    Jonathan Coop, Ph.D.

    “We can produce high-quality research and publish papers in scientific journals with our students. We’re out on the cutting edge of our field learning the things we don’t know yet."

    Jonathan Coop, Ph.D., is a forest ecologist who studies how natural systems are affected by land use, fire suppression and climate change. Coop works with land managers to understand effects of fire, climate and insects on forests, and develop and test intervention strategies to try to maintain forests, or to make forests more resilient in a time of certain change.

    “I think there are reasons to be deeply pessimistic,” he said. “Looking at the state of the natural environment and our effects on it and how effectively we are addressing that or not—getting really depressed and pessimistic is a very rational response. But there is evidence that society can change in response to changing values and information. It just requires getting to a certain threshold or critical mass.”

    Raised in Los Alamos, N.M., Coop vividly remembers the 1977 La Mesa Fire burning in nearby Bandelier National Monument. In the decades to follow, the 1996 Dome Fire and 2000 Cerro Grande Fire sparked Coop’s interest to conduct his dissertation research in his hometown. More recent blazes such as the 2011 Las Conchas Fire have only furthered Coop’s interest in the area.

    “The Jemez Mountains have been a formative landscape for me. I have a vivid memory of being in my backyard and seeing this plume of smoke and little pieces of ash falling on my town,” he said. “I’m seeing the effects of these unintentional human influences on the natural environment … and they are super gnarly.”

    Now a professor 250 miles up the road from his hometown, Coop has found a home in the heart of the Rockies since his arrival 10 years ago. He’s a father, mountain biker, skier, rafter, percussionist, hunter and sauerkraut-fermenter—and still finds time to work on “science projects” in his free time. In the classroom and field, Coop puts particular attention on involving his students in real research.

    “It’s never like, ‘Oh, you’re the student and I’m the professor,’” he said. “We can produce high-quality research and publish papers in scientific journals with our students. We’re out on the cutting edge of our field learning the things we don’t know yet. I’m really stoked about it.”

    Coop’s interest in involving his students in research runs deeper than producing papers. Sure, it’s a way to pique their interest and is a surefire resume-bolster for students, but the interest they take thereafter is the torch that will carry ecological research and action into future generations.

    “My students have taught me why I should be hopeful about the future of the world,” he said. “My biggest accomplishments are when I’m able to get them excited about what I’m excited about. And I don’t want to take too much credit for that because I think it’s already all in there, but I’m stoked when I can give students the context and opportunities for that passion to come through.”

    Alexia Abric

    ~Student~

    Alexia Abric Headshot
    Alexia Abric Headshot

    Alexia Abric

    As an Honors Program student, Mountain Sports athlete and an active member of the Academic Leadership Program, Alexia is versatile in terms of academics as well as athletics. 

    A native of Hayward, Wisc., Alexia Abric left high school wanting to go somewhere different, with her sights set on medical school.

    This, combined with her previous experience working in the medical field, led Alexia to Western’s Biology program.

    “I was looking for a program that had a pre-med [focus], strong acceptance rates for medical school and high Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores. Western’s Biology program was great for that,” Alexia said. “I’ve always wanted to go into the health field because I love interacting with people.”

    Her interest in medicine would soon bring Alexia to declare a second major in Exercise & Sport Science (ESS) during her second semester at Western. With the potential to enter into sports medicine or physical rehab, Alexia says that her interest in medical school and ESS “overlap really well.”

    Western’s small class sizes have also helped Alexia foster meaningful connections in the classroom; she remembers bonding with Chemistry professor Anne Ryter, Ph.D., over their shared home state.

    “We clicked the first day of class,” Alexia said. “She was asking where [everyone] was from, and she got the brightest look when I said I was from Wisconsin, and it grew from there. I go see her for help in other classes, and to hang out … and she goes to ski races.”

    As an Honors Program student and an active member of the Academic Leadership Program (ALPS), Alexia is versatile in terms of academics as well as athletics. She’s active on two of Western’s Mountain Sports teams: mountain biking and Nordic skiing.

    “I’ve been skiing since seventh grade, and I started biking as a junior in high school—so when I found out I could do both at Western, it was a big selling point,” Alexia said.

    Initially, she only planned on pursuing Nordic skiing in college, but that changed when she met endurance coach Ellie Atkins, who convinced Alexia to compete in mountain biking, as well.

