Brian Alfaro

Assistant Professor of Biology

McInnis 309

I am excited to begin my journey an Assistant Professor of Biology at Eastern University, for I have a broad academic and professional background that I can share with students. For the main undergraduate courses that I teach (Ecology, Botany, Environmental Issues), I focus on using the urban and natural habitats that we have at Eastern University as our laboratory. In the biology department, I investigate possible effects of global climate and other environmental and genetic variables that can affect crops and invasive plants using geographical analyses, laboratory work, and garden experiments. One of my new scholarly interests is historical ecology with a special focus on the impact of natural habitats (i.e. vegetation) on religion and spirituality. The Bible (among other religious texts) is a trove of historical descriptions of landscapes and ethnobotanical information, and we can qualitatively and quantitatively analyze some of these passages to paint snapshots of how we as humans have been transformed by plants (and vice-versa). Eastern University is the perfect environment for this research.

  • Ph.D., Biology, University of New Mexico

  • B.S., University of California, Los Angeles

Classes Taught
  • BIOL 151L – General Biology 1
  • BIOL 309WL – Ecology Lab
  • BIOL 312 – Genetics/Genetics Lab
  • BIOL 350C – Vascular Plants
  • BIOL 420 – Environmental Regulation and Policy
  • GEOG 200 – Geology
Research Interests

I focus on the following research questions:

  • How do genetic and non-genetic features of a plant interact with environment to produce phenotypic variation in plant populations?
  • What type of classroom, lab, or field activities increase student engagement in biology courses in a small liberal arts university? 
  • What are possible plant species compositions in landscapes and places described in key events and stories of Abrahamic religions (e.g. The Forbidden Fruit, Burning Bush, Crown of Thorns), and how has Western adoption of these religions changed the descriptions in modern translations of scripture, and in art?
Professional Associations
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Science
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Botanical Society of America

Alfaro, B., and D. L. Marshall. Soil moisture induces phenotypic variation in Brassica tournefortii (in press) Ecology and Evolution. 2022. 

Alfaro, B., and A. Robinson. Global climate association of lipid concentration derived from Brassica breeding lines. Invited Graduate Seminar Speaker at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Oct. 21, 20222. 

Alfaro, B., and D. L. Marshall. Phenotypic variation of life‐history traits in native, invasive, and landrace populations of Brassica tournefortii. Ecology and Evolution. 2019.

Grady, J. M., B. S. Maitner, A. S. Winter, K. Kaschner, D. P. Tittensor, S. Record, F. A. Smith, A. M. Wilson, A. I. Dell, P. L. Zarnetske, H. J. Wearing, B. Alfaro, J. H. Brown. 2019. Metabolic asymmetry and the global diversity of marine predators. Science 363 DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4220

Scofield, D. G., B. Alfaro, V. L. Sork, D. Grivet, E. Martinez, J. Papp, A. R. Pluess, W. D. Koenig and P. E. Smouse. 2011. Acorn movement of valley oak (Quercus lobata Née) by acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicovorus) in two California oak savanna-woodlands. Oecologia 166:187-196.

The Bird’s Beak of LaRiviere Marsh: A Rare Plant Story. TidelineAlfaro, B. Winter 2010. Vol. 31, No. 4 pp. 1-3.