Dr. Alexander J. Werth


Dr. Alex WerthVenable Professor of Biology
Gilmer Hall , 127
(434) 223-6326
awerth@hsc.edu

Education

B.S. in zoology, Duke University (1985) summa cum laude; A.M. in organismic and evolutionary biology, Harvard University (1987); Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology, Harvard University (1992); Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska; Fulbright Scholar, Republic of Maldives (Spring 2006)

Teaching Interests
Vertebrate functional morphology
Comparative anatomy and physiology
Evolutionary biology and paleontology
Marine biology and oceanography
Biomechanics and osteology
Mammalogy, ichthyology, and general vertebrate zoology
History and philosophy of science
Bioethics, human genomics, and human reproductive issues

Courses Taught 

  • Vertebrate Anatomy
  • Vertebrate Physiology 
  • Evolutionary Theory/Population Genetics
  • Human Evolution/Physical Anthropology
  • Marine Biology
  • Evolutionary Ecology/Tropical Ecology (in Ecuador/Galapagos)
  • Organismal Biology
  • Principles of Biology
  • Vertebrate Paleontology
  • Physics of the Human Body (Biomechanics/Biomaterials)
  • Marine Mammals
  • Human Genome Project
  • Western Culture

Committee Assignments & Service to the College
Chair of Biology Department
Director of Honors Program and Chair of Honors Council
Health Science Advisory Committee and faculty advisor to PreHealth Society
Organizer of "Know Thyself: Human Genome Project" Symposium
Chair, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
President, Campus chapter of Phi Beta Kappa
President, Longwood/Hampden-Sydney chapter of Sigma Xi
Faculty rep, Duke Marine Laboratory/Marine Sciences Educational Consortium
Service on numerous other College committees (Faculty rep to Board of Trustees, President's Council, etc.)

Chair, Promotion & Tenure Committee

Chair, Academic Affairs Committee

Faculty Affairs Committee

Chair, Men's Studies Committee

Faculty oversight committee of Center for Entrepreneurship and Political Economy, and Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest

Most Recent Peer-Reviewed Publications

[Werth's biomimetics research with a team of Dutch engineers using 3D printing to study filters has been profiled on wildinblue.com at

www.wildinblue.com/featured.html]

Werth, A.J., and W.A. Shear. 2014. The evolutionary truth about living fossils. American Scientist 102(6):434-443. doi: 10.1511/2014.111.434.

Werth, A.J. 2014. What makes biology tick? Review of In Search of Mechanisms: Discoveries Across the Life Sciences book by Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden. BioScience 64(9):845-847.

Werth, A.J. 2014. Vestiges of the natural history of development: historical holdovers reveal the dynamic interaction between ontogeny and phylogeny. Evolution: Education and Outreach 7:12:1-11. doi: 10.1186/s12052-014-0012-5. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186%2Fs12052-014-0012-5

Werth, A.J. 2014. Why single-sex education is a viable educational option. In What Works: Raising Boys, Engaging Guys, Educating Men. Hampden-Sydney College.

Werth, A.J. 2013. Flow-dependent porosity of baleen. Journal of Experimental Biology 216:1152-1159. doi:10.1242/jeb.078931.

Ford, T.J., A.J. Werth, and J.C. George. 2013. An intraoral thermoregulatory organ in the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), the corpus caervosum maxillaris. Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 296:701-708. doi:10.1002/ar.22681.

Werth, A.J. 2013. An evolutionary focus improves students' understanding of all biology.  Reports of the National Center for Science Education 33(1):1-18, http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/31/251.

Werth, A.J. 2012. Hydrodynamic and sensory factors governing response of copepods to simulated predation by baleen whales. International Journal of Ecology. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijeco/2012/208913/

Werth, A.J., and T.J. Ford. 2012. Abdominal fat pads act as control surfaces in lieu of dorsal fins in the beluga (Delphinapterus). Marine Mammal Science 28(4):E516-527. doi:10.1111.j.1748-7692.2012.00567.x.

Werth, A.J. 2012. Avoiding the pitfall of progress and asociated perils of evolutionary education. Evolution: Education and Outreach 5(2)249-265. doi:10.1007/s120052-012-0417-7.

Werth, A.J. 2012. From fins to legs and back again. Review of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals book by Annalisa Berta. BioScience 62(11):996-997.

Allchin, D., and A.J. Werth [forthcoming] The naturalizing error: Implications for appeals to human nature and self-justifying nature. In peer review.

Werth. A.J. [in prep] Cross-flow filtration in baleen. For submission to Journal of Morphology.

Werth, A.J. [forthcoming] Huxley's garden, Wallace's ghost, and Harlow's brain: Are there limits to evolutionary explanation? In preparation; for submission to Zygon.

Beatty, B., and A.J. Werth [forthcoming] Aprismatic enamel microstructure and tooth sharpness in odontocetes: Economy or adaptation? In preparation; for submission to Integrative Biology.

Werth, A.J. 2009. Clearing the highest hurdle:Human-based case studies broaden students' understanding of core evolutionary concepts. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 9(2): 37-52.

Werth, A.J. 2008. The human genome project: implications for the study of human evolution. In The Human Genome Project: Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications. University Press of New England.

Werth, A.J. 2007. Adaptations of the cetacean hyolingual apparatus for aquatic feeding and thermoregulation. The Anatomical Record, 290(6): 546-568.

Werth, A.J. 2006. Odontocete suction feeding: Experimental analysis of water flow and head shape. Journal of Morphology, 267(12): 1415-1428.