    “I started practicing with the team and … pushing myself to new limits,” Alexia recalled. “Getting to know myself through biking has helped me discover more things that I’m capable of.”

    Ultimately, Alexia says, passionate people are what set Western apart.

    “It is really cool to be around people who are driven and excited about what they’re doing,” Alexia said. “People are doing the things they want to do out here because they love them—which is so unique!”

    Ellie Orr

    ~Student~

    Ellie Orr
    Ellie Orr

    Ellie Orr

    “The people I’ve met, the surrounding environment … and the supportive professors combined have really made [Western] a great place. I know I’m never going to want to leave.”

    Snowboarding, bats and butterflies: these are the things that have kept junior Ellie Orr busy.

    Originally from Ohio, Ellie was drawn to the Rocky Mountains by Western’s Wildlife Biology major and unique outdoor opportunities.

    “We have a great Biology program and the Mountain Sports program, those were my top two factors,” said Ellie, who plans to pursue a master's degree in Ecology—one of Western’s upcoming graduate programs.  

    Even as a junior, Ellie has already accumulated a wealth of academic experience; she studied the endangered Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly the summer after her freshman year and completed a bat acoustic monitoring project for the Gunnison Bureau of Land Management following her sophomore year.

    Over the course of that summer, Ellie completed every step of the research, from pre-planning and using the equipment to collecting and analyzing data.

    “It was fun,” she said. “The biggest takeaway was learning how research will work in the future and getting hands-on experience doing it on my own.”

    Her enthusiasm doesn’t stop with academics; Ellie was also the first woman snowboarder to join the Mountain Sports Freeride Team.

    One of the challenges, she said, was “keeping up with the boys.”

    “Our first trip was me and 28 guys,” she recalls, noting that adapting from the park snowboard team to the freeride team was particularly difficult.

    “It’s a struggle. … It’s more technical, but I love being a diverse snowboarder.”

    But, she says, the athletes are just as adamant about forging friendships as they are about their competitions.

    “[During] our first competition at the Canadian Open, I took third and the whole team cheered when I got up there. It felt like I’d accomplished something, and it felt great to have a whole team of people supporting me,” Ellie said.  

    The common thread between her passion for snowboarding and for Wildlife Biology is their mutual involvement in environmental matters.

    “My biggest thing is wanting to have an impact on our environment through researching things like climate change,” she said. “Our professors are trying to give us [hands-on] experience.”

    Overall, it’s those experiences Ellie has had with her professors and with her team that set Western apart.

    “The people I’ve met, the surrounding environment … and the supportive professors combined have really made it a great place. I know I’m never going to want to leave.”

    Dr. Sean Markey

    ~Alumni~

    Sean Markey
    Sean Markey

    Dr. Sean Markey

    From truck driver to neurosurgeon—thanks to Western and its nurturing professors. 

    Dr. Sean Markey is a 1993 graduate of Western. He earned his medical degree in 1997 from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where he also completed his surgical internship and neurosurgery residency. He is board certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

    Dr. Markey has served as the Director of Neurosurgery at Littleton Adventist Hospital and currently serves as the Director of Neurosurgery at Parker Adventist Hospital. He also serves as faculty for a number of medical device companies, which includes ongoing work in the development of new spinal surgery techniques. He has been listed in 5280 magazine as one of Denver’s top doctors for his work with brain and spine disorders. Dr. Markey currently serves as the Neurosurgical Consultant to the Denver Broncos.

    Dr. Markey is an active member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Colorado Neurosurgical Society, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the Western Neurological Society. He and his wife, Kristina, currently reside in Denver and have three daughters. Outside of medicine, Dr. Markey enjoys skiing, biking and automobiles.

    In 2015, Dr. Markey spoke at the Commencement Ceremony for Western Colorado University. 

    Scholarships

    Program-Based Scholarships

    Charlesworth, William Memorial Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Applied or accepted Western student
    • Student is pursuing a major in Mathematics or related Natural Sciences
    • Applicant has demonstrated a need for financial assistance
    • Demonstrated an interest and is active in inter-collegiate athletics
    • Preference should be given to entering freshmen, however all classes are eligible
    • Preference should be given to applicants whose study time is limited by family obligations or the need to earn income
    • No preference shall be given based on the sex of the applicant
    • Preference will be given to applicant from Delta County, CO. or the Western Slope of Colorado

    Description

    Established with the Western Colorado University Foundation to perpetuate the memory of William Charlesworth, a 1954 graduate of Western Colorado University. The express purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to student-athletes pursuing majors in mathematics or related natural sciences.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected By: The chair of Mathematics and Computer Science and a representative from the Athletic Department appointed by the Athletic Director. A representative from the Natural Sciences Department shall be on the selection committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Mathematics & Computer Science Department or the Athletic Department for application and deadline information.

