Who Are You?
1987: Hugo Ferchau becomes the first endowed chair (plan biologist)  1991: Pete Gauss becomes the second endowed chair, launches the molecular biology program 1993: Larry Choate joins Western as the first Thornton visiting scholar. Grant research begins.  1999: Biology program earns Program of Excellence distinction and grant  2000: Hurst Hall remodel  2003: Kevin Alexander begins butterfly research, assisted by students.  2004: Program returns to the Endowed Chair structure with the arrival of Pat Magee 2014: Jonathan Coop and Pat Magee begin their avian ecology and wildfire mitigation research

A brief background
Learn the program's history

The Thornton Biology Research Program at Western provides undergraduate Biology students and faculty with research funding. The program also delivers teaching release time for faculty, allowing professors to focus on their own research and support students’ projects.

Who Are You?
A student works in the biology lab

Support the research
Make a donation

Give by check: 

Send a check made payable to the Western State Foundation, with Thornton Biology or Thornton Endowment designated in the memo line, Mail to:
909 E Escalante Dr. 
Gunnison, CO 81231 


Give online: 

Visit Make sure to designate your gift for Thornton by choosing “other” in the fund section and adding a note in the comment box (ex: Thornton Anniversary, Thornton Biology, Thornton Endowment). 

Success Stories
Brandon and his daughter smile at a trap in Almont.

Brandon Diamond

Brandon Diamond ‘99 wanted to graduate college as a competitive candidate for a position with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (formerly the Colorado Division of Wildlife). Today, he is a District Wildlife Manager for the agency.

Looking back, Diamond credits much of his success to the foundational research experience and professional wildlife network he gained through the Thornton Biology Research Program.

Success Stories
Angela smiles in a lab

Angela Fioretti

Angela Fioretti ‘12 grew up in Wheat Ridge, Colo., and first visited the Gunnison Valley on a ski trip her junior year of high school. Before then, she was considering not going to college at all. She changed her mind quickly, however, after seeing the mountains that surround Western.

“I felt like the mountains were calling me,” Fioretti said. “And college was as good an excuse as any to go live in them.”

Success Stories
Pat Magee smiles at the Alumni Awards for Excellence dinner in the Savage Library Reading Room.

Patrick Magee
Thornton Chair of Biology

Pat Magee arrived at Western 21 years ago to fill the brand-new Thornton Lecturer position.

Magee heard about Western through a colleague who saw a position opening at a small college in the mountains. During Magee’s time at large universities while earning his master’s and Ph.D., he realized the competitive mentality at large institutions wasn’t for him.

“I really wanted to be at a small university in the mountains where undergraduate education was emphasized,” Magee said.

Success Stories
Robin works with students in a Bio class

Robin Bingham

Robin Bingham’s passion is undergraduate research. She joined the Western faculty in 1997 immediately after earning her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder and has been a catalyst for undergraduate research ever since. 

For Bingham, a key feature of the Biology program here is the Thornton Biology Research Program, which was established in 1993 and has evolved substantially over the years.

Success Stories
Casie Osborne smiles at a reception

Casie Osborne

Casie Osborne arrived at Western in 2007 as a tenure-track professor. She immediately applied for a Thornton grant. By summer, she had three undergraduate students assisting her in the lab.   

Osborne, who works in developmental Biology, grew interested in the Thornton program before even getting her job offer.

“Whenever I was interviewing, everyone was telling me we have this great thing that’s this Thornton endowment,” Osborne said.

Success Stories
Kevin Alexander stands in waders

Kevin Alexander

Kevin Alexander has called the Gunnison Valley home for nearly two decades. He was hired at Western as a Biology professor in 2000 and immediately started working with undergraduates in the Thornton Biology Research Program.

Since then, Alexander—a wildlife and ecology specialist— has pursued his professional and personal interests almost exclusively in the wilderness surrounding campus.

“My world has shrunk a lot,” Alexander said.