2013-14 Unit Plan
Biological Sciences

Mission Statement

The Department of Biological Sciences offers general education, transfer and allied health courses that develop lifelong learning skills for comprehending the natural world and thinking critically regarding scientific information.

Program Description

The Biology Department provides varied offerings to meet the needs of a diverse student population. (a) General Education courses satisfy Butte College Associate degree requirements and/or GE criteria at transfer universities. Options include Introduction to Biology (BIOL 1), Human Biology (BIOL 2), Ecology and Field Biology (BIOL 5), Sustaining Life on Earth (BIOL 7), Current Issues in Biology (BIOL 9), and Honors Current Issues in Biology (Biol 9H). (b) Biology Transfer Major courses in Zoology (BIOL 11), Botany (BIOL 12) and Cell/Molecular Biology (BIOL 13) parallel lower division core courses required for biology students at four-year institutions. They provide a foundation prior to specialization in upper division university work leading to a Bachelor's degree in biology or a related field. They also serve students who plan for advanced degrees in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or research biology. (c) Allied Health courses in Human Anatomy (BIOL 20), Human Physiology (BIOL 21) and Microbiology (BIOL 15) prepare students for vocational programs and careers in nursing, respiratory therapy, paramedic, physical therapy, dental technician, chiropractic and others. The emphasis is on applied biological knowledge as it relates to fields of human health.

During the 2011-12 academic year, the Biology Department had maximum enrollments in 82 course sections; 32 in General Education, 6 for Biology Majors and 44 in Allied Health. Demand for classes is very high with all class seats and waitlists filled to capacity before the first day of instruction. The department’s fill rates are among the highest for any discipline on campus (113% for 2011-12) as we add a few students over pedagogical caps in many sections. Even with relatively low sections caps dictated by lab room constraints (24-26), department efficiency is very good with an FTES/FTEF ratio at 37.0 for 2010-11. Also, despite the academic rigor required in Biology Major and Allied Health coursework, student retention and success rates hover around 90% and 70% respectively.

The Biology Department occupies a good portion of the Life Science building, utilizing a large lecture hall, one small classroom and four laboratory rooms (3 exclusively, 1 shared with Agriculture). We also operate a bustling central stockroom and lab preparation area, as well as a very small study-computer-tutor room equipped with models and other resource materials.

The Department staff consists of 9 full-time instructors, 10 associate faculty, two senior lab technicians and several student lab assistants. Most full-time faculty have extended workloads as they design, manage and coordinate lab activities and materials in one or more courses. Often, this involves large courses with multiple lab sections and associate faculty instructors.

Future Development Strategy

Strategy 1

 Biology Department faculty are committed to Butte College beyond the classroom and we will continue to participate in the collaborative culture of the institution. Selected examples include: Suzanne Wakim and Gary Lechner serve as facilitators with other campus faculty in Butte's Instructional Skills Workshop program. Gary Lechner organizes and conducts human cadaver instructional tours for police and fish & game academy cadets. Biology instructors remain actively involved in the Blackboard Exchange to help facilitate effective incorporation of the Blackboard LMS in Butte College instruction.  Suzanne Wakim serves on the Distance Learning Committee. As biologists we are closely involved in the documentation, monitoring and stewardship of natural resources on the campus wildlife refuge and four of our full-time faculty participate in the Land Use Committee. Mike Williams is a particularly valuable asset because of his years of experience with environmental consulting and government regulations. Individuals from our discipline will also continue to support other departments by serving on hiring and program review committees when asked and we will maintain our participation in the campus-wide community through various college committees and task forces. A recent count revealed that Biology faculty have served on over 15 different college committees in the last few years.

