The Department of Biological Sciences came into existence with the merger of five former departments (Botany, Entomology, Genetics, Microbiology and Zoology) on July 1, 1994. What occurred on July 1, 1994 was actually a 2-step merger. Discussions on the merger between the Department of Entomology in the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics and the Department of Zoology in the Faculty of Science was already well on its way when the decision to merge all five departments was made. The Departments of Entomology and Zoology merged first into a “new Department of Zoology”, bringing Entomology into the Faculty of Science; this “new Department of Zoology” then merged instantaneously with Botany, Genetics, and Microbiology forming the Department of Biological Sciences.   

Although the Department of Biological Sciences is relatively young, the history of its constituents can be traced back to the early years of the University of Alberta. A Department of Biology already existed by 1912 at the University of Alberta in the then Faculty of Arts and Science. In 1921, the Departments of Zoology and Botany were formed from this Department of Biology. So in some ways, history has come “full-circle” with the 1994 merger. The former Department of Entomology was formedin 1922 in the Faculty of Agriculture. The Department of Genetics was formed in October 1, 1961 in the Faculty of Agriculture, and moved into the Faculty of Science in 1966. The former Department of Microbiology started in 1957 as a Division in the Department of Bacteriology, in the Faculty of Medicine and moved into the Faculty of Science in 1963 and becoming a department. Thus, the Department of Biological Sciences can trace some of its roots to three different faculties on campus.   

Biological Sciences Building After Completion Late 1960's

The Department of Biological Sciences and its former entities have always been heavily involved in undergraduate teaching for students in science, medicine and agriculture. In addition to undergraduate teaching, graduate student training has also been a valued tradition. The Department of Biology graduated its first MSc student in 1916 (Gwendelyne Tuttle; supervisor: F. Lewis). By the end of 1994, the five former departments have graduated a total of 1168 graduate students. This tradition continues in the Department of Biological Sciences with 261 MSc and 168 PhD theses successfully completed from January 1, 1995 to February 28, 2004.   

Since its formation in 1994, the Department of Biological Sciences has continued to build on the excellence inherited from the former departments. For example, in research funding, total annual research support increased from $8.2 million in 1994 to $16.5 million in 2003. The size of our average NSERC individual operating grant continues to be at 1.3 to 1.5 times higher than the NSERC national average. Our graduate students and academic staff members are recognized nationally and internationally for their accomplishments (accolades and awards). As we reflect on our past achievements, we are committed to maintaining and further enhancing our excellence.