WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Biology Research in Western Illinois

Apr 3, 2014

At first glance, it might appear not much is happening on the landscape in western Illinois and across the rst of the state.  But a biologist begs to differ.

“You wouldn’t know until you started looking,” said Dr. Shawn Meagher, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Western Illinois University.

“I think it’s way more interesting than most people would guess.”

Credit Western Illinois University

He said WIU biology students are studying the restoration of prairies, invasive species, and more. Results of their work will be shared Friday, April 4, during the annual Biology Student Research Symposium.

I think it's great for people to see what biologists are asking about right in their own backyard.

Most of the events will take place on the third floor of WIU’s Waggoner Hall between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm.  The symposium is free and open to the public.

Meagher said roughly 45 presentations are scheduled.  Around 10 will be given orally.  Other students will display work on posters. 

He said in addition to the outdoor field work, WIU biology students are doing research on bacterial metabolism, cell biology, and the ways genes are expressed in different organisms that interact.

“We’re studying questions about viruses and bacteria and the plants and animals that live all around us.  I think it’s great for people to see what biologists are asking about right in their own backyard,” Meagher said regarding the symposium.

Dr. Shawn Meagher
Credit Rich Egger

The invited plenary speaker is Dr. Jim Dalling, who is a tropical ecologist from the University of Illinois.  He will talk about interactions between tropical plants and fungi.

Meagher thinks that research is potentially useful in western Illinois.

“In the tropics there are a lot of fungi that probably help plants grow. That is also true in temperate regions like North America,” said Meagher.

He said Western’s biology students get hands-on experience doing research with faculty.  He feels that’s an important component of their education.

And he said it’s important for students to do more than collect and analyze data – they must learn how to present it.  That’s why he feels the symposium is such an important part of their education.

The day's events also include the annual Dessert Competition.  Meagher said guests can pay a small fee to sample all the desserts and vote on their favorites.  He said there is a traveling award within the department that goes to the winner of the competition.