Department History

1857 The first animal and vegetable physiology courses were taught by Henry Goadby.1
1859 Manly Miles replaced Henry Goadby as professor of zoology and animal physiology. Miles was involved in the establishment of the campus museum.1
1861 The Zoology and Animal Physiology Department of Instruction was created. The department was chaired by Manly Miles.1
1861 Students in zoology and animal physiology studied: zoological anatomy; comparative anatomy and physiology; breeding; rearing and management of domestic animals; mammals; insects injurious to vegetation; veterinary surgery; and veterinary medicine.1
1865 Zoology and Animal Physiology became separate departments. Both departments were chaired by Manly Miles. Manly Miles was also a professor in both departments until 1869.1
1869 A.J. Cook became the new chair of both the Zoology Department and the Animal Physiology Department. Cook was previously an assistant to Manly Miles. Cook was most remembered for his work with insects and bees.1
1872 Zoology seniors took coursework focused on the history of zoology, followed by a more thorough study of vertebrates.1
1875 A.J. Cook became the MSU Museum's first curator.1
1882 The Zoology Department moved from College Hall to the upper floor of the new Library-Museum Building (currently Linton Hall) built in 1881.1
1882 A.J. Cook taught a half term course for seniors on zoology using live specimens, preserved specimens from the museum, and histological preparations. For their laboratory work, students dissected cats that were previously injected to show the blood vessels, nervous system and the muscles. Several students also dissected sheep, calves, woodchucks, and other animals.1
~1893 Walter B. Barrows, an ornithologist, replaced A.J. Cook as department chair and museum curator. During the three decades Barrows was associated with Michigan State College, the department became recognized as a clearing house for information about bird life.1 
1904-1905 Walter B. Barrows was responsible for the zoology courses.1
1908 Department name changed from 'Zoology' to 'Zoology and Physiology'.1 
1910 Department name changed from 'Zoology and Physiology' to 'Zoology, Physiology, Geology'.1
~1910 Interest in the study of Zoology grew rapidly after 1910 as a consequence of the increased interest in genetics, heredity, and eugenics. New courses were developed to address these topics and investigative work in genetics was conducted. The department later established a colony of mice with various coat colors to demonstrate Mendel's law of heredity to students.1
1912 Walter B. Barrows book entitled "Michigan Bird Life" was issued as a Special Bulletin.1 
1913 The department was housed in the Agriculture and the Library-Museum (Linton Hall) Buildings. Equipment had to be moved from one building to another to teach its courses. By this time, the museum was a major responsibility of the department. It served two purposes: as an aid to zoology, anatomy, and geology courses and as an attraction to visitors.1
1922 The department name changed from 'Zoology, Physiology, Geology' to 'Zoology and Geology'. Following the name change, the department moved to the fourth floor of the Agricultural Building.1
1923 A bird banding station was established on campus. Walter B. Barrows became the first person in the United States to band birds. Students in ornithology collected data on migration and habits of bird species found on campus. Bird banding was carried out in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. A total of 7,500 birds were banded by 1930.1
1923 Walter B. Barrows unexpectedly died on February 26, 1923. Following his death, the department continued the tradition of studying bird life, habitat, and migrations for many years.1
1924 WKAR was established in 1924. For many years, the department presented talks over the radio on zoological topics. Many of these talks were designed for high school biology students.1
1929 Department name changed from 'Zoology and Geology' to 'Zoology'.1
1929 The main Zoology laboratories were located on the second floor of the Library-Museum Building (currently Linton Hall).1
1930 W.K. Kellogg donated the Bird Sanctuary to Michigan State College. Zoology faculty were encouraged to make use of these facilities.1
~1930s Department Chair, Harrison Hunt, and Carol Hoppert of the Department of Chemistry received a grant from the American Philosophical Society to support research on the inheritance of rat caries. Hunt's dental caries research had been the most important research program in the Zoology Department until the 1960s when his grant funding was discontinued.1
1936 The Ph.D. degree was conferred by the Department of Zoology to Walter E. Heston for his thesis entitled, "Nutritional and Genetic Factors Causing Bent Nose in the Rat (Rattus Norvegicus)." 1 
1937 The Department of Zoology moved to Morrill Hall.1
~1940 The Zoology Research Laboratory was built (where the left wing of Erikson Hall is now) to replace the old rodent colony. This two story building was used for various research projects of the department, including thousands of mice for Hunt's genetic research.1
1948 The Department of Zoology moved to the new Natural Science Building, where it is still located today.1
1950 Eleven Ph.D. degrees were conferred by the Department of Zoology prior to 1951.1 
1955 The Zoology Section of the American Society of Biological Sciences was hosted on campus.1
1955 The B.S. in Zoology curriculum was reorganized.1
1956-1957 The M.S. degree program was completed.1
1959 George J. Wallace reported in an article entitled "Insecticides and Birds" that over a four year period (1954-1958), the robin population had dwindled from an estimated 185 pairs on the 185 acre MSU main campus to few or no resident birds. The Department of Zoology attracted national media coverage for Wallace's research.1
1962 Rachel Carson used data collected by George J. Wallace in her book, Silent Spring, to expose hazards of the pesticide DDT.1
1962 Charles Thorton became chair of the department.1
1962 Department curriculum began to emphasize developmental biology, animal behavior, and ecology.1
1962-1963 There was an unexpected increase in undergraduate enrollment.1
1980s Faculty in the department obtained grants from the U.S. Department of the Navy to monitor selected plants and animals and their ecological relationships in the vicinity of its Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Communications Systems in northwestern Wisconsin and in the central part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The purpose of the monitoring program was to determine whether the electric and magnetic fields produced by the transmitting stations caused changes in the upland forest ecosystem, the wetlands ecosystem, and the aquatic ecosystem. The Department of the Navy established the program in response to the strong opposition to ELF by environmentalists and citizens of Wisconsin and Michigan. Department faculty who contributed to Project ELF included: Neal R. Band, Richard J. Snider, Renate M. Snider, James H. Asher, Donald L. Beaver, Richard W. Hill, Susan D. Hill, Thomas M. Burton, Sue Eggert, Ronald Glosser, Mark P. Oemke, Mark O'Malley, Jennifer Molloy, Dennis Mullen, Patrick M. Muzzall, and Robert Stelzer.1
2003 Fred Dyer became the department chairperson.
2005 Faculty research and teaching interests were primarily concerned with ecology (particularly aquatic ecology), evolutionary biology, neurobiology and behavior, and genetics. While these areas were also represented in other departments at MSU, the zoology faculty emphasized the integrative study of complex biological phenotypes. Although the work of biologists in the past had emphasized "taking the organisms apart," an important part of the future of integrative animal biology relied on building current knowledge to "put organisms back together." At this time, studies of complex processes at the level of the whole organism or the population rely on the tools of molecular biology, while many studies of molecular and cellular processes focused on their evolutionary history.
2006 Richard Lenski joined the elite group of scientists elected into membership of the National Academy of Sciences. Election to membership in the National Academy is considered one of the highest honors accorded to US scientists or engineers. Lenski’s research focused on experimental evolution, emphasizing the ecological processes and genetic mechanisms that cause evolutionary change. Lenski was also a John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbial Ecology.2

