Dr. Gary Grothman portrait

Dr. Gary Grothman

Assistant Professor, Biology

Phone: (403) 254-3731
Office: A208

PhD (Assistant Professor and Chair, Natural & Mathematical Sciences)
PhD (Microbiology and Immunology), State University of New York HSC at Syracuse
BSc (Cellular, Molecular, and Microbial Biology), University of Calgary

Specialization/research interests: Tardigrade biology and ecology; immunology.

My focus in my courses is on genetics and molecular biology, building on a background in immunology.  My research is devoted to tardigrades: microscopic animals both tough and charming.

I teach mostly on the “small” side of biology – cells and molecules, including genetics and immunology. I do occasionally consider the macroscopic world in terms of human anatomy, but even then I’m fascinated by what’s going on at the microscopic and molecular level.

Between classes I gather moss to pick through for tardigrades, so-called “water bears”, which are wonderful, tough, charismatic animals that easily justify long hours at the microscope. If all goes well, some of my tardigrades or their descendants should wind up in space – where they have been shown to survive, underlining just how tough the little guys (or mostly girls) really are.

Outside of academia, I bring joy to all around me by nit-picking scientific and other inaccuracies in movies, and also enjoy reading, programming, and other introverted pursuits. Somehow along the way I’ve acquired a great wife and wonderful daughter, and together we travel, play strategy games, and enjoy music in many forms.

FALL 2016 WINTER 2017
BIOL 231 BIOL 431
BIOL 331 BIOL 491
SCIE 201

Grothman G, McLean MA. 2015. Kill the Aliens: a case study on the control of leafy spurge. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS).

Grothman G. 2013. Tardigrades: A Brief Overview. Newsletter of the Biological Survey of Canada. 32(2): 12-22.

Grothman, G. 2012. Preliminary survey of tardigrades from Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. (12th International Symposium on Tardigrada, poster presentation).

Francis-Poscente K, McLean MA, Clay M, Grothman G, and Braverman L. 2011. Pre-service teachers’ experiences co-teaching with scientists in Discovering Science. Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education.

Grothman GT. 2011. Tardigrades of Fish Creek Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada: a preliminary survey. Canadian Field-Naturalist 125:22-26.

Grothman GT and Massa PT. 1995. The expression of MHC class I and interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-1 in neural cell lines are correlated. FASEB Journal 9:A239.

Paul LC, Grothman GT, Benediktsson H, Davidoff AW, and Rozing J. 1992. Macrophage subpopulations in normal and transplanted heart and kidney tissues in the rat. Transplantation 53:157-162.

Higgy NA, Davidoff AW, Grothman GT, and Paul LC. 1991. Expression of platelet-derived growth factor receptor in rat heart allografts. Journal of Heart & Lung Transplantation 10:1012-1022.

Dr. Grothman Conducts Rare Study of Tardigrades

They waddle slowly on eight legs, happily munching on moss or other microscopic animals until the moss dries up.

Then they crumple down to resemble a speck of dust, living up to ten years in a desiccated state until conditions are right to resume munching and waddling again.

Up to 1,000 species of tardigrades – or “water bears” as scientists are fond of calling them – are found all over the world, but the tiny invertebrates have not been studied extensively in Alberta.


Dr. Gary Grothman, assistant professor of biology at St. Mary’s University, will study the water bears of Fish Creek Provincial Park this summer with help from research assistant Lori Alexander, a St. Mary’s science student.

“Tardigrades are able to dry out and survive for years. They thrive in environments that change a lot, which is why they do so well in moss,” Dr. Grothman said.

“That’s the kind of thing you see in bacteria, but to find this characteristic in an animal is rare. Water bears are one of the few animals that do it, and they are the cutest.”

The scientists are gathering samples from nearby Fish Creek and then painstakingly searching by microscope for the plump tardigrades among the water debris. Once an initial survey is conducted, Dr. Grothman hopes to investigate how water bears recognize the environmental conditions that cause them to dry up.

Water bears have demonstrated no potential economic benefit or threat of disease, so studies of the creatures have been relatively infrequent, especially in North America.

However, they are the only animals to have survived the radiation and vacuum of space in recent experiments. Dr. Grothman says unlocking their secrets may lead to discoveries related to the storage of living tissues or other applications.

“Mainly they are just interesting in themselves as a large group of animals that not too many people have studied.”