#FacultyFriday: Meet Aimee Wyrick

Professor Aimee Wyrick is one of PUC’s most popular faculty. She specializes in ecology, herpetology, and paleontology. She advises students studying biology, pre-dentistry and pre-dental hygiene. Professor Wyrick helps students connect what they learn in the classroom to the outdoors; students in her classes regularly participate in service-learning projects and/or field trips to local areas of interest, including working on invasive species removal and restoration projects with the LTNC, Napa Chapter CNPS, Bureau of Reclamation, Tuleyome Napa, and PUC. For the past 10 years, Professor Wyrick has been the Biology Club sponsor, planning fun and educational events and trips to Albion for one of PUC’s most popular clubs.

Name: Aimee Wyrick
Title: Associate Professor of Biology and Chair, Department of Biology
Email: awyrick@puc.edu
Faculty since: 2004

Classes taught: Biological Foundations III, Flowering Plants, Conservation Biology, Philosophy of Origins, Geology, Home Greenhouse Gardening, Organic Vegetable Gardening, Research in Biology/Environmental Studies

Education: B.S. in biology, from Pacific Union College in 1996; MSc. in biology with an emphasis in paleontology, from Loma Linda University in 1998; MSc. in organismal biology and ecology, from the University of Montana in 2004

What made you decide to be a teacher?  

I don’t think it was a decision so much as it is who I am! As a kid, I would make tests and quizzes for myself to take just for fun. I’ve always been curious and love to learn new things. Sharing my knowledge and excitement about the natural world with students brings me great joy.

What are some of your hobbies?  

Cooking, gardening, travel, anything outdoors, and trying new things.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?  

I was first exposed to biology and PUC as a toddler. My dad was a TA for several classes and would bring me to his labs—while he taught the class, I hung out in a crib at the back of the room. Teaching biology at PUC is my destiny!

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?

Most faculty and staff live in Angwin and most students reside in the dormitories—the advantage is we can more easily establish and nurture relationships with each other. I love our location and the community but it’s more than “just” a beautiful place with cool people. The whole (PUC) is definitely greater than the sum of its parts (place + people).  

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

I really enjoy sitting on the patio outside the Grind while enjoying a hot drink with my friends.  For me, an almond milk latte elevates an already beautiful setting and gives me a chance to unwind for a moment.

What’s your favorite movie?  

The Princess Bride (yes, really!).

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?  

Be willing (and able) to delay gratification. You will have to put in a lot of work and effort that won’t necessarily pay off for several years. Getting a good grade in a class is one thing but actually knowing and understanding what you’ve been taught is the long-game. Focus on that.

Professional activities:


Pacific Union Conference Science Teacher’s In-service, Ontario, CA, January 2018

   Title: “Teaching origins: The importance of accuracy, attitude, and honesty

Geoscience Research Institute Second Conference on Teaching Origins Conference, Colorado Springs, Colorado, August, 2009

   Title: “Using surveys to start the conversation on science and origins.”

Annual meeting, Montana Chapter American Fisheries Society, January, 2001

   Title: “Fish and frogs: Can they coexist?”

Conference on Biology and Conservation of the Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris), March, 2000

   Title: “Columbia spotted frogs in Montana: Status, threats, research priorities, and proposed University of Montana research program.”


Pilliod, D.S., B.R. Hossack, P.F.Bahls, E.L. Bull, P.S. Corn, G. Hokit, B.A. Maxell, J.C. Munger, and A. Wyrick.  2010. Non-native salmonids affect amphibian occupancy at multiple spatial scales. Diversity and Distribution 16(6):959-974.