    Mathematics & Computer Science Department: 970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128
    Athletic Department: 970.943.2079 | Paul Wright Gym 201.

    Ferchau, Hugo A. Memorial Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Full-time student
    • 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher
    • At least sophomore status
    • Must demonstrate an interest and capability to pursue studies and/or research in the area of botany and native plant research (Biology)
    • Preference will be given to those with financial need

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by the family and friends to honor Dr. Ferchau for the never-ending assistance he gave to students at Western.

    Award depends on funds available (anticipated award $2400).

    Selected by: Sciences Scholarship Selection Committee

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Lawrence, A. W. Memorial Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Students majoring in Biology or Chemistry

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by the family and friends of Aubrey W. Lawrence who served as Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by: Science Scholarship Selection Committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Light, Dr. Mason and Betty Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Recipient must be a full-time junior or senior
    • 3.0 GPA or higher
    • must be engaged in pre-medical studies

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Dr. Mason Light, who served the college community for over forty years while he was a practicing physician in Gunnison. He and his wife established this scholarship.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by: Donor Scholarship Committee (Family of Mason Light) in cooperation with Western Colorado University Foundation and the Director of Financial Aid.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Mckenny, Casey James Memorial Scholarships

    Eligibility

    • Full-time juniors or seniors (qualified juniors shall be given preference over seniors)
    • Must be declared major in the Natural and Environmental Sciences Department
    • Must maintain at least 3.2 GPA
    • Recipients must follow Casey's example of academic promise, love for the outdoors and service to fellow students demonstrated by volunteering in the community and involvement in campus activities and service.

    Description

    this scholarship is provided by the gifts by Bill and Monica McKenny, Casey's parents, as well as other family members and friends.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by: Natural & Environmental Sciences faculty in consultation with the Dean of Students and Bill and Monica McKenny.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Nauman, James D. Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Full-time Colorado residents who have a major in a field within the Natural & Environmental Science Department
    • Must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 minimum
    • Demonstrate financial need

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Dr. James Nauman, who attended Western from 1945-49.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by: Sciences Scholarship Selection Committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department  for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Walker, C. Ralph and Florence Memorial Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Full-time students who have declared a major in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by the gifts from members of the Walker family to perpetuate the memory and to commemorate the service and devotion of C. Ralph and Florence Walker, who both served Western and the Gunnison community in an exemplary manner for many years. Professor Walker was Chairman of Western's then Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by:Sciences Scholarship Selection Committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Full-time students who are majoring in Environment & Sustainability, Environmental Biology or a related field
    • Must be a junior level (60+ credits) 
    • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
    • Preference given to students with financial need who are residents of the Western Slope of Colorado and have expressed interest in a career in park operations/park management or a career in the earth sciences

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Barbara Kastellic and gifts from others to honor Joseph, who was the first Superintendent of the Black Canyon National Monument from 1975-1984.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Application: 

    Complete and submit The Joseph A. Kastellic Scholarship application which is available in the Financial Aid Office.

     A recommendation and a one-page essay will be needed to complete the application.

    Institutional Scholarships

    Common Scholarships

    Western offers approximately 70 common scholarships for which a wide variety of students are eligible (e.g., locals, veterans, transfers). Apply for any number of these common scholarships using Western’s Common Scholarship Application, which is due April 1. For more information, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Early Action Credit

    If a student is accepted to Western by Nov. 1 and qualifies for a merit scholarship, the student will receive an additional $500 for the first year. Use our Net Price Calculator to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

    Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

    Western Colorado University alumni can nominate prospective students for a $500 scholarship ($250 per semester) for first year only. Application deadline is typically June 1. For more information, visit western.edu/mars.

    Neighboring States Program

    Students with a permanent address from one of the seven contiguous neighboring states to Colorado who have demonstrated financial need are automatically considered for a special $1,000 per year grant, totaling $4,000 over four years.

    The Western Neighboring States program can be added to WUE, CP or merit scholarships. So, if you are a permanent resident of one of those seven states—and show financial need—you are eligible.

