Deanna Byrnes: always on the move

Bonnie Alger

This article concludes The Lawrentian’s introduction to this year’s Fellows. We wish them the best of luck during the coming year.Lawrence fellow in biology Deanna Byrnes has a background that reads like the typical Lawrence student’s. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, Byrnes attended school in a building that housed all grades: kindergarten through 12th. The town where she grew up was unincorporated for a long time, and only had a population of about 190. “It had about two churches and 10 bars,” Byrnes laughs.
In order to pursue her interests in art and biology, Byrnes ventured to the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate degree. Not knowing what she wanted to do with either subject, she tried a major in architecture, figuring she could design “green” buildings and combine her interests in both areas. After taking calculus in her first semester, she decided to change majors and take more biology classes.
Byrnes transferred back to her home state to study at UW-Madison. She studied abroad in Costa Rica for a semester, and did an internship with a graduate student in Nevada for six weeks on the Himalayan snow cock.
Always on the go and unable to decide on what she really wanted, Byrnes transferred yet again to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where she ended up completing her bachelor’s degree six years after she’d started. She and her husband then moved back to Wisconsin. He wanted to go to graduate school for a master’s degree in urban planning, and she wanted to go back to school as well. Byrnes began graduate work at UW-Madison, entering the science education program through the zoology department. Throughout her time at Madison, she was part of a few different teaching programs. “I loved it,” she says. “I really enjoy teaching; [it was the] perfect fit for me.”
So what’s her connection to Lawrence? “[Music education professor] Brigetta Miller and I went to high school together,” says Byrnes. “We both sat in the front row in band, because she was first flute and I was first clarinet. We also were in “Hello, Dolly!” together. I was Mrs. Malloy, and I think she was Dolly.”
Byrnes has a dog of course, hers being a 5-year-old chocolate lab named Penny. She and biology professor Jodi Sedlock bring their dogs to work on a regular basis. Byrnes also claims outside inspirations for her continued motivation. “I was very much inspired by the Powerpuff Girls. They helped me get through grad school,” she says.
During this academic year, Byrnes will teach Principles of Biology and Terrestrial Field Ecology. She will also be designing a new course in Molecular Systematics.