Werth, A.J. 2006. Mandibular and dental variation and the evolution of suction feeding in Odontoceti. Journal of Mammalogy, 87(3): 579-588.

Werth, A.J. 2005. Evolution and development are not the same. The American Biology Teacher, 67(4): 201-202.

Werth, A.J. 2005. On the benefits of teaching honors. Honors In Practice [The National Honors Report], 1(1):43-48.

Werth, A.J. 2004. Functional morphology of the sperm whale tongue, with reference to suction feeding. Aquatic Mammals 30(3), 405-418.

Werth, A.J. 2004. Models of hydrodynamic flow in the bowhead whale filter feeding apparatus. Journal of Experimental Biology 207(20), 3569-3580.

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/207/20/3569.full

Werth, A.J. 2003. Unity in diversity: The virtues of a metadisciplinary perspective in liberal arts education. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Fall/Winter 2003: 35-52.

Werth, A.J. 2001. How do mysticetes remove prey trapped in baleen? Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 156(1): 189-203.

Werth, A.J. 2001. Simple lessons in biomechanics using everyday objects. The American Biology Teacher, 63(4): 267-270.

Werth, A.J. 2000. Marine Mammals. In Feeding: Form, Function and Evolution in Tetrapod Vertebrates, ed. K. Schwenk, pp. 475-514. New York, Academic Press.

Werth, A.J. 2000. A kinematic study of suction feeding and associated behaviors inthe long-finned pilot whale, Globicephala melas. Marine Mammal Science, 16(2): 299-314.

In addition to peer-reviewed publications, Werth's research has been profiled by journalists and science writers in print and online as well as via other media (radio, television, blogs, etc.), including but not limited to the following:

Science, National Geographic, New Scientist, Science News, Live Science, Discover Magazine, Discovery Canada, Scientific American, NBC, BBC, LeMonde, Sciences Avenir: Le Nouvel Observateur, French Thermography Association, CBC (Quirks and Quarks national radio program (www.cbc.ca/quirks/), Swedish National Radio.

Here is a sampling of such references:

Davies, E. 2013. Whales filter feed with a tangled hair-like net. BBC Nature News. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21755885

Lewis, T. 2013. Whales trap dinner with mouthful of swirling bristles. Live Science http://www.livescience.com/27878-how-whale-baleen-traps-food.html

Smith, B. 2013. Whales' baleen entangle prey with hairy bristles. Red Orbit. http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112803585/baleen-whale-teeth-entangle-prey-031413/

Knight, K. 2013. Streaming baleen tangles to trap food. "Inside JEB" commentary article written about Werth's featured paper in Journal of Experimental Biology. http://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/7/i.2

Zimmer, C. 2013. The brain-chilling, shrimp-caressing, lamppost-sized, NSFW organ hiding in a whale's mouth. National Geographic: The Loom blog entry (posted March 5, 2013) about Werth's research article published in The Anatomical Record. http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/03/04/the-brain-chilling-shrimp-caressing-lamppost-sized-nsfw-organ-hiding-in-a-whales-mouth/

Marshall, M. 2013. World's biggest mouth has an erectile secret. New Scientist. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23252-zoologger-worlds-biggest-mouth-has-an-erectile-secret.html

McDonald, B. 2013. Penis-like organ helps bowheads keep cool. Quirks & Quarks CBC radio program broadcast, April 20, 2013. http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/episode/2013/04/20/april-20-2013/index.html#2

Pennisi, E. 1999. Coming to grips with sperm whale anatomy. Science 283(5401):475-477.

Svitil, K. 1999. The table manners of whales. Discover 20(5): 20.

Honors & Awards
Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa
Fulbright Scholar (teaching/research), Republic of Maldives: "Marine Environmental Science of Maldive Islands"

2014 NSF-funded Scientist in Residency Fellow, Sitka Sound Science Center, Sitka, Alaska

2013 Visiting Professor of Zoology, University of British Columbia

2012 awarded Charles Scott Venable endowed Professorship

2011 Harris Teaching Award from VFIC:

http://www.hsc.edu/News/News-Archive/2011/Werth.html

http://www.vfic.org/programs/harris_index.html

Invited to Smithsonian/NESCent workshops on Teaching Human Evolution

2010 Mettauer Research Award, H-SC
2008 Cabell Teaching Award, H-SC
2006 Fuqua Teaching Award, H-SC
2001 Crawley Teaching Award, H-SC
2002 Wye Faculty Seminar Fellow
2000 NIH Faculty Summer Fellow, Dartmouth College
1996 VFIC Mednick Fellow (research funding)
Visiting Scholar, University of Maine Darling Marine Center
Visiting Scholar, Providence College
Research funding from government of Alaska
Research funding from H-SC faculty fellowships

Professional Affiliations
Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Society)
National Association of Biolgoy Teachers, Virginia Association of Biology Teachers
National Collegiate Honors Council, Southern Regional Honors Council, Virginia Collegiate Honors Council
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
Society for Marine Mammalogy
International Society of Vertebrate Morphology
Society for the Study of Mammalian Evolution
Virginia Natural History Society

Reviewer for NSF and 20 journals

Other Interests

running & hiking
woodworking
reading & drawing
sailing
SCUBA & snorkeling
listening to music
playing & watching sports
ardent Duke basketball and (no longer!) condemned Red Sox fan

Family
wife Diane
son Colin
daughter Gwen