Communication Grant ($6000), GC Faith and Science Council, 2018

   Funding for: development and installation of a creation trail on the PUC campus

Summer Sabbatical ($2349), Pacific Union College, 2015

   Funding for: development of “solving real-world problems” for the ENVR 360L curriculum

Service-Learning Fellowship ($400), Pacific Union College, 2015

   Funding for: development of a service-learning project for BIOL 325

Margaret Huse Faculty Research and Development Grant ($1200), Pacific Union College, 2012

   Funding for: Field research on Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris)

Herber Faculty Grant ($2000), Pacific Union College, 2011

   Funding for: attendance at the Geoscience Research Institute Field Conference for SDA Church Administrators, Banff, Alberta Canada

Mini-Sabbatical ($500), Pacific Union College, 2010

   Funding for: development of Biology and Environmental Studies Capstone course

Margaret Huse Faculty Research and Development Grant ($2000), Pacific Union College, 2009

   Funding for: attendance and presentation at the Geoscience Research Institute Second Conference on Teaching Origins Conference, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Herber Faculty Grant ($2500), Pacific Union College, 2006

   Funding for: attendance at the Geoscience Research Institute Field Conference for SDA Church Administrators, Colorado

USGS – Biological Research Division Amphibian Monitoring and Research Initiative ($15,000), 2000-2002

   Funding for: “Predation and other pressures on the Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris) in a high-elevation system, Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana”

USFS – Region 1 SLIC ($3000), 2000-2002

   Funding for: “Inventory and monitoring of all amphibians and reptiles in Region 1 Forests”

Research Joint Venture Agreement – Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute (USDA Forest Service) ($3000), 1999

   Funding for: Pilot study “Fish effects on the Columbia spotted frog (Rana luteiventris)”

Field Research Grant – Loma Linda University, Department of Natural Sciences ($3000), 1997-1998

   Funding for: “Plant taphonomy of the Mono Lake drainage basin”

#FacultyFriday: Meet John Duncan

A several-time presenter in the U.K., today’s #FacultyFriday feature is a man of few words but much knowledge and experience. Dr. John Duncan, professor in the department of biology here at PUC, has a real passion for plants and marine life. Nature is Dr. Duncan’s primary source of recreation, and for this reason he very much enjoys PUC and its surroundings. Introducing: Dr. John Duncan!

Name: Dr. John Duncan
Title: Professor of Biology
Email: jduncan@puc.edu  
Faculty since: 2000

Classes taught: Human Anatomy, Developmental Biology, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Advanced Anatomy, and Medical Terminology

Education B.S., from Andrews University in 1991; Ph.D., from Loma Linda University in 1998

What made you decide to be a teacher?

Before I finished my dissertation, I got a job teaching in an osteopathic school in the anatomy lab. I found I enjoyed the interaction with the students. Then I gave a few lectures at LLU and I found I wasn’t too terribly intimidated by speaking to a group of students. With this information, I figured I would be able to teach and enjoy interacting with people who wanted to learn about a subject with which I had some experience.  

What are some of your hobbies?

Travel, reef aquariums, gardening, Jujitsu, and orchids.

What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I am surprised that people would find something to be surprised about relating to me.

What’s your favorite thing about PUC?

Its location in a forest.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

Don’t really have one.

What’s your favorite book/movie/song? (pick one)

The one I am watching, reading or hearing at the moment.

What advice would you give to an incoming freshman?

Always take an opportunity to do something you have never done before.

Professional activities (Note: Only the most recent three in each category are listed.)


Nam, B. H., Worrell, L. A., Jung, T. T. K., Kim, P. S., Park, S. K., Duncan, J. C., Park, Y. S.,   John, E. O., & Fletcher, W. H. (2004). Effect of corticosteroid on salicylate induced morphologic changes of isolated cochlear outer hair cells. Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology, 113(9), 734-737.

Duncan, J. C., & Fletcher, W. H. (2002). Alpha 1 connexin (connexin43) gap junctions and activities of cAMP-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase C in developing mouse heart. Developmental Dynamics: An Official Publication of the American Association of Anatomists, 223(1), 96-107.

Dasgupta, C., Escobar-Poni, B., Shah, M., Duncan, J., & Fletcher W. H. (1999). Misregulation of connexin43 gap junction channels and congenital heart defects. Novartis Foundation Symposium, 219, 212-21; discussion 221-5.


