Professor of Biology

Biology Department and

Environmental Studies Program

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Geneva, NY 14456 USA

Phone: (315) 781-3601

E-mail: ryan@hws.edu



The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA --- Ph.D. in Zoology

The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI --- M.S. in Biological Sciences

The State University of New York at Oswego, NY --- B.A. in Zoology

Honors: Recipient of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Faculty Prize for Scholarship 1997

Terry Vaughan, Nick Czaplewski and I have just completed the 4th edition of Mammalogy by Saunders College Publishing. You can look at the text's table of contents and get information on ordering this text from the following web site:


This long-awaited revision of the best-selling classic mammalogy text is available for Fall l999 classes. The biology of mammals is viewed from a broad range of perspectives, making it useful to instructors with contrasting approaches to the subject. The topics covered were chosen as the most important, interesting, and essential to the understanding of mammals. The new edition incorporates the recent advances andresearch in mammalian biology whileretaining the clear and concise style of this classic text, updated taxonomic classification system, and significant updates in the chapters on Ecology, Behavior, and Conservation. Each chapter is accompanied by a list of web sites for students. There are hundreds of new illustrations and a completely revised and up to date bibliography with complete citations.



Mammalian Biology

Conservation of African Small Mammals

Functional Morphology

- My research focuses on mammalian biodiversity and conservation of African small mammals. I worked for several years in the rain forest of Madagascar surveying small mammal communities and primates. I currently serve as Team Leader on the Ghana Coastal Wetlands Management Project which established a series of long-term biodiversity monitoring sites in Ghana, West Africa. I will be co-leading an expedition to Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in summer 2001 to study and film the hero shrew with Dr. Dennis Cullinane from Boston University. In addition, I maintain my interests in the evolution of the neuromuscular system in vertebrates. I am particularly interested in the relationship between muscle biochemical properties and motor unit function.


Introductory Biology

I have put together a series of specially designed web pages with interactive applets for conducting several basic statistical tests:

Choosing the correct test statisitic

Linear regression

Chi Square tests (including an example for use with simple Mendellian genetics)

Shannon-Weiner Index of Species Diversity

Simple Hawk-Dove Game Theory Applet

Functional Vertebrate Anatomy


Mammalian Biology

Math Models of Biological Systems This interdisciplinary course is co-taught with professor Kevin Mitchell of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.


Teaching Portfolio featured in Seldin, P. 1997. The Teaching Portfolio: A practical guide to improved performance and promotion/tenure decisions. Anker Pub., Boston. 268pp.


2001 Expedition to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda supported by

I received an $18,000 grant from the National Geographic Society, with my colleague Dr. Dennis Cullinane at Boston University, to lead an expedition to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda in 2001. Here we seek to study a rare and enigmatic small mammal, the hero shrew.


The spine of Scutisorex somereni (the hero shrew) has been modified beyond anything that has been identified in the history of vertebrates. This anatomy is highly unusual because the spine is typically the most morphologically conservative structure in the vertebrate skeleton. The complexity of the vertebral column was not recognized until 1917, when Allen published a description of the skeletal anatomy. Allen was led to this intriguing discovery after reading an expedition account by Herbert Lang that described a ceremony performed by the Mangbetu people of Rwanda. According to Lang's account, a tribesman places one foot carefully on the back of a captive hero shrew and, concentrating all his weight on that one foot, stands on the shrew. The hero shrew survives the ordeal unharmed because of the anatomical modifications of its vertebrae. The hero shrew (or armored shrew) capable of supporting up to 1000 times its body mass on its back, the equivalent of 10 elephants on the back of an adult human. Despite the novelty of the hero shrew spine, no associated function has been identified because the ecology and behavior of this species is poorly documented.

Our objectives are threefold:

1) To observe hero shrews in the wild and identify a set of behaviors that can be correlated with their elaborate spinal anatomy.

2) To describe the basic life history and ecology of this little known species before its restricted habitat is further fragmented and degraded.

3) To further clarify the functional/biomechanical properties of the elaborate vertebrae begun by Cullinane and his co-workers in 1998 in an effort to ascertain if there are any medical applications that might be transferred to the fight osteoporosis.






The Ghana Coastal Wetlands Management Project

Ghana's 550 km of coastline includes over one hundred estuaries and lagoons. These coastal wetlands are on the boundary of two major migration corridors for waterbirds: the East Atlantic Flyway and the Mediterranean Flyway. Studies by the Save the Sea Shore Birds - Project and the Ghana Wildlife Society dating back to the early 1980s, have shown that significant numbers of waterbirds use Ghana coastal wetlands as staging areas and wintering grounds. At least 15 species of waterbirds occur here in internationally important populations (Ntiamoa-Baidu, 1991).

