Chris Bickford joined Kenyon's faculty in 2012 after completing postdocs at Manaaki Whenau - Landcare Research (New Zealand) and the University of New Mexico. His research focuses on how climate drivers and morphological variation affect photosynthesis. Bickford's work uses a wide variety of plant systems and other photosynthetic organisms to examine the diversity of carbon uptake strategies and their responsiveness to major climate drivers like CO2, light, drought and temperature.

Areas of Expertise

Plant ecophysiology


2009 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of New Mexico

2005 — Master of Science from Northern Arizona University

2001 — Bachelor of Science from University of Oklahoma

Courses Recently Taught

Conservation biology is an integrative discipline that encompasses aspects of evolution, ecology and population biology to understand conservation-related issues in a changing world. Students will learn how genetic, physiological, behavioral, ecological and anthropogenic factors influence population dynamics, and how management practices can ameliorate impacts on biodiversity. BIOL 106 is appropriate for first-year students and can count toward the core course requirement for the environmental studies concentration. This course does not count toward the major or minor. No prerequisite.

This is the first laboratory course a student takes and is a prerequisite for all upper-division laboratory courses. Students are introduced to the processes of investigative biology and scientific writing. It is not designed to accompany any particular core lecture course. Laboratories cover topics presented in the core lecture courses, BIOL 115 and 116, and introduce a variety of techniques and topics, including field sampling, microscopy, PCR, gel electrophoresis, enzyme biochemistry, physiology, evolution and population biology. The course emphasizes the development of inquiry skills through active involvement in experimental design, data collection and management, statistical analysis, integration of results with information reported in the literature, and writing in a format appropriate for publication. The year culminates in six-week student-designed investigations that reinforce the research skills developed during the year. Evaluation is based on laboratory notebooks, lab performance, and scientific papers, as well as oral and written presentations summarizing the independent project. Enrollment is limited to 16 students in each section. Students enrolled in this course will be automatically added to BIOL 110Y for the spring semester. Prerequisite: completion or concurrent enrollment in BIOL 115 or equivalent. Required for the major.

Energy flow is a unifying principle across a range of living systems, from cells to ecosystems. With energy flow as a major theme, this course covers macromolecules, cells, respiration and photosynthesis, physiology and homeostasis, population and community interactions, and ecosystems. Throughout the course, the diversity of life is explored. The course also introduces students to the process of scientific thinking through discussion of research methodology and approaches. This course is required for the major (although AP or IB credit can be applied) and as such, biology majors should take this class prior to the junior year. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

This course examines the physiological, anatomical and ecological adaptations that allow plants to survive in terrestrial environments. We explore how plants work, focusing on the diverse strategies that have evolved to fix atmospheric carbon into carbohydrate, anatomical structures that facilitate water movement across vast distances within the plant body, and ecological relationships that allow plants to obtain resources when constrained by a sessile lifestyle. Simultaneously, we explore how plants respond to key environmental drivers such as carbon dioxide, water, vapor pressure and temperature, and how these responses contribute to plant biogeography. Primary literature readings are assigned throughout the semester to examine current topics in depth. This counts toward the upper-level lecture in organismal biology/physiology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: BIOL 115 or equivalent. Generally offered every other year.

This course will examine techniques for investigating plant physiological responses to environmental stimuli in both laboratory and field settings. Students will learn methods to measure photosynthetic physiology using both instantaneous (gas exchange) and integrated approaches (stable isotope analysis). We also examine methods for assessing plant water status (water potential). Using these methods and an experimental approach, we will explore how environmental drivers affect plant carbon-water relations. While the focus of the course is on vascular plant physiology, we also examine the diversity of photosynthetic organisms through comparative studies with bryophytes, lichens and cyanobacteria. This counts toward the upper-level laboratory requirement. Prerequisite or corequisite: BIOL 109Y-110Yand 245 or 323.

This combined discussion and laboratory course aims to develop abilities for asking sound research questions, designing reasonable scientific approaches to answer such questions, and performing experiments to test both the design and the question. We consider how to assess difficulties and limitations in experimental strategies due to design, equipment, organism selected and so on. The course provides a detailed understanding of selected modern research equipment. Students select their own research problems in consultation with one or more biology faculty members. This course is designed both for those who plan to undertake honors research in their senior year and for those who are not doing honors but want practical research experience. A student can begin the course in either semester. If a year of credit is earned, it may be applied toward one laboratory requirement for the major in biology. This course is repeatable for credit. Prerequisite: BIOL 109Y–110Y and 116 and permission of instructor.