facebook twitter flickr you tube pinterest

Department of Biology and Earth Science

Building a Foundation in Biology and Earth Science

The Department of Biology and Earth Science at Otterbein University will provide you with a strong foundation for a variety of endeavors after graduation. Our small class sizes ensure that you will build strong relationships with our faculty. Otterbein’s liberal arts tradition opens you to the world beyond the sciences. Field courses and service learning expand your experiences outside of the classroom. You may travel to a local metro park or such exotic locales as Africa, Costa Rica or Belize. Internships and research will give you real world experiences that put you head and shoulders above the competition. No matter what you choose to do after college, we'll make sure you are ready.

Majors & Minors

The Department of Biology and Earth Science also prepares you for careers in biology, plant science, molecular biology, environmental science, earth science, and various medical fields.

We offer majors in Biology and Environmental Science and minors in Biology, Earth Science and Sustainability Studies. Our department also supports course offerings in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major. You may also want to explore Otterbein's new Sustainability Studies major.

Otterbein has partnered with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Ohio Wildlife Center to offer a major in Zoo and Conservation Science. With both B.A. and B.S. degree options, this unique major will teach students the skills that zoos and other wildlife conservation organizations are looking for in an ideal employee.

Read more about our Majors and Minors.


Otterbein’s new state-of-the-art Science Center opened in October 2009. The $20 million project modernized and expanded the existing facilities and purchased new equipment. With over 96,000 square feet of brand new, discipline-specific laboratories, research space and classrooms, including a state-of-the-art greenhouse, the Science Center houses Chemistry and Biochemistry, Equine Science, Biology and Earth Science, Nursing, and Physics and Astronomy.


Understanding the Unique Relationship Between Crustaceans and Sea Anemones
This summer, Eric Witt '15 completed his senior research thesis in Bermuda, where he studies four species of local crustaceans alongside alumnus Ben Titus '08, a Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University.

Awards & Scholarships

The Department of Biology and Earth Science annually awards students who demonstrate exceptional talent in a variety of specializations. The awards include:

  • The Charles W. Botts '34 Memorial Endowed Award is awarded to any full time student(s) regularly enrolled in the University who is a Life/Biology or Earth Science major and demonstrates exceptional commitment to their endeavor in this field.
  • The Dr. Marion F. Dick '43 Memorial Award is awarded to a junior or senior student for outstanding achievement in pre-professional health studies.
  • The Priest-Miller Endowed Award is awarded to one full-time student regularly enrolled in the University who demonstrates outstanding achievement in either Life Science or Chemistry.
  • The Life Science Departmental Endowed Award is awarded to a Biology/Life Science major who has completed a research project in any phase of Botany or Microbiology (of environmental impact) and has conducted research and preparation for at least 5 terms of duration. There is no requirement for grade point average. The requirements could be fulfilled, in part, by taking courses at a field station or working for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Columbus Metro Parks or any environmental government agency.
  • The E. Jeanne Willis Life Science Endowed Award is awarded to a Biology/Life Science sophomore or junior who will be returning to Otterbein University the following year. Emphasis for selection given to students who have contributed significantly to the Department in such ways as serving as a lab assistant, departmental tutor or departmental representative and have taken biology courses beyond the minimum requirement.
  • The Dr. George J. Phinney Endowed Award is awarded to an Otterbein junior or senior who has exhibited outstanding academic performance and research (either in class or independent) in Otterbein's Department of Biology and Earth Science and in the area of environmental studies.
  • The Charles R. McFarland Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding freshman or transfer student who completes introductory biology courses.

Student Research

The Department of Biology and Earth Science encourages research among its majors. The department faculty holds active research programs in freshwater ecology, molecular/cellular biology, plant science, and paleontology. Each year students complete projects under the direction of the faculty and these projects count as independent studies, Distinction Projects, or Honor's Thesis. Student research is usually presented at the Annual Meeting of The Ohio Science Academy.

Columbus Dispatch:  Kadeen Jennings and Whitney Rodriguez presented the results of their senior research project at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology from Jan. 3- 7 in Austin, TX.  Their project was entitled, "Competition-induced gut length plasticity, food intake and growth in red-eyed tree frogs, Agalychnis callidryas."  They conducted this research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama.

Daily Standard, Celina, Ohio 45822:  Rachel Young presented the results of her senior research project at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology from Jan. 3- 7 in Austin, TX.  Her project was entitled, "Compensatory growth in larval American Toads."

Learn about additional research opportunities on the Research at Otterbein site.

Senior Research Symposium Abstracts:

Faculty Research

Kevin Svitana, assistant professor of Biology and Earth Science, discusses his drinking water research project in the video below.



We encourage all Biology and Earth Science majors to complete an internship prior to graduation. The following is a list of a few of the many places at which recent Otterbein students have done internships.
  • The Ohio Wildlife Center
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Ohio Environmental Council
  • Community Family Health Care
  • EPSYS Corporation
  • Franklin County Metro Parks
  • U.S. Forestry Service
  • Cryan Veterinary Hospital
  • Lambda Bioremediation Systems, Inc.
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Dr. Michael J. Weber, Optometrist
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • Dr. Haroon Aziz, Plastic Surgeon
  • Caremark Physical Therapy
  • Battelle
  • Grant Hospital - Sports Med
  • Annehurst Veterinary Hospital
  • Scripps Research Institute
  • Dr. Jeffrey P. Yoest, Dentist
  • Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Columbus Zoo
  • Doctors Hospital North
  • Dr. John Worley, Dentist
  • The James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute
  • Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

/ Department of Biology and Earth Science

Donna Rhodeback
Science Building 236
p / 614.823.1517
e / drhodeback@otterbein.edu

/Life Line Newsletter

Our Life Line Newsletter features highlights from our department programs. 

/ Also see...