Art Yeas wins President’s Award

We’d like to congratulate Art Yeas, for winning the President’s Award for Outstanding Service , which was awarded following a colourful encomium from Marvin Gunderman. Art has distinguished himself- and the Biology Greenhouse through initiatives that have engaged the campus and local community in benefiting from and learning more about exotic plants. In addition to his contribution to FWI activities in increasing signage in the greenhouse, and building a social media presence, he is reposonsible for the well recevied bamboo donations to the Toronto Zoo Pandas, and two corpse flower blooms that have brought thousands of visitors to our Greenhouse.

Titan Arum growing at Biology Greenhouse

A titan arum, which produces the largest unbranched “flower” of any plant, is preparing to enter its full 3 metre bloom late May at the McMaster Greenhouse. Its growing more than 10 cm a day, and is already an impressive sight. Follow the growth of this fascinating plant at and twitterfeed @MACGreenhouse

Dr. Joanna Wilson wins Women of Distinction Award

On April 16, 2015, YWCA Hamilton hosted the 39th annual Women of Distinction Awards. Dr. Joanna Wilson of the Biology Department was awarded in the category of Sciences or Technology. Dr. Joanna Wilson’s talents in basic and applied research combined with an ability to lead diverse stakeholders (scientists, students, industry, government) has contributed to mitigating the effects of pharmaceutical contamination of our waterways. She is a valued member of the McMaster Department of Biology undergraduate curriculum team and a highly regarded student mentor. She is also a mother of two, who finds time to provide fun experiments for local kindergarten students to ignite their innate curiosity and inspire the next generation. Her ability to engage and excite 4-year olds, university students and industry officials about biology, is a unique skill that has contributed to her success and is one of many reasons why Dr. Wilson is a Woman of Distinction.

Catie Ivy wins the Scholander Award from the American Physiological Society

Congratulations to Catherine Ivy of the Scott lab for winning the Scholander Award at the 2015 Experimental Biology Meeting in Boston. The award is given to the student with the best poster in the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section of the American Physiological Society. The meeting hosted over 14,000 attendees from March 28-April 1.

Roller coaster migration of bar-headed geese saves energy during flight at high altitudes

An international team of scientists that includes Dr. Graham Scott in the Department of Biology have revealed how bar-headed geese (Anser indicus) fly at high altitudes during their migration across the Himalayan mountains, in an article published in the January 16 issue of Science. The study used custom-designed data loggers to measure heart rate, body acceleration, and temperature during the southward migration from their breeding grounds in Mongolia to their wintering grounds in India. The new study shows that the geese perform a sort of roller coaster ride through the mountains that helps them save energy and complete their challenging migration.

Historically, it was commonly assumed that bar-headed geese would fly to high altitudes relatively easily and then remain there during their flights, possibly benefitting from a tailwind. However, the study found that flying becomes progressively more difficult for the geese at higher altitudes, where there is less oxygen in the air to breathe and the reduced air density decreases the bird’s ability to produce the lift and thrust required to maintain flight. By tracking the underlying terrain, even if this means repeatedly shedding hard-won altitude only to have to regain height later in the same or subsequent flight, the birds were able to reduce the energetic costs of their migration. On occasion, they also flew in relatively strong updrafts of air to reduce the work needed to stay aloft. The geese are thus able to fly across the world’s highest mountains while remaining comfortably within their physiological capabilities. How is this possible? “The physiology of bar-headed geese has evolved in a number of ways to extract oxygen from the thin air at high altitudes”, said Dr. Graham Scott. “As a result, they are able to accomplish something that is impossible for most other birds.”

The article can be found on the Science website, at

New species of frog found on remarkable island gives birth to live tadpoles

The tiny island of Sulawesi in Indonesia is known to scientists as a hotspot of biodiversity, a remote pocket of ecological treasures that is home to a rare species of fanged frog first discovered in the late 1990s.

After years of documenting its evolution, an international team of scientists has now revealed it is the only known frog, of roughly six-thousand species in the world, to give birth to live tadpoles instead of laying eggs

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