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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
April 24, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

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History of Laurier Biology



The Department was founded in 1962, with the appointment of a single professor, Dr. Duncan MacLulich. In the early years, both the Department and the University were small; in 1966/67, of the 2,039 full-time students at WLU, 180 were in Science programs and 20 graduated with a General BSc in Biology. By 1993/94, both the University and the Biology Department had grown considerably. There were 5,113 full-time undergraduates 267 of these were in Biology programs. The Department consisted of seven faculty members, and three support staff. That year, we graduated 52 students with a three-year General degree, and 21 students with a 4-year Honours degree. In 2012/13, there were ~ 12,000 full-time undergraduate students at the Laurier Waterloo campus, with about 750 in Biology programs. At Spring Convocation 2013, 103 Biology majors graduated with an Honours degree. Today we have 16 full-time faculty members (in addition, our President and our Vice-President: Academic are also biologists), three instructional-support staff, four technical support staff, and two administrative support staff. A slide show presents an overview of the research and teaching interests of our faculty members.

The completion of the Science Building in 1994 was an important event in the history of the Department. For the first time, we were able to house our facilities for teaching and research under one roof, in a building that is as attractive as it is functional. In 2000, the Faculty of Arts and Science was split into two separate Faculties, and in February, the appointment of the first Dean of Science, Dr. Art Szabo, was the beginning of significant growth for all the science departments, including Biology. Funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) allowed the construction of the Laurier Science Research Centre (LSRC), opened in Spring 2004. The Biology Department has well-designed research laboratories, instrument rooms, plant growth facilities, a Herbarium, animal specimen storage, and study spaces for graduate students in the LSRC. In 2007, we mounted a graduate program for the first time a research-based Master of Science Program in Integrative Biology. To date we have graduated 40 students from that program and we currently have 40 students.

Faculty members and their students, both undergraduate and graduate, are involved in many exciting areas of research. Many are involved in cross-disciplinary research sponsored by Laurier research centres or institutes, such as the SHARCNET Consortium or the Laurier Institute for Water Science.  While the Laurier Institute of Water Science is a recent initiative, the research projects undertaken by its members builds upon the tradition of integrative work established by our founding faculty members, Dr. MacLulich, Dr. Arnold Wellwood and Dr. Robert McCauley.

We have maintained two valuable collections of biological specimens since the beginning of the Department. Our Animal Archives contains reference collections, primarily of fishes (~40,000 specimens in 4,400 lots), mollusks (~1,500 lots), fossils and insects. The Herbarium was established by Dr. Arnold Wellwood, was maintained for many years by Dr. Laima Kott, and is now under the curatorial care of Dr. Mihai Costea. The plant collection initial focus was on material from southern Ontario, and consists of ~8,000 vascular plants and ~1,500 bryophyte and lichen speciments. Dr. Costea has expanded the collection, especially in the Cuscuta, to include specimens from all over the world.