Recent News

Recent Biology News

Science Atlantic Fisheries & Aquaculture and Biology Conference 2017
Science Atlantic Fisheries & Aquaculture and Biology annual conference was held on the St.FX campus this past weekend, March 10-12, 2017. Thanks to Russell Wyeth, Jim Williams, Katelyn MacNeil and all the volunteers, the conference went "swimmingly". St.FX student poster and oral presentations included Emil Jurga, Rowan Murphy, Zach Sherker, Cassia Tremblay and Ellen Doohan. A special congratulations is due to Rowan Murphy for winning 3rd place for her oral presentation in the biology stream.

Society Night in the KMC. Magie Francis is pictured on the left and Michaela Forgeron on the right. They constitute half of the Biology Society's 2016-2017 Executive team! 

World Oceans Day 2016 will take place on Saturday, June 11, 11:00am-1:00pm, at St.FX University, Biology Dept. J. Bruce Brown Building, 2320 Notre Dame Ave.

StFX Biology Dept. will be hosting their 3d annual World Oceans Day event this coming June. The event will promote ocean awareness to younger generations and to the general public. The marine touch tanks house a variety of local and tropical organisms, including sea urchins, sea stars, brittle stars, sand dollars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, decorator crabs, sea mice, whelks, and much more. Displays will also include a sea weed station, a deep sea station, a shark station, a dolphin communication station, fossils, live plankton and live blue lobsters!

Here's our poster!

Congratulations to the St.FX Biology Dept. award winners who attended the 2016 Science Atlantic Aquaculture and Fisheries and Biology Conference

This year’s Biology Society-sponsored Polar Bear Dip, a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life”, took place on Saturday February 27th at Jimtown beach, at an air temperature of  -4°C and -8°C wind chill.  After a very brief dip under the supervision of dive master and dive instructor Michael Gerhartz of Atlantic Canada Wreck Diving,  everyone (including assorted canine companions) enjoyed beach front coffee, hot chocolate and barbecued hot dogs. 

The University Microscopy Facility and Biology Department are delighted to acquire several hundred thousands of dollars’ worth of surplus electron microscopy equipment from the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Many thanks to Bill Marshall for masterly organization of the move, and to biologists Kris Hunter, George Robertson for the 12-hour pickup and delivery. In addition, Lori Graham and other faculty, staff and students pitched in to help Paul Chisholm and Jim George in Facilities Management off-load on a rainy Wednesday. This acquisition could not have been accomplished without preliminary disassembly in Saint John by personnel from Health Association Nova Scotia (Gordon Bruce, Kyle MacEachern), and loading of equipment by hospital staff under the supervision by Dr. Tarek Rameh and Troy Norton of the Saint John Regional Hospital, Horizon Health Network.

"Biology students, Professor Dr. Wyeth, and his dog Gigo participated in snowshoeing at Beaver Mountain Park on Feb. 6th in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and the perfect amount of snow to go snowshoeing! "

Back row: Cameron Walsh, Sophie Peltekian, Sarah Croucher, & Lauren Zwicker
Middle row: Katie Dodsworth and Janet Tait.
Front row: Ella Maltby, Hanna Morten & Mickaea Klassen

February 2016 - Deep snow brought this usually elusive bobcat out of the woods and onto the lawn beside the bird feeder of ecologist Barry Taylor.

Amber Lee MacLellan of Antigonish receives her Master of Science from StFX Chancellor Susan Crocker during fall convocation Dec. 5 at the Keating Centre in Antigonish. PHOTO: Corey LeBlanc

Students received personalized instruction in Tuesday morning office tutorial with Ecology lab instructor Kris Hunter

Antigonish International film festival 2015 
The following film is being sponsored in part by The Biolog Department

The Man Who Stopped the Desert 64 min. 2010  
Director: Mark Dodd
As early as the 1970s, desertification began to creep southwards in the land between the Sahara Desert and the forests of tropical Africa. By the 1980s the region suffered from regular droughts and starvation. People fled to the cities and many villages became deserted. Yacouba Sawadogo, a farmer living in northern Burkina Faso, decided he would remain steadfast against the desert. By reviving and adapting an ancient farming technique known as Zai, Yacouba began to grow crops successfully on previously abandoned land. Yacouba's hardest battle was not with the elements, but with the people around him. On every side he faced opposition to his techniques. Many thought his ideas were crazy. Over time, his successes became legendary

Saturday, Oct 24 at 10:55 am Cineplex

Research conducted in StFX lab leads to successful PhD defense for international student

Julius Ellrich has successfully defended his PhD thesis in biology at the University of Bremen, Germany, receiving a ‘magna cum laude” evaluation, one of the highest evaluations a student can receive. His five-year research project was done entirely in StFX biology professor Dr. Ricardo Scrosati’s Marine Ecology Lab.  In his thesis, Mr. Ellrich investigated the ecology of marine predator-prey interactions, using species from Nova Scotia's shores to test novel hypotheses on how nonconsumptive predator effects regulate prey populations.  

