Robin A. Bingham, Ph.D.


Professor of Biology

B.A., University of Vermont, Botany, 1984
M.A., University of Colorado, Education, 1987
Ph.D., University of Colorado, Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology, 1997
Office Location
Hurst Hall 222


How did you discover Western?

I came to Western in 1997 when I was hired as a Thornton Scholar. I began my job search the fall before I defended my dissertation, and came across the ad for a temporary instructor at Western (at that time it was still Western State College) in Science magazine. After looking into the Biology Program at Western in more detail, I learned about the Thornton Undergraduate Research Program in Biology. Mentoring undergraduate research experiences is one of my highest professional priorities, so I was thrilled to be hired and have the opportunities to work with students that have been afforded me by that program.

What are some of the highlights of your Career?

I am an evolutionary ecologist with specific interests in the areas of plant-animal interactions, evolutionary community ecology, the evolution of plant defense, and the role of phenotypic plasticity in adaptive evolution. I teach a diversity of courses including Introductory Biology for both majors and non-majors, Botany, Evolutionary Biology, Rocky Mountain Flora, Ecology, and Genetics. A highlight of my career has been mentoring undergraduate students working on independent research projects. Recent projects with students include studies of variation in herbivore resistance traits across an elevational gradient in showy milkweed, an investigation of biological tradeoffs associated with the evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds, and a variety of studies into the biology of Cheatgrass. I have also collaborated with scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, CO on several different projects ranging from pollination studies to ecological genomics.

What most excites you about your field?

One thing I love about my work is how it combines tools from different fields to address evolutionary questions. For example, skills from a field biologist's tool-kit are essential for understanding ecological interactions between plants and pollinators, but combining these with tools now available in molecular biology allows for deep insights into how these interactions impact gene pools and evolution.

What is your facorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

I love the small size of Gunnison itself, how easy it is to get around and how friendly people are. I value the western heritage of this special place and I also love our access to pristine landscapes.

Courses Taught

  • BIOL 120: Essentials of Biology
  • BIOL 151: Diversity and Patterns of Life
  • BIOL 352: Botany
  • BIOL 353: Rocky Mountain Flora
  • BIOL 362: Evolutionary Biology: Theory and application
  • BIOL 495: Senior Seminar
  • SCI 110: Habitable Planet
  • SCI 111: The Nature of Science

Research Interests

I am an evolutionary ecologist with specific interests in the areas of plant-animal interactions, evolutionary community ecology, the evolution of plant defense, and the role of phenotypic plasticity in adaptive evolution. I am committed to involving undergraduate students in research, have mentored numerous undergraduate independent research projects, and incorporate research experiences into many of my courses.

Research With Undergraduates

  • Gwen McGlothlen, Jessie Dodge, Lance Kittel, and Maurissa Kasunic. Transgenerational defense induction in Brassica rapa.
  • Bethany Waller and Shayna Keller. The effects of three environmentally persistent hormone disrupting chemicals on Ceratopteris  richardii sex ratios.
  • Pamela King. An investigation of tradeoffs in herbicide resistant Brassica rapa: effect on pollen and ovule production, biomass, and development. 2011-2012.
  • Emily Donahue, Brandee Wills, and Bethany Waller. Genetic architecture of herbivore defensive traits in populations of Asclepias speciosa along an elevational gradient. 2010-2011.


(*undergraduate co-author)

  • *Oney, M. and Bingham, R.A. Effects of simulated and natural herbivory on tomato (Solanum lycopersicon var. esculentum) leaf trichomes. In press.
  • Anurag A. Agrawal, Georg Petschenka, Robin A. Bingham, Marjorie G. Weber, and Sergio Rasmann. 2012. Toxic cardenolides: chemical ecology and coevolution of specialized plant-herbivore interactions (Tansley Review). New Phytologist 194:28–45.
  • Bingham, R.A. and A. Agrawal. 2010. Specificity and trade-offs in the induced plant defense of common milkweed Asclepias syriaca to two lepidopteran herbivores. Journal of Ecology 98:1014-1022.
    Bingham, R. A. and T. A. Ranker. 2000. Genetic diversity in alpine and foothill populations of Campanula rotundifolia (Campanulaceae). International Journal of Plant Science 161(3):403-411.
  • Bingham, R.A. 2009. How to Lead: Navigating gender issues in and out of the classroom. In Becoming and Being: Women’s Experiences in Leadership in K-16 Science Education. K. Wieseman and M. Weinburgh (eds.) Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg, New York.
  • Bingham, Robin. 2006. Bats, Birds and Butterflies:  Conserving pollinators. Journal of Biogeography 33:  1150-1152
  • *Gasch, Caley and Robin Bingham. 2006. Variation in seed germination characteristics among populations of Bromus tectorum in the Gunnison Basin. Bios 77(1): 7-12
  • Bingham, R.A. and T.A. Ranker. 2000. Genetic diversity in alpine and foothill populations of Campanula rotundifolia (Campanulaceae). International Journal of Plant Science 161(3): 403-411.
  • Bingham, Robin A. 1999. Pollinator limitation in arctic alpine environments:  myth or fact of life above treeline?  Science Progress 82(2): 103-112.
  • *Bingham, R.A. and A.R. Orthner. 1998. Efficient pollination of alpine plants. Nature 391:238-239.