    For more information about the Neighboring States program, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

    Presidential Promise

    The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

    For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential promise, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Tuition Discount Programs

    Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

    For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

    Western Merit Scholarship

    Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student's GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship. 

    For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Faculty & Staff

    Faculty

    Kevin Alexander, Ph.D. headshot
    Professor of Biology, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs
    Phone: 970.943.3405
    Office Location: Taylor Hall 322
    Robin A. Bingham, Ph.D. headshot
    Professor of Biology
    Phone: 970.943.3355
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 222
    Jonathan Coop, Ph.D. headshot
    Associate Professor
    Phone: 970.943.2565
    Office Location: Kelley Hall 105
    Brian Dalton, Ph.D. headshot
    Lecturer in Biology
    Phone: 970.943.2287
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 132
    Peter H. Gauss headshot
    Professor of Biology
    Phone: 970.943.2094
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 238B
    Shan Hays, Ph.D. headshot
    Professor of Biology
    Phone: 970.943.2552
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 238C
    Amy Honan headshot
    Biology Lab Coordinator, Lecturer in Biology, Curator of Fungi
    Phone: 970.943.2437
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 128A
    Derek  D. Houston, Ph.D. headshot
    Thornton Chair in Biology
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 143B
    Chris Lee, Ph.D. headshot
    Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
    Phone: 970.943.2256
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 218
    Patrick Magee, Ph.D. headshot
    Assistant Professor of Wildlife & Conservation Biology
    Phone: 970.943.7121
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 143A
    Emily McMahill, Pharm.D. headshot
    Ferchau Lecturer in Biology
    Phone: 970.943.2311
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 225
    Cassandra Osborne, Ph.D. headshot
    Professor of Biology
    Phone: 970.943.3181
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 238A

    Courses

    FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a sample of courses offered by Western Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the university course search.

     BIOL 130 - Environmental Biology (3 credits)

    An introduction to basic biological principles as they apply to interactions between organisms and their environment. Consideration is given to biotic and abiotic interactions, energy flow, biogeochemical cycling, population growth, biodiversity, basic cell biology, genetics, and evolution with a special emphasis on human impacts on these biological systems. This course establishes a strong foundation in applied biology from a scientific perspective.

     BIOL 150 - Biological Principles (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    An introduction to the central unifying concepts of biology including the biochemical foundations of life, cell structure and function, cell metabolism, genetics, and evolution. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry are highly recommended. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: University Entry-Level Expectations met for mathematics and English.

     BIOL 151 - Diversity and Patterns of Life (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    An overview of organismal diversity and evolution. Through a taxonomic survey, students are introduced to prokaryotic and eukaryotic diversity and evolution including microorganisms, fungi, plants, and animals. Fundamentals of evolution including the history of life, evidence for common ancestry, mechanisms of evolutionary change, and speciation are covered. Organismic structure, function, and ecology are also explored. Laboratories introduce students to the process and methods of science through investigative experiences. This course is designed for the science major. A year of high school biology and a year of high school chemistry are highly recommended. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: University Entry-Level Expectations met for mathematics and English.

     BIOL 301 - General Ecology (3 credits)

    An introduction to basic ecological principles and their relationships to natural systems. Human impact on the natural systems is assessed. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and BIOL 151. Prerequisite or corequisite: COM 202.

     BIOL 310 - Cell Biology (3 credits)

    An introduction to cellular function and structure. Prerequisites: BIOL 150 and BIOL 151. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 231 or CHEM 331; and COM 202.

     BIOL 312 - Genetics (4 credits)

    A course in Mendelian inheritance, linkage, chromosomal aberrations, molecular genetics, gene regulation, genetic engineering, and population genetics. Prerequisites: BIOL 301, BIOL 310, CHEM 231, and CHEM 234; or CHEM 331.

     CHEM 111 - General Chemistry I (3 credits)

    An introductory course designed for science majors focusing on principles and applications of chemistry. Topics covered in this course are stoichiometry, bonding models, intermolecular forces, and periodic trends. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH 140 or Accuplacer college-level mathematics test score of 85 or above, ACT math score of 24 or above, or instructor permission.

     CHEM 112 - General Chemistry Laboratory I (1 credits)

    An introduction to basic laboratory techniques of inorganic chemistry correlating with CHEM 111. Experiments emphasize techniques, instrumentation, and solution chemistry. Laboratory note bookkeeping and the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals are also stressed. Additional course fee applies. Co-requisite: CHEM 111.