This was a research collaboration between Dr. Scrosati’s lab and the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany, through Dr. Markus Molis.

Dr. Scrosati says the accomplishment is especially noteworthy because, although StFX doesn’t have a PhD program in the sciences, the university’s capabilities attract international students to do PhD research in its labs.

“In fact, with Julius we have already co-authored three papers in leading journals in our discipline, one in Ecology and two in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, and we have more papers coming in the next several months,” he says.

“Julius has not only produced a solid thesis but, with his experience and dedication, has been fundamental as well to support the research of younger students in my lab at the master's and undergraduate levels. Also, thanks to him we were able to attract additional external funds, such as from the German Academic Exchange Service of Germany (DAAD), to complement my NSERC Discovery Grant funds.”

Mr. Ellrich now starts a postdoctoral position in Dr. Scrosati’s lab. He will expand his research to evaluate the influence of climatic and oceanographic factors on reproduction and persistence in biological communities along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Ellrich says Dr. Scrosati supervised and guided him through all stages of his PhD studies.

“From the very beginnings, when I was still in Germany, making the first plans for my research project with my co-supervisor Dr. Markus Molis (Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research) at the Marine Biological Station on Helgoland, over hundreds of hours of focused discussions on finding gaps in the ecological literature, exchange of ideas, building of hypotheses, conduction of month long field experiments, statistical analyses, scientific writing and finally the publication of my research in ecological journals. 

“The work relationship has always been excellent and I am a hundred per cent sure that it will stay like that during the postdoc research. We will cover the entire Atlantic shoreline and there will be lots of things to discover.”

Mr. Ellrich says he fully recommends marine biology at StFX as the program offers a wide variety of research topics and all professors are nice and helpful. 

“Field biology is also great, being based at StFX, as there are several shores that can be accessed in no time. Besides the Atlantic, there is the frozen Gulf in winter, the amazing tides on the Bay of Fundy and beautiful Antigonish Harbour.” 

On Thursday, May 21, the Biology Department said farewell to Dr. Jeremy Mitchell. A sabbatical replacement for 1 year at St. FX, Dr. Mitchell taught Behavioural Ecology, an Aquatic Resources introductory course, and a first year class, Diversity of Life. Outside of the classroom, Dr. Mitchell took great advantage of his time in Nova Scotia by snowshoeing throughout the winter and cycling around Cape Breton in the early days of spring. Faculty, staff, and students alike will all greatly miss Dr. Mitchell's friendly, humourous, and easy going personality that made him such a fantastic addition to our department.


West Street Cleanup

On Sunday October 26, 2014, Dr. Barry Taylor and the St. FX Biology Society organized a cleanup of the West Street property, a piece of land owned by the university. The land has the potential to be a great resource as both a recreational area for staff and students, as well as a location for classwork or independent research projects. Faculty, staff, and students were on hand to assist in with the cleanup effort.


St. Francis Xavier University is debuting its first crowdfunding platform, a pilot initiative that will help support research projects through the Biology Department. The projects include:

  • Research into the effectiveness of work done to repair historical damage to Nova Scotia rivers and streams
  • Understanding owls, including the elusive Boreal Owl
  • Research into the sustainability of dulse harvesting 


Crowdfunding has become a popular online fundraising tool that both gets the word out about often meaningful projects, and allows people to donate to a specific, tailored project that speaks to issues or areas important to them. 

To find out more about each project, please see

Memorial Tree Planting

On Saturday October 4, 2014 (Homecoming Weekend) two red oak trees (Quercus rubra) were planted on the lawns of J. Bruce Brown Hall.  One tree is a memorial to Dr. Buck Newsome, a long time Biology faculty member, who passed away in November of 2013.  The other tree is dedicated to Austina Newsome for her long time service to the Biology Department during which she taught around 4,000 students.