M. Christopher Barnhart
Professor of Biology

Department of Biology
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897

Telephone: 417-836-5166
Office: 219 Temple Hall

Link to Curriculum vita (pdf file).

Link to publications at Research Gate.

Some commentary about the program.

Ph.D. Biology, 1984, University of California, Los Angeles.
M.A. Biology, 1978, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
B.Sc. Zoology, 1976, Iowa State University, Ames. 

Research Interests

I'm interested in the ecology and physiology of animals, particularly freshwater invertebrates.  Some areas of current  research are outlined below.

UNIONOID MUSSELSThese mollusks are probably the most endangered group of organisms in North America.  Many freshwater animals are in trouble, but mussels are attracting particular attention from biologists and conservation agencies because they are sensitive to so many of problems affecting streams, including pollution, erosion, siltation, impoundment, and the introduction of alien species such as zebra mussels.

Mussels are inconspicuous but surprisingly important- they can literally outweigh all other animals in rivers. Mussels filter water and capture bacteria, algae, and other tiny particles, making this food energy available to other animals. The US Endangered Species Act, US Clean Water Act and related state laws require that government agencies take action to prevent extinctions.  Research and conservation actions to restore and protect populations of endangered species are funded by a variety of federal and state agencies.     

Mussels are important indicators of water quality.  The allowable levels of toxic pollutants are based upon the most sensitive organisms.  Recent research shows that mussels are extremely sensitive to some pollutants, such as ammonia, copper, and some pesticides.  This information will eventually lead to more stringent regulations and cleaner, safer water.

The larvae of mussels are briefly parasitic on fish, and research is directed at understanding the fish host relationships of endangered species as well as the environmental requirements of the juveniles. Mussels have amazing strategies for attracting host fish- have a look at the Unio Gallery.  Here is a video that describes some of our work.                                   

AMPHIPODS: These small crustaceans are significant components of freshwater ecosystems. We have studied the tolerance of one species, Gammarus pseudolimnaeus, for conditions below hydropower dams, particularly hypoxia and fluctuating water levels.  Like freshwater mussels, amphipods also have fascinating reproductive habits, including brooding of the eggs and young in a marsupium. Females carrying young are particularly sensitive to environmental stresses.  We are presently investigating the mechanisms that provide oxygen and food to the developing brood.

Maera masteri

AMPHIBIAN EGGS:  Frogs and salamanders reproduce in small ponds where oxygen levels fluctuate dramatically. In some species development is slowed and hatching is delayed by low oxygen, while in others hatching is accelerated, and the embryos emerge from the eggs at a very early stage of development.

An especially remarkable adaptation is the symbiosis between the eggs of spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) and a green alga which lives within the egg and elevates the oxygen concentration through photosynthesis.

Egg mass of Ambystoma maculatum


Biology 121, General Biology I
Fall and Spring semesters

Biology 121 is the first half of a two-semester biology sequence. It is the first course in the required "core curriculum" for biology majors and is intended for students who plan to take further coursework in the life sciences, including biology majors and minors, wildlife majors, premedical students and others. Biology 121 introduces molecular and cellular biology, genetics, and evolution.  The second course in the sequence (Biology 122) covers biological diversity, physiology and ecology. Students desiring a one-semester introductory Biology course for general education purposes should consider Biology 102, Survey of Biology.

Biology 370: Invertebrate Zoology
Alternate Spring semesters

The main theme of Bio 370 is animal biodiversity. We consider the anatomy, physiology, behavior, and life history of most of the animal and protist phyla and review the principles of evolutionary biology, phylogeny, and the history of life on earth. Comparative biology is another important theme- we compare the various groups for rules of similarity and general principles in biology. Who should take this course? People who are truly interested in organisms and who have a strong background in Biology, including genetics, cell biology, and ecology. If you plan to go into teaching, Biology 370 is a useful course.   If you are thinking about graduate school and want more breadth to help you find your interests- this is a good course.  Bio 370 is also relevant to those interested in medicine, because invertebrate parasites of man and domestic animals have tremendous medical, economic & social significance.

Biology 539/639 Biogeography
Fall or Spring semester

Biogeography is the science of the spatial patterns of biodiversity.  Simply stated, it attempts to describe and explain which organisms live where, and why.  Biogeography is both one of the oldest areas of science and one of the youngest.  This is a 2-hour lecture course intended for both graduate and upper-division undergraduate students. 

Biology 574/674 Aquatic Entomology
Alternate Spring Semesters

Aquatic insects are fascinating, diverse and ecologically indispensible members of aquatic ecosystems. Knowledge of freshwater insects is one of the most valuable skills for aquatic ecologists, because the aquatic insect community is a widely used measure of the biological integrity or condition of freshwater habitats. What we’ll do: ·Lecture (basic biology of aquatic insects, use in biotic inventories) ·Class presentations on the Orders and Families ·Field collecting trips ·Preparation of student collections ·Learn to identify aquatic insects

Roston Butterfly House

The Roston Native Butterfly House (RBH) is located in the Springfield Botanical Center in Close Memorial Park.  RBH is an educational resource, free of charge to visitors, and operated by volunteers.  As curator,
I provide training for docents, raise butterflies and moths for display, and develop interpretive materials and infrastructure.  I work with a group of about 40 docents. We display the entire life cycle of native species, complete with host plants, predators and parasites, and use these to teach ecological lessons and the importance of native wildlife.  The Butterfly House is a great resource for teachers, and we distribute hundreds of caterpillars to classrooms each year.  RBH receives over 24,000 visitors annually.

About the Biology Department at Missouri State

The Biology Department at Missouri State consists of 20 faculty, about 50 graduate students, and 600 undergraduate majors.  Several of the faculty, including myself, are particularly interested in aquatic biology.  Our physical location in the Ozarks provides access to a variety of habitats, including many excellent streams, rivers, and lakes.  Our field station at Bull Shoals Lake on the White River provides unique opportunities for teaching and research.  Inquiries from prospective students (BS, Masters) are welcome!

Last update: 11/13/14.