Feb. 3, 2000        Duncan, J. C., & Fletcher, W. H. Alpha 1 connexin (connexin43) gap junctions and activities of cAMP-dependent protein kinase and protein kinase C in developing mouse heart. Pacific Union College, Angwin, CA.

March 18, 1998   Fletcher, W. H., Dasgupta, C., Escobar-Poni, B., Shah, M., Duncan, J. Gap junctions and cardiology. University of Wales, College of Medicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry, Cardiff, Wales.

March 6, 1998    Fletcher, W. H., Dasgupta, C., Escobar-Poni, B., Shah, M., Duncan, J. Genetic and developmental defects of the heart. Wellcome Trust, London, England.

Student Research Profile: Charidan Jackson and Zoe Morphis

Zoe and Charidan (pictured) used a piece of flannel to collect ticks from the outdoors to determine their distribution patterns.

Meet Charidan Jackson and Zoe Morphis, who conducted a research project at PUC last year studying ticks in Albion and at the college’s Albion Field Station. Charidan graduated from PUC last year and is now getting her master’s at California State University, Long Beach, while Zoe is studying biology at PUC and intends to go to veterinary school after graduation.

Who are you?
I’m Charidan Jackson, and I’m a first-year master student at California State University, Long Beach. I plan to obtain a degree in biology and work as a forensic scientist.

I’m Zoe Morphis and I’m a biology major. I plan to go to vet school to become a licensed veterinarian.

What did you do?
We worked with Dr. Ness to survey the population density of ticks in Angwin and the Albion Field Station. We were responsible for taking collections, logging GPS locations, and recording other physical and biological information about each site. This was the beginning stages of a research project to study the prevalence of Lyme disease in the local tick populations and involved development of research methods as well as collecting preliminary samples.

When and where did you do this work?
The research was done during spring and fall quarters of 2017. We focused on collecting in areas of Angwin and Albion frequented by humans such as the back 40 and trails with plant growth on either side.

What did you learn?
Charidan: From our data collection, we learned Angwin is prime habitat for ticks. We saw differences in species, developmental stage, and sex. Collecting ticks was not difficult because they come toward humans and other warm-blooded animals. Ticks are especially active in warmer and slightly moist environments. Although we did not initially aim to collect data specifically on the plant matter ticks were found on, we noticed that more ticks were found on invasive species such as French broom and Himalayan blackberry

Zoe: The most valuable thing I learned during this research project was simply the amount of effort that goes into even a simple research project. Even simply getting approval for obtaining the necessary supplies was a challenge, not to mention the hard work of trying to collect ticks. It really helped me to appreciate complicated research studies scientists have done to help us learn about the world.

How did your experience at PUC help prepare you for this experience?
Charidan: Classes such as Conservation Biology and Ecology emphasized the importance of detailed and specific data collection. We applied the quadrat method we learned from those classes to organize data collection before we started. PUC also offered a one-day seminar on Geographic Information Systems. GIS gave us the tools to map Angwin’s trails and plot our points along the trail. Flowering Plants opened my eyes to the different types of plants in on habitat. Without the expertise of that class, I doubt we would have noticed any correlation between invasive species and ticks.

Zoe: PUC prepared me for this experience by providing me with the basic knowledge necessary to understand the research process. Specifically, taking Intro to Research Methods provided me with a solid background to be able to read and comprehend scientific research articles in order to prepare a feasible plan for our study. I also was grateful for the knowledge I had from Genetics, as it allowed me to understand how sequencing the ticks’ DNA to detect Lyme disease would work.

Student Research Profile: Michelle Tang and Janet Tang

In this picture, Michelle (left) and Janet are running an experiment in which the rattlesnake strikes a solution-filled glove they will later analyze for venom content.

Meet Michelle Tang and Janet Tang, both biology majors at PUC who plan to continue on to medical school after college. Last summer, they conducted research in the college’s very own Clark Hall lab studying rattlesnakes and their venom.

Who are you?
I’m Michelle Tang and I’m a senior here at PUC. I’m also a biology major/pre-medicine student, planning on going to medical school to become a physician.

I’m Janet Tang, a junior biology major hoping to continue on to medical school.

What did you do?
Michelle: I worked with Dr. Herbert to study the habituating acts of rattlesnakes by calculating venom expenditure and observing measures of defensiveness. My partner and I were in charge of filling the rubber hand gloves with saline, warming it up to about 37 degrees C, and scenting it to match the effects of a real hand. I was also responsible for pouring the contents from the glove into a bucket, diluting it, and putting it into individual vials. My partner and I also used the vials of diluted venom to find the concentration of protein in the venom via protein assay.

Janet: I was responsible for recording the interaction between the snakes and the saline-filled rubber gloves. I followed each snake and made sure to film the potential bite at a specific angle that allowed us to determine the time of strike and more.

When and where did you do this work?
The research lasted 10 weeks during the summer of 2017 in Clark Hall.

What did you learn?
Michelle: I learned rattlesnakes are not vicious reptiles that are out there to get you. Each and every rattlesnake had a different character and temperament and reacted very differently to the actions imposed on them. Some rattlesnakes didn’t even strike at the glove when they were seriously provoked. I also learned the importance of teamwork and communication in terms of getting things done correctly and on time.

Janet: Contrary to popular belief, I learned rattlesnakes are kind and gentle creatures. Though they are though to be aggressive, rattlesnakes do not want to bite humans and only do so when they are harassed or scared.

How did your experience at PUC help prepare you for this experience?
Michelle: As a biology major student, classes such as Animal Behavior and Intro to Research really prepared for the knowledge that this research entailed. Having taken Animal Behavior, I learned about habituation and the various types of non-associative and associative learning. Taking Intro to Research allowed me to better understand the steps and processes of how researching works. Although I haven’t taken Immunology yet, I will definitely be prepared to do a protein assay when the time comes.

Janet: Because I’m a science major, the science classes I have taken helped prepare me by providing valuable lab experience and knowledge I have utilized during my research. In addition, I have enjoyed getting to learn about various science topics ranging from single-celled organisms to large multicellular creatures.

Student Research Profile: Mychal Hellie

Mychal spent hours in a canoe studying grebes during his internship with the Audubon Society.

Meet Mychal Hellie, a junior environmental studies major at PUC who plans to continue on after college to get a master’s in ecology. Last summer, Mychal helped Dr. Floyd Hayes study grebes on nearby Clear Lake as part of his internship with the Audubon Society.

Who are you?
I’m Mychal Hellie and I’m an environmental studies major in my junior year. I plan to get my master’s in ecology.

What did you do?
I helped Dr. Hayes study the grebes on Clear Lake. We studied the distribution of nest locations and the grebes behavior on the nests. My job was to help set up the cameras and survey the nesting locations. I also recorded data from the pictures about how much time each parent spends incubating the eggs.

When and where did you do this work?
My internship was with the Audubon Society, doing research on Clear Lake during the summer of 2017.

What did you learn?
There is a lot of work that goes into field research, especially when it involves canoeing at five in the morning, and if you want good data, you need dedication. Studying the grebes out in wild taught me how interesting the natural world around us can be. Going minute by minute through photos of their lives showed me the vast complexity of wildlife and why they are worth studying and preserving.

How did your experience at PUC help prepare you for this experience?
Classes at PUC like Pollution & Environmental Quality helped me understand conditions like eutrophication that affect the ecosystems on Clear Lake.  Ecology and Conservation Biology taught me many field techniques I used in to study and sample the grebe populations.

Student Research Profile: Sierra Trogdon and Antonio Robles

Sierra (2nd from left) and Antonio (2nd from right) and fellow classmates also spent time snorkeling in Honduras, when they weren’t conducting research.

Meet Sierra Trogdon and Antonio Robles. Sierra recently graduated from PUC with a degree in biology, while Antonio is still working towards completing his degree. They both conducted research with Dr. Floyd Hayes studying sea urchins in Roatán, Honduras, last summer.

Who are you?
I’m Sierra Trogdon and I graduated PUC with bachelor’s in biology. I plan to start veterinary school in the next few years.