The life and work of MSU ornithologist Dr. George J. Wallace was featured in the  Emmy award-winning documentary, Dying to Be Heard, which aired on WKAR for the first time in 2007. Dying to be Heard told the story of MSU professor George J. Wallace's discovery of a link between DDT and dying birds on the MSU campus. The documentary was created by MSU students in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.The film was produced as a class project offered through the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism and fostered a collaboration of students from across many disciplines - including Zoology. Read More about the Dying to Be Heard documentary.2


Catherine Lindell's article, "The Value of Animal Behavior in Evaluations of Restoration Success" was the top-accessed article in the Restoration Ecology in 2008. In this opinion piece, Lindell described the ways in which animal behavior studies could be used to evaluate the success of restoration efforts. 


Richard Hill published Animal Physiology (Hill, Wyse, Anderson. Massachusetts: Sinauer, 2008.) in its second edition. The 762-page textbook integrated several disciplines including ecology, behavior, molecular biology, and genomics. 


The MSU Board of Trustees announced that Kay Holekamp was named a University Distinguished Professor - the highest honor that the university can bestow on a member of its faculty. The title of University Distinguished Professor (UDP) recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching, research, and public service. Holekamp was a noted authority on the spotted hyena and her ongoing research in Kenya has been featured in numerious scientific journals and other media. Her research camp provided invaluable and inspired fieldwork experience for undergraduate and graduate students.2

2009 Lynwood Clemens was awarded the 2009 Daniel S. Lehrman Lifetime Achievement Award in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. Clemens, a leading figure in the field of behavioral endocrinology for the past forty years, made outstanding contributions to the field as a scientist, teacher, mentor, and advocate. His ground-breaking research included the developmental hormonal effects on the sexual differentiation of behavior. Clemens was also the first scientist to implicate brain cholinergic systems in the regulation of female reproductive behavior.2 

