Dr. Jennifer Slate smiles into the camera.
Chair, Professor
College of Arts and Sciences
(773) 442-5734
Courses Taught
Introduction to Biology (BIO 100)
Introduction to Biology for Educators (BIOS 110)
General Biology I (BIO 201)
Writing Intensive Program: General Ecology (WIP BIO 305)
Biology of Algae (BIO 351)
Aquatic Biology (BIO 352)
Biology Senior Seminar (BIO 390)
Biological Literature (BIO 405)
Biological Diversity (BIO 451)
Research Interests
Aquatic Ecology, Paleolimnology, Diatoms & Other Algae, Invertebrates as Biological Indicators, Mathematical Modeling in Biology Education

Ph.D., Environmental Biology, University of Louisville

B.S., Biology, University of Notre Dame

Selected Publications

Slate, J. E., Adler, R. F., Hibdon Jr., J. E., Mayle, S. T., Kim, H., and Srinivas, S.  2019.  A multidisciplinary approach to incorporating computational thinking in STEM courses for preservice teachers.  In (R. M. Reardon & J. Leonard, eds) Integrating Digital Technology in Education, Information Age Publishing Inc.: Charlotte, N.C.


Introductory biology students seldom have the opportunity to build or modify scientific models, despite their importance in bioscience research. Thus, I am developing educational activities for beginning students who are new to modeling. With support from a STEM+C grant from the National Science Foundation, I worked with a group of biology, computer science, math, and education students to create a simulation that applies the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) model, commonly utilized by public health officials to predict the spread of disease, to simulate a mosquito-borne viral outbreak. In addition to using the simulation to test disease-causing scenarios, students can expand upon the model by writing computer code. It is thus an excellent exercise to show beginning biology students how computer modeling and simulation is used to examine biological systems.  

As sessile aquatic invertebrates, native freshwater mussels have great potential for use as biological indicators. Because they live on the river bottom and are filter feeders, they are affected by both habitat degradation and water quality. In addition, both mussels and sponges leave remains in the sediment that provide a historical record. With collaborators Laura Sanders and Jean Hemzacek in the Department of Earth Science, our students recently surveyed the mussel community in the Chicago River. According to a biological index developed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, our data indicate a water quality value of moderate, which is promising for a river in a major metropolitan area such as Chicago. Our study was supported by a pilot grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.  

Although common in aquatic habitats in the Midwest, freshwater sponges are understudied due to lack of knowledge of the microscopic features that allow species to be differentiated. Thus, students and I are collecting sponges from local rivers, lakes, and wetlands and quantifying the variation in morphological characteristics. In addition, we are identifying to species the freshwater sponges held in the Field Museum of Natural History’s collection. Currently, the Field Museum’s freshwater sponge collection is difficult for the research community to access, because the majority of their specimens have not been identified to species. My students are making microscope slides of Field Museum specimens and measuring microscopic features useful in the taxonomic identification of species.

The majority of wetland habitat in the Midwest has been drained for agriculture and development. Of the wetlands that remain, quaking bogs are among the most unique and beautiful. Plants- even tamarack trees- grow on floating mats of Sphagnum moss, which rise and fall with water levels. Microscopic organisms, about which little is known, also live on the floating moss. These small flora and fauna include sponges, a primitive animal that is well studied in oceans but not in freshwater habitats. Species new to science, including single-celled protists such as algae and amoebae, have also been recently discovered living on Sphagnum. Students and I characterized the microscopic flora and fauna living on Sphagnum moss. In addition to collecting modern samples of Sphagnum from bogs in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, we examined Sphagnum samples collected for over one hundred years that are held in the Field Museum of Natural History’s collection. 

Room BBH 358F
Northeastern Illinois University
5500 North St. Louis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60625
United States

(773) 442-5734
Office Hours
Please email j-slate@neiu.edu to arrange to meet or speak with Dr. Slate.
Main Campus