Dr. Erin Lehmer, assistant professor of Biology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, was featured in a January ScienceNews article on sudden aspen decline and the effect on deer mice carrying the sin nombre virus. Click here to read the article.

Other national publications have taken notice of Dr. Lehmer’s work, which was done with the help of fellow FLC Biology Professor Dr. Julie Korb, including USNews and the New York Times:
http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/01/10/aspens-bust-diseased-mice-boom.html
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/13/spread-of-deadly-virus-tied-to-forest-decline/

The study looks at the relationship between the decline of aspen trees and the rise in population of deer mice. As the number of deer mice rise, so does the prevalence of the deadly sin nombre virus.

Dr. Lehmer and her colleagues presented the research findings that contributed to the article at the January 2011 meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Her excellence in her research and her teaching led to Dr. Lehmer being named the Fort Lewis College New Faculty Award winner in 2010.

As an alumna of Fort Lewis, she is very familiar with the College’s academic and research chops. According to Dr. Lehmer, Fort Lewis offers its students wonderful opportunities to combine learning in smaller classes with learning by doing research, something not always accessible at other schools.

“The obvious difference is that, at a bigger school, the undergraduate classes are huge, maybe a hundred to over four hundred students, so even seniors are going to be in very large classes,” she explains. “Because larger colleges and universities have so many students, it can be difficult for them to offer labs with their science courses, and generally, if labs are offered, they are taught by teaching assistants. At Fort Lewis College, most of our classes are well below thirty students and most of our science classes have labs that are taught by professors.”

Getting the opportunity to learn and do research is one thing, but the quality of those experiences makes a huge difference as well.

“Students at Fort Lewis College get more individual attention and because of this individual attention, they are able to achieve a higher level of learning and a more comprehensive understanding of the material,” she says.

“Built into our curriculum, every biology student is required to complete a year-long senior thesis project, which is an independent, self-directed research project. It’s almost like doing a master’s degree in a year.”

“As part of this research, each student is required to design their own study, collect their own data, and present their findings. In contrast, undergraduates who seek out research opportunities at larger institutions usually have limited opportunities for hands-on data collection because graduate students usually fulfill this role. Fort Lewis College students are given opportunities as undergraduates that they would never be given at larger universities.”

Visit the Biology Department website here:
[http://www2.fortlewis.edu/biology/home.aspx]