MSU was awarded a $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation, to establish a Science and Technology Center (STC) in order to study evolution in both natural and virtual settings. The center was officially called "BEACON" ("Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium) and served as a resource using real organisms in labs and field sites and also "digital organisms" undergoing real evolution on computers. BEACON involved over 30 scientists from MSU and four partner universities to create new technologies to solve real world problems, ranging from the development of safer, more efficient cars, to systems that detect computer intrusions. MSU Zoologists originally involved with BEACON include: Jenny Boughman, Ian Dworkin, Fred Dyer, Thomas Getty, Kay Holekamp, Richard Lenski, Elena Litchman, Barbara Lundrigan, Kim Scribner, Alexander Shingleton, and Barry Williams.2


Elena Litchman, assistant professor of Zoology and MSU's W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, and Xiaobo Tan, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, developed a biorobotic device designed to monitor and collect precise data in underwater environments. These robots however, also looked and swam like real fish! Equipped with sensors, the fish could record temperature, levels of dissolved oxygen, pollutants, harmful algae, and other information to enhance research on underwater habitats and critical water supplies. To mimic how fish swim and maneuvered, the robotic fish had "fins" made of electro-active polymers that use electricity to change shape. Similar to real muscle tissue, ion movements twist and bend the polymer when voltage is applied.2 


A new $2.65 million NSF grant awarded to the "GK-12 Bioenergy Sustainability Project" at Kellogg Biological Station enabled fellows to share their leading-edge scientific research in rural K-12 classrooms in Michigan. Thomas Getty was Co-PI and director of the project. Graduate fellows in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior (EEBB), Environmental Science, and Public Policy programs participated in the program, bringing their skills and research into the classrooms, for present and future generations of students and their teachers. The goal of the project was to create a network of "schoolyard science research plots" geared towards the study of sustainable bioenergy that mimic the GLBRC research plots. By bringing together scientific, environmental, social, and economic issues to the classrooms, the project ensured the responsible stewardship and continued vitality of the environment.

W.K. Kellogg Biological Station was working in partnership with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), and the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project on the Ecology of Agricultural Landscapes.2

2010 Avian Vocalizations Center, AVoCet, was launched. Project AVoCet aimed to provide a global database of well-documented, downloadable bird sounds in aid of environmental and ornithological research, conservation, education, and the identification and appreciation of birds and their habitats.2
2012 MSU researchers utilized a large grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, to help find solutions to harmful algal blooms, or "HABs" -- which affect drinking water, fish populations, and recreational waterways.  Dr. Jan Stevenson and other MSU scientists worked together to curb the growth of HABs in lakes and reservoirs.2
2012 Stephen Thomas  developed the university's first free, Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC. Foundations of Science was intended to help students to think like a scientist, using humor, and multiple types of media and exercises. It was funded by the Gates Foundation.2
2013 Nathaniel Ostrom was part of a research team that discovered life in the form of a colony of microbes existing 60 feet below the Antarctic ice - in brine. The research was conducted at Lake Vida, located in the northernmost McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica. The discovery gave researchers an exciting potential model for life on other "icy" planets, and also revealed how chemical energy -- hydrogen gas, nitrate, nitrite and nitrous oxide -- may help life to thrive in the most unlikely places.2
2013 Tom Getty became the new department chair.
2014 Tom Getty, Chair of MSU Zoology, was part of a research team that was awarded a five-year, $7M grant from NSF Programs STEM - Computing Partnerships, DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12. The project was titled Sustaining Responsive and Rigorous Teaching Based on Carbon: Transformations in Matter and Energy. The goal was to discover the best ways to build effective and sustainable teacher professional development and support networks that facilitated teaching a key topic in the sciences: the role of carbon in the flow of materials and energy through living systems, human engineered systems, and earth systems at multiple scales. The projects was led by Andy Anderson, Professor of Teacher Education at MSU, and includes collaborators at the National Geographic Society, the Seattle Public Schools, the University of Pittsburgh, Berkeley, University of Colorado, and Colorado State University.2  
2015 Several new undergraduate courses were developed: Neural Basis of Animal Behavior by Heather Eisthen and Global Change Biology by Richard Hill and Sarah Evans. These courses will be taught for the first time in Spring 2016.
2015 The department changed its name from 'Zoology' to 'Integrative Biology.'


1. Suelter, Clarence H. A History of the College of Natural Science, Michigan State University,1855-2005. CD-ROM. Distributed by College of Natural Science Alumni Association. 2008. 
2. Department of Zoology. News Archives. 2007-2015. Web.