Five coastal lagoons and their watersheds along the Ghana coast have been proposed as Ramsar Sites (internationally important wetlands) under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention). In 1992, the government of Ghana received support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), for the protection of these sites (Muni-Pomadze, Densu delta, Sakumo, Songor, and Keta) under the Coastal Wetlands Management Project (CWMP), which is implemented by the Ghana Wildlife Department.

The CWMP seeks to preserve the ecological integrity of these five coastal wetlands, and to enhance the socio-economic benefits that these wetlands provide to the local communities (Ntiamoa-Baidu and Gordon, 1991; Piersma and Ntiamoa-Baidu, 1995). To fulfil the CWMP's goals, baseline information on the ecological health and integrity of these wetland ecosystems is required before sound management decisions can be made. Toward that end, the CWMP has implemented a series of baseline ecological studies aimed at characterizing the current status of these important wetlands. These ecological studies will form the basis for management and additional long-term monitoring of these sites. The Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site has the greatest habitat diversity and least encroachment by human populations of the five Ramsar sites, making it an ideal nature reserve. With excellent ocean views, coconut fringed sandy beaches, and diverse bird and butterfly communities, educational and ecotourism markets are promising.

For details on this project please refer to the Special Edition of the journal Biodiversity and Conservation April 2000. I served as project leader of the terrestrial survey.


The JavaMath Project

An interdisciplinary project between Mathematics, Computer Science, and Biology to develop a suite of JAVA components (beans) that can be uniquely configured in a wide variety of ways for use on instructional Web pages, as interactive illustrations, special-purpose calculators, support for exercises, and so forth.


Ryan, J.M. and Y. Ntiamoa-Baidu. 2000. Biodiversity and ecology of coastal wetlands in Ghana. Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 9:445-446.

Ryan, J.M. and D. Attuquayefio. 2000. Mammal fauna of the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site, Ghana. Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 9:541-560.

Gordon, C., Y. Ntiamoa-Baidu, and J.M. Ryan. 2000. The Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site. Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 9:447-464.

Vaughan, T.A., J. M. Ryan, and N. J. Czaplewski. 1999. Mammalogy, 4th edition, Saunders College Publishers, Philadelphia. Pp.

Hermanson, J.W., Ryan, J. M., Cobb, M.A., Bentley, J., and W.A. Schutt. 1998. Histochemical and electrophoretic analysis of the primary flight muscle of several phylostomid bats. Can. J. Zool., 76:1983-1992.

Kolmes, S., K. Mitchell, and J. Ryan. 1998. Optimal foraging theory. Pp. 97-140 In UMAP Modules 1997: Tools for Teaching, (P. Campbell, ed.) Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications, Inc. Lexington, MA.

Sokoloff, A.J., Ryan, J.M., Valerie, E., Wilson, D.S., and G.E. Goslow, jr. 1998 Neuromuscular organization of avian flight muscle: Morphology and contractile properties of motor units in the pectoralis (pars thoracicus) of pigeon (Columba livia). J. Morph., 236:179-208.

Mitchell, K. and J. Ryan. 1998 The species-area relation. UMAP Journal (Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications. 19:141-170.

Ryan, J.M., Cushman, J., Jordon, B., Samuels, A., Frazer, H., and C. Baier. 1998 Topographic position of forelimb motoneuron pools is conserved in vertebrate evolution, Brain, Behav., Evol., 51:90-99.

Ryan, J.M., J. Cushman, and C. Baier. 1997. Organization of forelimb motoneuron pools in two bat species (Eptesicus fuscus and Myotis lucifugus). Acta Anatomica, 158:121-129.

Kolmes, S., K. Mitchell, and J. Ryan. 1997. Optimal foraging theory. UMAP Journal, (Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and its Applications. 18(1):43-85.

Ryan, J.M., Cushman, J., Frazer, H. and A. Samuels. 1996. Motoneuron Tracing Techniques, pp. 13-26 in D. Blackburn (ed.) Neuroscience Methods: The UndergraduateLaboratory Experience, Trinity College Press.

Hermanson, J.W., M.A. Cobb, W.A. Schutt, F. Muradali, and J.M. Ryan. 1993. Histochemical and myosin composition of vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) pectoralis muscle targets a unique locomotory niche. J. Morphology, 217:347-356.