  • Inspiring passion through collaboration

  • Supporting Rationale

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Strategy 2

    The Biology Department will continue to model sustainability through participation in campus events and incorporation of sustainability topics into existing course curriculum. "Sustaining Life on Earth" (BIOL 7) provides students with an in-depth view of sustainability from the perspective of biologists. The course fills to capacity each semester. We will promote sustainable practices on all areas of the Butte College Wildlife Refuge. The Friends of the Refuge club lead by Deb Conway from the Agriculture Department, plus Kelly Wood and Gary Lechner from our discipline, will continue their work in removing debris that collects in campus creeks, removing invasive nonnative plants, propagating and restoring native vegetation in different areas and leading interpretive hikes on the Refuge.

  • Modelling sustainability

  • Supporting Rationale

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Strategy 3

    The Biology Department will maintain our focus on effective student learning. Biology faculty actively help students learn study techniques and critical thinking skills, especially abilities particular to science classes, in addition to setting high expectations for learning biology content. Biology instructors will continue to recommend or require students to attend study skills workshops at the Center for Academic Success (CAS). Our full-time faculty are offering a series of  “How to Study Science” workshops specifically targeted for our students. A good number of our instructors have completed Butte's Instructional Skills Workshop training because we actively look for ways to improve student learning. Biology Department faculty have also taken the lead on campus in the use of “Supplemental Instruction,” with five of our large lecture sections each semester enhanced with these trained student aids that promote student participation and understanding. We support additional campus funding for CAS to expand the SI program.

  • Valuing a culture of learning

  • Supporting Rationale

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Strategy 4

    The Biology Department will continue our efforts to assure student success. A simple indicator of our commitment is the many review sessions and open lab opportunities offered by our faculty outside normal meeting times, including on weekends. We do our best to offer students ample hands-on review and learning opportunities within our Biology Study Room (LS126). Heavily utilized tutors, which are funded by CAS, are scheduled here for a limited number of hours each week. The Biology Department is concerned that our tutor hours have been reduced. Although we strongly support supplemental instruction, we do not want to see its growth come at the expense of traditional tutoring that leads students to success in an alternate manner and often reaches different individuals than those benefitting from the SI format. The most common activity within LS126 is student review of human anatomy models, but materials are sometimes in short supply while they are utilized in our many scheduled lab sections. We request $4,000 for additional anatomy models to provide better access and learning opportunities for students.

  • Focusing on student success

  • Supporting Rationale

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Strategy 5

    Our department will remain responsive to evolving student needs. For example, we revised the structure and curriculum of our BIOL 5 course to provide a more current general education offering for students. The class has been renamed, “Ecology and Field Biology,” to reflect these changes. After extensive work, Suzanne Wakim continues to refine her popular online course, Current Issues in Biology (BIOL 9). Suzanne Wakim has also created a face-to-face Honors version of this course (BIOL 9H) as part of a coordinated effort with the Honors program.

  • Enhancing an innovative, responsive, and accountable culture

  • Supporting Rationale

    Supporting Rationale Alignment
  • Resolving health, life, and safety issues
  • Maintaining core programs and services
  • Increasing student success
  • Required Resources

    On-Going Requirements: Personnel

    1. Two New full-time faculty positions in 1)  Cell and Molecular Biology, and 2) Human Biology and Anatomy, are necessary to maintain the program.

    2. Stable funding for students lab assistants through increase in student assistant budget ($4,250

        permanent augmentation to department budget) or continued allotment of work study funds.

    3. Restoration of Administrative Secretary III to 12-month contract essential for effective

        continuous office support of the Biological Sciences department.

    One-Time Requirements

    Instructional equipment and supplies to maintain and improve the quality of current instruction:

    1.  Complete laboratry room set (26) of binocular microscopes for LS 107. ($55,000)

    2.  Upgrade old digital camera and computer in one labroom (LS105). ($10,000)

    3. Document camera/visualizer (“ELMO”) for three labrooms (LS 105, 106, 107). ($8,500)

    4. Study models for Human Anatomy (BIOL 20) to increase student access. ($4,000)

    Physical Facilities

    1. Remodel the women's restroom in the LS building to provide counter surface, install low-flow toilets and put in automated faucets and lights. For health and safety, resource conservation and resolve embarrassing conditions. ($6,000)

