Prof. Caitlin Pries receives the S.A. Wilde Early Career Award

Professor Caitlin Pries is this year’s recipient of the S.A. Wilde Early Career Achievement Award.  The Soil Science Society of America gives this award in recognition of “significant accomplishment in forest, range, or wildland soil research by an individual up to seven years post completion of a terminal degree program.”*

To learn more about Professor Pries' work, please visit her lab web page:


Emma Esterman '20 wins Biology's Francis L. Town Scientific Prize

Emma Esterman '20 is the recipient of this year's The Francis L. Town Scientific Prize in Biology.  Emma was awarded the Town price for academic excellence in her biology coursework and for her research endeavors in the laboratory of Prof. Olga Zhaxybayeva.

Emma is a Rufus Choate Scholar and a Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Prize recipient.  In addition to her outstanding grade point average, Emma has received several citations for her exemplary course work. 

In the fall of her sophomore year, Emma began working with Prof. Zhaxybayeva and is currently a James O. Freedman Presidential scholar in the lab.  This winter, Emma will be doing an off-term research internship at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland where she will be learning more about viral evolution.

Congratulations, Emma, on winning the Town Prize and for all of your remarkable achievements!


The Francis L. Town Scientific Prize 

Kudos to Biology Major Phi Beta Kappa Inductees & Sophmore Prize Winners!

Congratulations to Biology majors Connor Bodarchuk '19, Anant Mishra '19, Arvind Suresh '19 and Elizabeth Terman '19 on their induction into Dartmouth's Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa!  Dartmouth Phi Beta Kappa inductees must have one of the top twenty cummulative grade point averages after completing eight terms of study at Dartmouth.

Biology majors, Emma Esterman '20 and Armin Tavakkoli '20 received the Phi Beta Kappa Sophmore Prize. The Sophomore Prize recognizes students with the highest grade point averages after completing five terms of study.  Congratulations!

To read the Dartmouth News article about the awards please go to the following link:

Photograph by Olivia Bewley '19.

Prof. Caitlin Hicks Pries Studies Soil Carbon and Climate Change

Professor Caitlin Hicks Pries' lab studies the terrestrial carbon cycle and the effects of a warming climate on that cycle.  Organic material is the source of carbon in soils.  As this material is decomposed by microbes, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.  A warming climate can increase the activity of the soil-dwelling microbes and, thereby, accelerate the amount of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, that is released into the atmosphere.

In her lab, Professor Hicks Pries is focusing on both understanding the effects of climate change on soils and on finding ways to retain carbon in soils.  If the carbon could be retained in soils, the release of carbon dioxide would be reduced.  Reducing greenhouse gas release would help to mitigate the increase in global temperatures that are fueling this process.

Studying Small Bacterial Cities - Biofilms

Professor Carey Nadell's laboratory studies the interesting interactions of microbes and their environments within biofilms.  Biofilms are collaborative communities made up of billions of microbes.  These microbial communities may be found to play a beneficial roles such as in the gut where they help with digestion.  They can also establish themselves in less desirable places where they cause dangerous infections.  Prof. Nadell and his lab members are interested in learning how and why microbes come together to create these communities.  For more information about Prof. Nadell and his work, please see the Dartmouth News article by Joseph Blumberg at this link:

Photo from left to right:  Swetha Kasetty, EEES graduate student, Professor Carey Nadell and Matthew Bond, MCB graduate student


Insights into origin and evolution of strange virus-like elements

Some microorganisms produce nanostructures that morphologically and genetically resemble viruses, but don’t behave like typical viruses. Oddly, these structures package random pieces of DNA of their microbial host and, as a result, do not appear to propagate by infecting microbes and making more copies of themselves. Since these elements can deliver the packaged DNA to other cells, they were dubbed gene transfer agents (GTAs). It is not clear whether GTAs represent atypical viruses, defective viruses, or viruses co-opted by the microorganisms for some function. In a new study, Prof. Zhaxybayeva’s group used evolutionary analyses of GTA-like genes to show that a GTA in alpha-proteobacteria likely co-evolved with its bacterial host for at least 700 million years, suggesting that this GTA is unlikely to be a defective virus. The function of this GTA remains to be elucidated in the future work.

Bats and Bugs Do Battle in the Tropics

Professor Hannah ter Hofstede, Neukom Fellow Dr. Laurel Symes and biologist Dr. Sharon Martinson are interested in understanding the stratagies and trade-offs employed by insects that allow them to attract mates while trying to avoid notice by bat predators.  To learn more about their work, please see Joe Blumberg's article in Dartmouth News at this link:

Temperature fluctuations? What is on and what is off.

Every organism prefers a certain ambient temperature, but what happens when it experiences a change in temperature? Prof. Olga Zhaxybayeva and her colleagues at the University of Alberta have examined how an oil-dwelling bacterium Kosmotoga olearia, the current "record holder" of the growth temperature range, responds to temperature fluctuations.  In their paper in the Extremophiles journal, the researchers report that change in temperature affects about a quarter of this bacterium's genes and that gene duplication and horizontal gene transfer played an important role in this bacterium's ability to grow between 20 and 79 degrees Celsius.

Link to the paper:


Prof. Richard Holmes wins the New England Society Book Award

Prof. Richard Holmes has been awarded the New England Society Book Award for his book Hubbard Brook: The Story of a Forest Ecosystem (Yale University Press, 2016). Prof. Holmes and Dr. Gene E Likens co-authored this book, which highlights the remarkable and impactful long-term ecological research conducted at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire’s White Mountains over the last 50 years.”  For more information about the award, please click here.

We welcome you to visit a display about Hubbard Brook on the second floor of the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center.

Oxidative Damage Leads to Errors in Meiotic Chromosome Segregation

Research done in Prof. Sharon Bickel's lab has demonstrated that oxidative damage causes a premature loss of sister chromatid cohesion and an increase in chromosome segregation errors in Drosophila oocytes during meiosis. 

In women, the probability of miscarriage or Down Syndrome increases dramatically with age.  Studies of maternal age effect indicate that errors in female meiosis contribute significantly to this age-related effect.  The research done by the Bickel lab demonstrates that if oxidative damage contributes to maternal age effect then reducing oxidative damage could be a strategy for reducing chromosome segregation errors during meiosis.

Professor Sharon Bickel, MCB graduate student Adrienne Perkins, Class of 2013 undergraduate researcher Thomas Das and second year MCB graduate student Lauren Panzera contributed to this work.  These findings were published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences: