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Biology professor receives NSF grant to conduct spider research in Caribbean

April 04, 2011

  • Associate Professor of Biology Greta Binford

Biology-Psychology Hall

Professor Greta Binford has received a $133,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the creation of a biodiversity hotspot in the Caribbean.

Binford, associate professor of biology, will collaborate with colleagues at the University of Puerto Rico, exploring the complex and poorly understood processes that led to rich species diversity in the Caribbean islands.

This award is the latest in a long string of accolades that Binford has received for her work with spiders. In 2006, she received another NSF grant to support undergraduate research of venom evolution in brown recluse spiders. More recently, Binford has appeared on an episode of Nova on PBS and on a children’s show. She is also the focus of a new children’s book, Silk and Venom: Searching for a Dangerous Spider.

Binford’s interest in spiders was sparked during an undergraduate project in which she studied the feeding biology of social spiders in Peru. Since those days, her research on venomous spiders has taken her around the world to locales including Mexico, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Hawaii and has led to discoveries about the evolution of venom toxins in related spider species.

In the following video, Binford demonstrates how she collects venom for her research.

Binford works extensively with undergraduate researchers, enlisting them to help with specimen collection and laboratory experiments both on campus and abroad. In the following video, students discuss their summer research in Binford’s lab.

Binford offers her students a chance to engage in unique, graduate-level research that takes them beyond the laboratory. In 2009, Binford accompanied two undergraduate students to the Dominican Republic, where she guided them in the collection of toxic spiders. Binford, Brendan Larsen BA ’09, and Alec Kerins BA ’09 also engaged with children at a local orphanage to spark their interest in science.

“The quality of students here is so high,” Binford said. “I can give them tasks that they’re not daunted by and can work on independently. They’re enthusiastic, ripe with ideas, and just a lot of fun to work with.”

Binford joined the faculty at Lewis & Clark in 2003. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University of Ohio, Master of Science degree from the University of Utah, and doctorate from the University of Arizona.

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