Wilkes University

Campus Directory


Dr.  William  J.  Biggers

Associate Professor


Ph. D. 1994   Biochemistry, University of Connecticut

MWPS 1983 Wood and Paper Science, with minor in Toxicology, North Carolina State University   

BS 1980 Biochemistry, North Carolina State University

Research Interests

Larval settlement and metamorphosis

Invertebrate reproduction and development

Comparative physiology and biochemistry

Current research projects

Effects of serotonin on settlement and metamorphosis of the polychaete annelid Capitella teleta

In regulating settlement and metamorphosis of the marine polychaete annelid Capitella, we have previously found that nitric oxide acts as an inhibitory neuromodulator. We are now doing research investigating whether or not the release of serotonin as a stimulatory neurotransmitter is also involved in this regulation. Our results have so far shown that serotonin, and also fluoxetine which blocks reuptake of serotonin are able to induce settlement and metamorphosis, and that ketanserin which is an inhibitor of serotonin 5HT-2 receptors blocks this response. We are now trying to demonstrate the presence of 5HT-2 receptors in these larvae using immunofluorescence. 

Influence of algae and bacteria on induction of settlement and metamorphosis of Capitella teleta larvae

We are now investigating whether or not certain species of algae and bacteria isolated from marine sediments can act as natural inducers of settlement for Capitella teleta, and also if the larvae are responding to a specific "chemical cue" in the sediments. 

Investigation into the effect of 2,4-decadienal on growth and reproduction of Capitella teleta.

Marine diatoms are known to produce toxic aldehydes which adversely affect the reproduction and development of several marine invertebrates. We are now carrying out experiments to determine the effect of one of these aldehydes, 2,4-decadienal, on growth and reproduction of Capitella.   

Assessment of Oxidative Stress in Passerine Birds

In collaboration with Dr. Jeff Stratford, we have begun to assess levels of oxidative stress in several species of passerine birds by measuring levels of the oxidative stress associated enzymes glutathione-s-transferase and glutathione peroxidase as part of a project which has received funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

We are hoping to correlate levels of oxidative stress with exposure to environmental contaminants encountered in different habitats.  

Courses taught

Invertebrate Biology
Comparative Physiology
Chemical Ecology
Human Anatomy and Physiology
Professional Preparation Techniques

Selected publications


Biggers, W.J., A. Pires, J.A. Pechenik, E. Johns, P. Patel, T. Polson, and J. Polson. 2012.

       Inhibitors of Nitric Oxide Synthase Induce Larval Settlement and Metamorphosis of the

       Polychaete Annelid Capitella teleta. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 56:1-13.


Laufer, H., X. Pan, W.J. Biggers, C.P. Capulong, J.D. Stuart, N. Demir, and U. Koehn. 2005. 

     Lessons learned from inshore and deep-sea lobsters concerning alkylphenols. Invertebrate  

     Reproduction and Development 48: 109-117.


Laufer, H., N. Demir, and W.J. Biggers. 2005. The lobster's response to the effects of shell

     disease. Journal of Shellfish Research 24: 757-760.


Biggers, W.J. and H. Laufer. 2004. Identification of juvenile hormone-active alkylphenols in the

      lobster Homarus americanus and in marine sediments. Biological Bulletin 206: 13-24.


Laufer, H. and W.J. Biggers. 2001. Unifying Concepts Learned from Methyl Farnesoate for   

      Invertebrate Reproduction and Post-Embryonic Development. Amer. Zool. 41: 442-457. 

Biggers, W.J. and H. Laufer. 1999. Settlement and metamorphosis of Capitella larvae induced

           by juvenile hormone-active compounds is mediated by protein kinase C and ion channels. 

           Biological Bulletin 196: 187-198.


Biggers, W.J. and H. Laufer. 1996. Detection of juvenile hormone-active compounds by                 

          larvae of the marine annelid Capitella sp. I. Arch. Insect Biochem.Phys.32: 475- 484.

Biggers, W.J. and H. Laufer. 1992. Chemical induction of settlement and metamorphosis of 

         Capitella capitata sp. I (Polychaeta) larvae by juvenile hormone-active compounds.

         Invert. Reprod. Dev. 22: 39-46.


Laufer, H. and W.J. Biggers. 1992. Juvenile hormone-like compounds in Crustacea and their 

         implications for receptor evolution. In: Recent Advances in Cellular and Molecular

         Biology, Vol. 4, R. Wegmann and M. Wegmann, Eds., Peeters Press, Leuven, Belgium,

         pp. 301-311.