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Dr. Brian Smith


Phone: 605-642-6879


Dr. Brian Smith is a Professor of Biology at BHSU. Dr. Smith earned his MS at Louisiana State University where he studied reptiles and amphibians of the Philippines. He earned his PhD at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he worked on Central American snakes. Dr. Smith’s current area of research is focused on the conservation biology of reptiles and amphibians including the Black Hills red belly snake and horned lizards of South Dakota. Future research plans are to continue his conservation biology research, and expand upon his earlier work on the composition of rattlesnake venom and addressing questions related to the immunology of rattlesnakes. In his spare time Dr. Smith likes to read, and is an amateur astronomer. Fun Fact - Dr. Smith can sometimes be found playing guitar live in local establishments.

Dr. John Dixson


Phone: 605-642-6284


Dr. John Dixson is a Professor of Chemistry in BHSU’s School of Natural Sciences. Dr. Dixson received his PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Iowa. He did a post-doctoral fellowship at SUNY Buffalo in Organic Chemistry. Dr. Dixson’s research involves synthesizing and testing small molecules to solve complex biological problems. Most recently he and his student researchers have been making and testing compounds to inhibit the growth and reproduction of microbes such as the malaria pathogen, bacteria like MRSA, and pathogenic fungi. Dr. Dixson says that working with students as they learn to apply their chemistry skills to solve real-world problems is the most fun part of his job. Outside of work, Dr. Dixson enjoys working on his farm in Newell, and fishing.

Dr. Dave Bergmann


Phone: 605-642-6465


Dr. Dave Bergmann is a Biology Professor at Black Hills State University. He completed his Bachelors of Science in Biology at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota and his Masters in Biological Science at The University of Missouri-Columbia. Dr. Bergmann then went on and completed his Ph.D. in Entomology at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota and received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from The University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Bergmann’s recent research focuses on the microbial diversity of deep underground habitats and caves. Through bioprospecting, Dr. Bergmann actively seeks out microbial isolates that are potential antibiotic producers in deep underground microbial biofilms. Another project focuses on the microbial colonization of fish eggs in hatcheries, and the effects it has on the survival of fish eggs. Dr. Bergmann enjoys sketching, watercolor painting in his free time.

Dr. Amy Asunskis


Phone: 605-718-4365


Dr. Katrina Jensen

Associate Professor

Phone: 605-642-6247


Dr. Katrina Jensen is a South Dakota BRIN Faculty Research Mentor. Dr. Jensen received her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from Black Hills State University and her PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Utah. Dr. Jensen completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is now active in promoting Women in Science event and activities at Black Hills State University. Dr. Jensen does research in the development of photoredox catalysts that can be used in organic synthesis. She wants to eventually use these photoredox catalysts developed in CCBR to synthesize organic molecules with biological activity. In Dr. Jensen’s free time, she enjoys running, hiking, camping, gardening, and spending time with family.

Dr. Daniel Asunskis

Chair of the School of Natural Sciences

Phone: 605-642-6516


Dr. Dan Asunskis is the Chair of the School of Natural Sciences, and a BRIN Undergraduate Student Mentor. He completed his Bachelors of Science in Chemistry at Truman State University, which is a small Liberal Arts University in Northern Missouri in 1999. He then completed his Ph.D. in Materials Chemistry at Kansas State University in 2004. Dr. Asunksis started as an Assistant Professor at BHSU in 2010 and was awarded the 2012-2013 Outstanding Teacher Award for the College of Business and Natural Sciences. Later he was given the Student Service Award in 2013 and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure in August of 2016. His research focus is on nanomaterial synthesis but he has projects using these materials in solar cells, as bio labels for imaging, and testing for their toxicity at the cellular level. His hobbies include reading sci-fi books and playing online video games with his wife and kids.


