students standing in a river, using nets

The Department of Biology houses many facilities and scientific collections both on campus and in the area to ensure that you have access to all the resources you will need as you grow as a student and as a scholar.

Aquatic Biology & Fisheries Center
BSU students use a boat for research

The Aquatic Biology and Fisheries Center (ABC) is a focal point for aquatic research and service activities at Ball State University.

Officially established in December 1998, the center currently includes four full-time faculty and one staff research biologist who cooperate in promoting applied research in the aquatic sciences discipline. The center, the first of its kind in the state, grew from a respected Aquatic Biology and Fisheries Program (ABF) in the Department of Biology.

The ABF program has been extremely successful in obtaining extramural research funding, making strong contributions to science through publications, presentations, and student theses, and preparing capable students for the workplace. Graduates of the program are employed as highly successful professionals across the country in a variety of positions involving conservation and use of aquatic natural resources.

Research

Current major research focus in the center includes an ongoing study of yellow perch in the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan and a fisheries community study in the middle reach of the Wabash River.

Since the 1970s, Ball State has provided much of the technical data used by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in its management of yellow perch and other near-shore species in Indiana waters of Lake Michigan.

Over that period, an extensive database has been generated, helping to contribute to improved understanding of dynamics of the yellow perch population including growth, recruitment, and mortality as well as the interactions with the rest of the fish community.

As part of the Lake Michigan project, several peer reviewed journal articles have been published, including “Gape Limitation and Piscine Prey Size-Selection by Yellow Perch in the Extreme Southern Area of Lake Michigan, with Emphasis on Two Exotic Prey Items”, “Changes in Mottled Sculpin and Johnny Darter Trawl Catches after the Appearance of Round Gobies in the Indiana Waters of Lake Michigan”, and “Yellow Perch Length-Fecundity and Length-Egg Size Relationships in Indiana Waters of Lake Michigan."

Ball State has been studying the fish communities of the Wabash River annually since 2000.

This is continuation of a project that James Gammon at DePauw University began in 1974, providing a long term data set that is extremely useful to studying changes in fish communities. The field work includes collecting fishes at 28 sites using a boat electrofisher.

Two private corporations are the financial sponsors of the project: Eli Lilly and Company and Duke Energy.

The results show that the Wabash River still contains a high diversity of fish species. Pollution problems that were present in previous decades and resulted in fish kills are reduced.

Impact

The existence of the ABC provides a heightened awareness of Ball State’s reputation for excellence in this field. As an example, the ABC penned a partnership agreement with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that streamlines research funding opportunities, opens lines of communications, and facilitates cooperative efforts that benefit both the DNR and Ball State University.

The center serves as an important source of scientific expertise that will be increasingly important in meeting the challenges for use and perpetuation of aquatic resources in Indiana. As we look to the future, the ABF program and the center will serve to attract, retain, and produce high-ability undergraduate and graduate students, promote research activities at the university through extramural funding, and serve as a model in the aquatic sciences discipline in our state and the region.

Our Academic Programs

Are you interested in studying aquatic biology and fisheries? Take a look at our concentration in aquatic biology and fisheries, our master’s program in biology or our PhD in environmental sciences.

 

One of the collection's many orchids

Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank

Ball State founded the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank in 1971 after a donation from W.O. and Goldie Wheeler of Indianapolis. In 1982, another large donation of nearly 600 orchids was given by Al Thanhauser of Connecticut.

As a designated plant rescue center, we also receive occasional shipments of orchids that have been imported illegally and later confiscated. 

In 2008, an additional donation of over 1,000 orchids was made by Charles Bracker, retired Purdue University professor of botany and plant pathology. The donation significantly increased the diversity of the collection.

Dr. Bracker also donated 30,000 digital images of his orchids to Ball State in 2009; many of these actual orchids can be viewed in the Wheeler-Thanhauser Collection. These images are currently housed within the University Libraries Special Collections under the directorship of John Straw. 

On February 14, 2016, The Betty Kendall Ladyslipper Species Orchid Collection was established to celebrate local centenarian, Betty Kendall, who is a high-heeled lady, lover of learning, with a legacy of growing friendships. It seemed fitting that her friends established a "Living Tribute" The Betty Kendall Ladyslipper Orchid Collection. This Special Collection is a part of the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank housed in the new (2014) Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse.

 

This collection, located in the Cooper Science Building on the southwest end of campus, serves as a growing repository hundreds of samples of plant matter for research and analysis.

President Mearns touring the Greenhouse

The Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse houses over 2,000 orchids right here on campus, making Ball State the home of the largest university-based orchid collection in the United States. This living museum is used by experts for orchid research as well as by students and members of our community for education, research, art and family-friendly activities year-round.

The Juanita Hults Environmental Learning Center is one of six properties managed by the Field Station and Environmental Education Center. The purpose of the learning center is to provide quality environmental education for school groups in northeast Indiana. On the property are five ecosystems: a wetland, a tallgrass prairie, a hardwood forest, successional areas, and agricultural fields.

View from within Christy Woods

Christy Woods is a 17-acre outdoor teaching laboratory for Ball State students and an educational and recreational resource for the surrounding community.

Located in Christy Woods, the Teaching and Research Greenhouse is located on the southwest end of campus. Foot access is available on University Avenue or Riverside Avenue.
Constructed in 1992, this greenhouse has three main functions:

  • House the teaching collection, which contains plants from around the world for students to examine
  • Provide plant material and growing space for research projects
  • Produce plant lab material for students studying field botany

The Teaching and Research Greenhouse is open to the public Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cooper Farm is comprised of the Cooper Woodland Area and Cooper Natural Area. Spanning a combined total of nearly 90 acres, Cooper Farm provides an excellent outdoor laboratory for students interested in research in botany, wildlife conservation, environmental education, ecology and more.

The Donald E. Miller Wildlife Area sits on 16.5 acres of land on the north bank of the White River on the west side of Muncie. In addition to our other field sites, this area provides excellent opportunities for field biology research for students and environmental education for children.

Potential areas of study include:

  • freshwater stream, river and pond ecology
  • wildlife conservation
  • amphibian and aquatic zoology
  • botany and invasive plant species