I’m Antonio Robles and I’m a sophomore biology major. I plan to go on to medical school and specialize in family practice.

What did you do?
We participated in research with Dr. Hayes studying the symbiotic associations between rock-boring urchins and fish. Most of the work involved natural observations, counting holes with the urchins, and writing down every species seen in the hole. In intervals of 10 minutes, we spotted a fish and counted how many holes with rock-boring urchins they associated with. The study involved studying thousands of sea urchin burrows and tallying the different species seen hiding in their burrows.

When and where did you do this work?
The research took place over a period of eight days during the summer of 2017 in Roatán, Honduras.

What did you learn?
Sierra: During the research project I learned how to identify the various types of sea urchins, fish, and other species involved in the study. I also learned and realized just how tedious and time consuming it is to obtain accurate and reliable data. It was not as easy as simply counting and tallying the species. There were thousands of sea urchin burrows and each hole had to meet the right criteria in order to count. There were a couple times where I had to start over and redo counts to increase the accuracy and reliability.

Antonio: I hadn’t realized the fascinating opportunity research can give you to construct interpersonal skills by getting together with students and professors that are interested in finding one new aspect of the behavior of a certain species. Often we would get together to review our data and plan on how we will collect more as a group. I learned how working in groups is important in research as well and the importance of communication in the field. In addition, I learned how to record data in the coral reefs and new ways to observe nature with a curious mind.

How did your experience at PUC help prepare you for this experience?
Sierra: PUC helped prepare me by teaching me the general biology involving the marine life I encountered. The Intro to Research Methods class also played a major role in preparing me for the research I did. I planned and proposed a research paper that included background information and methods for counting the sea urchin burrows. This significantly increased my understanding of the research that was being done.

Antonio: Taking Biological Foundations helped me understand the phyla and characteristics of the species we were observing which led to my understanding of the project better. The Tropical Biology class also made me understand the diversity in the coral reefs, potential harms, taxonomy, and potential dangers. For instance, knowing fire coral could sting me while researching in the shallow rocky areas would definitely have made me uncomfortable; however, having known this before from class led me to become aware of my surroundings and feel comfortable during the research process.

Student Research Profile: Erika Thalman

Erika (shown here with a fish she caught) spent several months working in a CDFW fish hatchery.

Meet Erika Thalman, a senior biology major at PUC. She’s planning on continuing on to graduate school after graduation. Last summer, Erika volunteered at the Moccasin Creek Hatchery helping with a wide variety of projects.

Who are you?
I’m Erika Thalman and I’m a senior biology major. I’m planning on going to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in either natural resources, marine biology, or biology.

What did you do?
I helped with cleaning raceway ponds and feeding the fish. I also had the opportunity to work with a variety of people and do other things like water quality testing, weight counts, assisting in fish planting and public education, as well as participate in hand-spawning California golden trout.

When and where did you do this work?
In the summer of 2017, I volunteered twice a week from mid-July to late-September at the Moccasin Creek Hatchery.

What did you learn?
I learned how to get more involved in areas I’m interested in. Volunteering at this hatchery taught me many useful skills I can apply not only to future careers, but to my personal life as well. I discovered no matter what field you choose to work in, you always interact with people to some degree. This experience demonstrated how a great team of people work together despite their different personalities and temperaments. The hatchery personnel were so willing to teach me all they could about their work and their mission, and were even kind enough to advise me on how to get my foot in the door with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Through this I saw how important it is to make connections wherever you go. You never know when they may come in handy.

How did your experience at PUC help prepare you for this experience?
The science courses I have taken at PUC gave me a good foundation for understanding how many of the processes at the hatchery worked. Classes like Ecology, Field Biology, and Biological Foundations made it easier to understand the different fish behaviors and how to handle the fish. Chemistry was also useful for water testing as well as in choosing medications or anesthetics. Lastly, Genetics contributed to my comprehension of different fish stocks and how the CDFW is able to prevent farmed fish from breeding with wild populations.