Director of CCBR
Black Hills State University
Life Science Laboratory 113
1200 University Ave,Unit #9053
Spearfish, SD 57799

Shane Sarver

Dr. Shane Sarver

CCBR Scientific Director

Phone: 605-642-6058


Dr. Shane Sarver is the director of CCBR. He earned his PhD from Louisiana State University and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Miami and the University South Carolina. Dr. Sarver has worked at Black Hills State University since 1996. Dr. Sarver has current research projects on bear conservation genetics and a continuing research interest in bison genetics and conservation. Dr. Sarver has a new research interest in the biodiversity of organisms from habitats in the Sanford Underground Research Facility. During his free time, Shane enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors. Dr. Sarver loves music and can play a bit of blues on the guitar.

Dr. Cynthia Anderson

CCBR Associate Director

Phone: 605-642-6519


Dr. Cynthia Anderson is CCBR’s associate director. Cynthia earned her PhD in plant pathology, with an emphasis on molecular genetics of host-pathogen interactions, from Montana State University, Bozeman. She has been teaching at Black Hills State University since 2000. Most recently, she has been collaborating with medicinal chemist Dr. John Dixon who synthesizes novel compounds to test for antimicrobial activity. Dr. Anderson’s lab tests his compounds against fungi that cause diseases such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, as well as pathogenic yeasts. With a couple of successful compounds identified, her lab has been using molecular genetic techniques to understand how the fungi alter their gene expression patterns. Outside of work, Cynthia spends her time hiking in the Black Hills, and she enjoys learning to fly-fish with her husband.

Oxana Gorbatenko

Research Associate

Phone: 605-642-6854


Oxana Gorbatenko is as a Researcher II in the CCBR. She earned her bachelor’s degree in both biology and chemistry back home in Ukraine, and earned a Master of Science degree in Integrative Genomics in 2018 from Black Hills State University. Oxana assists graduate and undergraduate students with technical aspects of their research projects, and provides research services and lab management to support faculty research endeavors. In her own research, her main focus is on the genetics of dermatophytic fungi. During her time away from work, Oxana enjoys travelling with her family and being outdoors. Oxana is fluent in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English.

Bethany Reman

Research Assistant


Bethany Reman is a research assistant at CCBR. She received her bachelor’s of science in biology along with a minor in chemistry from Black Hills State University. Bethany’s research interests include invertebrates, especially the microscopic variety. Her current research has taken her a mile below the surface at Sanford Underground Research Facility to investigate environmental biofilms. Outside of the lab Bethany enjoys honing her home renovation skills, frolicking in nature, and finding ways to entertain her dog. She has recently decided to use her knowledge of biology to become a novice gardener. Fun fact: at the age of 8, she won reserve grand champion at the Oregon state fair for her 3-ingredient cookies.

Dr. Justin Ramsey

Assistant Professor

Phone: 605-642-6193


Dr. Justin Ramsey is assistant professor of plant biology and curator of the BHSU herbarium. Justin completed his PhD in Botany at the University of Washington (Seattle) and was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada). He served on the biology faculty at the University of Rochester before moving to BHSU in 2014. Justin’s research focuses on ecological adaptation and systematics of North American yarrows (Achillea millefolium aggregate), a polyploid complex that inhabits diverse climatic and soil environments; he also collaborates with Tara Ramsey on studies of polyploidy in ivies and directs conservation-focused projects on forest and grassland habitats. Justin teaches intro and upper-level plant biology courses at BHSU and, outside of work, enjoys dog sports with Hiesey the border collie.

Dr. Tara Ramsey

Research Associate & Adjunct Instructor


Dr. Tara Ramsey is research associate and adjunct instructor of biology at BHSU. Tara completed her graduate studies in Botany at Miami University of Ohio (MSc) and the University of Washington (PhD). Tara’s research is focused on the invasion biology and taxonomy of ivy (Hedera spp., Araliaceae), an ornamental vine that has become an aggressive weed in coastal North American forests; she also collaborates with Justin Ramsey in studies of ecological adaptation in wild yarrow. Tara coordinates Ramsey Lab educational outreach and conservation-related activities, including K-12 teacher workshops and an inventory of wild and cultivated trees on the BHSU campus. Tara teaches introductory and upper-level plant biology courses at BHSU. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with Siamese cats Clausen and Keck.

Center for the Conservation of Biological Resources