    2. Physical renovation of large lecture hall (LS120). Replace seats and tables. Replace carpet and wall coverings. Remove old audiovisual equipment and room. Worn, dingy and unsafe conditions. ($30,000)

    3. Update multimedia in (LS 120). The old multimedia setup creates technical problems and audio interference during lecture. ($4,000)

    4. Investigate better control of ventilation and cooling/heating. Learning environment, health and safety. (cost unknown)

    5. Install sound dampeners around activity work areas in Welding classes and/or make building modifications to reduce loud noise pollution in this area. This will greatly improve on instructional use of major riparian stretches of the Butte College Refuge. (cost unknown)


    Current Revenue Stream

    1. General Apportionment: $40,025 (includes supplies, travel, repairs)

    2. Butte College Foundation - Biology Resource Fund: ~ $11,000 current balance

         (from sale of instructor-authored lab manuals and lecture notes, ~ $3,000 per semester)


    Augmentation Requests

    Original Priority Funded Program, Unit, Area Resource Type Description Account Number Object Code One-Time Augment Ongoing Augment Supporting Rationale
    1 Yes Personnel Full-time Faculty 11.000.620.1.040100 51110 $0.00 $90,000.00 Required to replace retiring full-time faculty and maintain program.
    2 Yes Personnel Full-time Faculty 11.000.620.1.040100 51110 $0.00 $0.00 Required to replace retiring full-time faculty and maintain program.
    3 Yes Personnel Student assistant funds increase (or assure current level of work study funds) 11.000.620.1.040100 (12.170.6 52468 (52 $0.00 $4,250.00 Needed to offset unstable reliance on work study funding.
    4 Yes Personnel Restoration of Administrative Secretary III 12-month contract 52120 $0.00 $0.00 See Mathematics Department Augmentation Request
    5 Yes Equipment Replace binocular microscopes in LS107 11.000.620.1.040100 56405 $55,000.00 $0.00 To provide fully working binocular microscopes for class use in majors and allied health laboratory classes.
    6 Yes Equipment Update AV equipment in LS 120 11.000.620.1.040100 $4,000.00 $0.00 The audiovisual equipment in LS 120 has wiring issues which creates a loud buzzing that interferes with lecturing. Additionally, the haphazard wiring creates challenges for instructors wishing to use the equipment.
    7 Yes Facilities Remodel Womens Restroom in LS building to repair toilet leak, provide counter surface, install low flow toilets, and automate plumbing and lights. $6,000.00 $0.00 Health and safety, reduce risk, conservation of resources, and resolve embarrassing conditions.
    8 Yes Facilities Physical renovation of large lecture hall, LS120. New seats, carpet and wall covering. Remove old audiovisual equipment. $30,000.00 $0.00 Correct uncomfortable and sometimes unsafe conditions. Improve environment to foster better student learning.
    9 Yes Facilities Investigate better control of ventilation, cooling and heating within lab rooms. $0.00 $0.00 Preservatives levels at unhealthy levels during dissections and preseved specimen use. Rooms uncomfortably warm when bunsen burners in operation. Uncomfortable conditions for student learning and health and safety issues.
    10 Yes Equipment Computer and digital projector for LS105 11.000.620.1.040100 56410 $10,000.00 $0.00
    11 Yes Facilities Add storages space for chemicals and preserved specimen cabinets $20,000.00 $0.00 These present a health risk to students when stored in the classrooms. The current chemical storage is too small to hold all needed chemicals.
    12 Yes Equipment Replace aging computers in faculty offices 11.000.620.1.040100 56411 $4,000.00 $0.00 Two of our faculty have old computers (over 7 years old) that need to be updated.
    13 Yes Equipment Document camera ("elmo") for three labrooms 11.000.620.1.040100 56410 $8,500.00 $0.00 To improve instructional capabilites in labrooms that do not have digital cameras. Improves student learning.
    14 Yes Equipment Human Anatomy models 11.000.620.1.040100 56410 $4,000.00 $0.00
    Total(s) $141,500.00 $94,250.00