M. Christopher Barnhart
Distinguished Professor of Biology

Department of Biology
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897
Telephone: 417-836-5166
Office: 219 Temple Hall

Curriculum vita (pdf file).

Publications at Research Gate.                            

Commentary about the Biology program at MSU.

Retrospective 2017 on STEM Spots Radio

Research Interests

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

UNIONOID MUSSELS These 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.

Anodonta californiensis
California floater mussels (Anodonta californiensis) propagated for population restoration in the Presidio National Park in San Francisco, CA

THE MUSSEL LAB AT MISSOURI STATE develops innovative methods for the captive culture of native mussels.  Captive culture of mussels is challenging because larval mussels are parasitic on fish and are vastly smaller than the adults. Our ability to propagate mussels facilitates population restoration as well as research on the environmental requirements of the various life stages.

Our research is directed at understanding the host relationships of mussels as well as the feeding ecology and environmental requirements of the post-parasitic juveniles.  We also provide training for other researchers and agencies working with native mussels.
Here is a restrospective about how and why we got into this. 

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 mussel silo design at right was developed at MSU and is widely used for field studies in rivers to investigate mussel survival and growth in response to pollutants and other environmental factors. It uses the Bernoulli effect to ventilate an inner chamber containing the test mussels.
   Mussel silo
 Mussel silo- passive flow cage design for use in rivers

Epioblasma capsaeformis
Mussels have amazing strategies for attracting host fish- have a look at the Unio Gallery.   
Lampsilis powellii
The Arkansas fatmucket is one of 88 federally threatened and endangered species of native mussels.  This species and others are propagated at MSU for research and population restoration.

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 30,000 visitors annually. http://friendsofthegarden.org/butterfly-house


Biology 121, General Biology I
Fall semester (Honors section)

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 539/639 Biogeography
Fall and Spring semesters

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 3-hour lecture course intended for both graduate and upper-division undergraduate students. 

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 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

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 (Finn, Kissoon-Charles, Mathis, Barnhart 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: 10/01/17.