Ryan, J. M., Creighton, G. K., and L. H. Emmons 1993. Activity patterns of two species of Nesomys (Muridae:Nesomyinae) in a Madagascar rain forest. J. Tropical Ecology 9:101-107.

Ryan, J. M., Cobb, M. A., and J. W. Hermanson. 1992. Elbow extensor muscles of the horse: postural and dynamic implications. Acta Anatomica , 144:71-79.

Ryan, J. M. 1991 The morphology of the glans penis in four genera of molossid bats (Chiroptera:Molossidae), J. Mammalogy , 72(4):658-668.

Ryan, J. M. 1991. Comparative morphology of the glans penis in Molossus, Promops, &Eumops (Chiroptera:Molossidae). Pp. 122-137 In T.A. Griffiths and D.J. Klingener (eds.) Contributions to mammalogy in honor of Karl F. Koopman. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist.

Ryan, J. M. 1989. Comparative myology and phylogenetic systematics of the Heteromyidae (Mammalia:Rodentia). Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool. Univ. Michigan. 176:1-102.

Ryan, J. M. 1989. Evolution of cheek pouches in African pouched rats (Rodentia:Cricetomyinae). J. Mammalogy 70:267-274.

Ryan, J. M. 1986. Comparative morphology and evolution of cheek pouches in rodents. J. Morphology 190:27-41.

Ryan, J. M. 1986. Dietary overlap in sympatric populations of pygmy shrews, Sorex hoyi, and masked shrews, Sorex cinereus, in Michigan. Canadian Field-Nat. 100:225-228.

Ryan, J. M., Clark, D. B., and J. A. Lackey 1985. Response of Artibeus lituratus (Chiroptera:Phyllostomidae) to distress calls of conspecifics. J. Mammalogy 66:179-181.

Ryan, J. M. 1982. Distribution and comparative ecology of the pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi) and Masked (Sorex cinereus) shrews in northern lower Michigan. MS thesis The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Ryan, J. M. 1982. Distribution and habitat of the pygmy shrew, Sorex hoyi, in Michigan. Jack-Pine Warbler 60:85-86.

Smith, G. and J. M. Ryan. 1978. Annotated checklist to the birds of Oswego county and northern Cayuga county, New York. Rice Creek Biological Field Station Bulletin #5, SUNY Press, Oswego, NY 311pp.



Ryan, J. M. Nesomys spp. (chapter for Madagascar: A Natural History to be published by University of Chicago Press)

Mitchell, K. Ryan, J. M., and S. Kolmes. BioModels: Math models of biological systems. (book prospectus in review at Springer-Verlag)

Ryan, J.M., J.T. Kerlan, and B. T. Jordon. Exploring Muscle Function Through Histochemistry. In D. Silverthorn, A. Mills, and B. Johnson (eds.), Laboratory Experiments in Physiology - Custom Laboratory Program, 1/e, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2000pp. (in press)

Kerlan, J.T., J.M. Ryan, and M.A. Meagher. Blood lactic acid levels after maximal exercise. In D. Silverthorn, A. Mills, and B. Johnson (eds.), Laboratory Experiments in Physiology - Custom Laboratory Program, 1/e, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2000pp. (in press)



Ryan, J.M. 1988. Review of Recent Advances in the Study of Bats by M. Brock Fenton, P. Racey, and J.M.V. Rayner (eds) Bat Research News 29:25-27.

Ryan, J.M. and E. Newell. 1990. On behalf of rain forests. Pulteney St. Survey.



Society for Neuroscience

American Society of Mammalogists

Guild of Natural Science Illustrators

Council on Undergraduate Research-

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Society for Conservation Biology



2000 National Geographic Society Grant #6797-00 - The Ecology and Functional Anatomy of the Hero Shrew Scutiosorex somereni. $18,000

1999 Math Beans: Mathematical Software Components for Web-based Instructional Materials. NSF-CCLI $59,578

1993-1997 Program Director, Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant to the Biology Department. HHMI $550,000.

1993 Neuroanatomical analysis of the motoneuron pools in vertebrates: a test of the motor control conservatism hypothesis.NSF-RUI $ 95,894.

1993 Collaborative Investigatory Laboratories in Physiology and Anatomy. NSF-ILI $55,978.

1991 The motor control conservatism hypothesis: a test using bats. Whitehall Foundation Grant $14,000.