     CHEM 113 - General Chemistry II (3 credits)

    A continuation of CHEM 111. Topics covered are thermodynamics, kinetics, equilibrium, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: CHEM 111 with a minimum grade of C-.

     CHEM 114 - General Chemistry Laboratory II (1 credits)

    A continuation of CHEM 112. An introduction to basic laboratory techniques of inorganic chemistry correlating with CHEM 113. Experiments emphasize techniques, instrumentation, and solution chemistry. Laboratory notebook keeping and the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals are also stressed. Prerequisite: CHEM 112. Corequisite: CHEM 113.

     CHEM 231 - Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (3 credits)

    A descriptive survey course which introduces the essential topics and applications of organic chemistry and biochemistry. The course is designed for non-majors who need the second semester of a one-year chemistry core that includes general, organic, and biochemistry. This course may not be counted for credit toward the Chemistry Major or Minor. Prerequisite: CHEM 101 or CHEM 113.

     CHEM 234 - Introductory Organic and Biochemistry Laboratory (1 credits)

    An introductory laboratory to accompany CHEM 231. Experiments focus on reactions of organic functional groups, organic synthesis, and the chemistry of biological molecules. This course may not be counted for credit toward the Chemistry Major or Minor. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite or co-requisite: CHEM 231.

     MATH 151 - Calculus I (4 credits)

    A study of differential calculus, including limits, continuous functions, Intermediate Value Theorem, tangents, linear approximation, inverse functions, implicit differentiation, extreme values and the Mean Value Theorem. This course also introduces Integral calculus including anti-derivatives, definite integrals, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Prerequisite: ACT math score of 27 or above; SAT math score of 630 or above; MATH 141 with a minimum grade of C-; or Accuplacer university-level mathematics test with a score of 95 or above. GT-MA1

     MATH 213 - Probability and Statistics (3 credits)

    A course in the use of statistical techniques to draw knowledge from data. Topics include exploratory data analysis, descriptive statistics, t-procedures, ANOVA, chi squared procedures, regression, and non-parametric tests. Statistical software is used extensively to analyze real data sets. Prerequisite: MATH 141 with a minimum grade of C-, or Accuplacer university-level mathematics test score of 85 or above; or instructor permission. GT-MA1

     PHYS 140 - Introductory Physics (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    A semi-quantitative introduction to the fundamental concepts of physical science, particularly the laws of physics as they relate to the structure of matter. Laboratory experiences play an important role in the investigations. This course may not be taken for credit toward the Physics Minor. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: ACT math score of 19 or above; SAT math score of 500 or above; MATH 099; Accuplacer Elementary Algebra test score of 85 or above.

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology
    • Major
    • Minor
    • Accelerated Degree Program

    Biology bridges the physical and social sciences in the study of the interactions between living systems and the non-living world. The Biology standard major provides broad training in the biological sciences and the rapidly advancing knowledge at the discipline’s forefront.

    General Biology students work closely with their advisers to select from a variety of upper-division elective courses and supporting science courses to create a self-designed major in areas such as botany, zoology, molecular ecology and integrative biology. This allows students to integrate the study of structure and function at all levels of biological organization from molecules to ecosystems.

    The Program 

    General Biology students work closely with their advisors to select from a variety of upper division elective courses and supporting science courses to create a self-designed major in areas such as botany, zoology, molecular ecology and integrative biology. This emphasis allows students to integrate the study of structure and function at all levels of biological organization from molecules to ecosystems.

    Through hands-on projects in Hurst Hall to the living laboratory of the Gunnison Basin, students work with faculty to explore wildlife biology, conservation, developmental biology, evolutionary ecology, aquatic ecology, virology and genomics.

    Careers & Opportunities

    • Dentistry
    • Ecology
    • Education
    • Fisheries biology
    • Forestry
    • Medicine
    • Physical therapy
    • Research
    • Veterinary medicine
    • Wildlife biology

    Learn more

    Reach out to Kevin Alexander, Ph.D. for more information. 

    Interested in Graduate School?

    Western’s accelerated 3+2 programs allow you to earn your bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in just five years—saving you time and money.


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    Master in Environmental Management (MEM) 3+2

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    Master of Science in Ecology 3+2

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    Master of Science in Exercise & Sport Science: High Altitude Exercise Physiology (HAEP) 3+2

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