bill henley

Dr. William Henley


Dept. of Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution

422 Physical Sciences, Stillwater, OK 74078-3013, USA

View my video on Blue-Green Algae here




BIOL 1114 Introductory Biology, every fall.
Introduction to the integration between structure and function among all levels of biological organization.  Application of principles of evolution, genetics, physiology and ecology to understanding the integrated and interdependent nature of living systems through disscussions emphasizing the process of science.  Current issues and local research and observation and investigation in both lecture and lab.

PBIO 3253 Environment and Society, every spring.
This is an environmental issues course primarily for nonmajors; we cover topics such as global climate change, biodiversity, air and water pollution, solid waste, energy issues, resource depletion, environmental economics and politics, etc. Uses the WebCT interface. Prerequisite: BIOL 1114 or equivalent.

PBIO 2890 Biology of Biofuels (Honors add-on for BIOL 1114, BIOL 3034 and PBIO 1404), every semester. 
The world is at a crossroads with increasing demand for energy to run the global economy.  With most energy still derived from fossil fuels, energy use remains an environmental liability and a national security concern.  Biofuels are one potential alternative.  What are the environmental implications of fossil fuels vs. biofuels?  What are the physiological, ecological and technological barriers to achieving economically viable and environmentally benign biofuels?  In discussing these topics, we will integrate biological concepts spanning cellular, organismal and ecological levels of biology.


My core interests are in the area of algal stress physiology and algal biofuels.

Current research focuses on the project Continuous Cultures of Algae: Basic Research Toward Biofuels funded by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). We are exposing pure and mixed cultures of salt tolerant green algae, diatoms and cyanobacteria to variable temperature, salinity, and nutrients to test the hypotheses that mixtures of the algal classes will maintain higher biomass, productivity and yields of neutral lipids (the direct feedstock for biodiesel) compared to monocultures. Longer term goals include (1) design of process control mechanisms and algorithms based on an empirical understanding of community dynamics and algal physiology derived from this project, and (2) scale-up to outdoor mesocosms.

Recent past research focused on the phylogeny and physiological ecology of broadly halotolerant algae and cyanobacteria from the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Cherokee in northwestern Oklahoma. This work comprised two NSF-funded projects:

Collaborative Research: Salt Plains Microbial Observatory(MCB-0132097).

LExEn: Response of photosynthetic microbes of the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge to dynamic extreme conditions (MCB-9978203).

Current research directions and possible thesis/dissertation topics include:

Growing algae for biofuels: optimizing growth and yield conditions, comparing productivity/yields and/or stablility of pure single isolates vs. communities of mixed genetic strains (addresses fundamental ecological concepts)

Global phylogeography of the halophilic alga Dunaliella (addresses fundamental ecological concepts)

Demonstrating and characterizing obligate or facultative interactions between (halophilic) algae/cyanobacteria and heterotrophic bacteria/archaea (addresses fundamental ecological concepts)

Characterization of putatively primitive isolates of cyanobacteria from the Great Salt Plains: morphology, physiology and molecular genetics

Physiological ecology of aquatic plants and algae/phytoplankton in local lakes and the the Great Salt Plains

I am interested in mentoring M.S. and Ph.D. students in any of the above (or closely related) areas.


Recent Publications

Henley, W.J. 2019.  The past, present and future of algal continuous cultures in basic research and commercial applications. Algal Research (in press). (page proofs)

Henley, W.J.,  M. Cobbs,  L. Novoveská &  M.A. Buchheim. 2018.  Phylogenetic analysis of Dunaliella (Chlorophyta) emphasizing new benthic and supralittoral isolates from Great Salt Lake. J. Phycol. 54: 483-493.

Novoveská, L., D.T. Franks, T.A. Wulfers & W.J. Henley. 2016.  Stabilizing continuous poly-cultures of microalgae.  Algal Research 13:126-133.

Novoveská, L. & W.J. Henley. 2014. Lab-scale testing of a two-stage continuous culture system for microalgae. Indust. Biotechnol. 10:228-236.

Henley, W.J., R.W. Litaker, L. Novoveská, C.S. Duke, H.D. Quemada and R.T. Sayre. 2012. Initial risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) algae for commodity-scale biofuel cultivation. Algal Research 2:66-77. (Also see this related editorial:

Buchheim, M.A., A.E. Kirkwood, J.A. Buchheim, B. Verghese and W.J. Henley. 2010. Hypersaline soil supports a diverse community of Dunaliella(Chlorophyceae). J. Phycol. 46:1038-1047.

Kirkwood, A.E., J.A. Buchheim, M.A. Buchheim and W.J. Henley. 2008. Cyanobacterial diversity and halotolerance in a variable hypersaline environment. Microb. Ecol.55:453-465.

Henley, W.J., J. Milner, J. Kvíderová, A.E. Kirkwood and A.T. Potter. 2007. Life in variable salinity: algae of the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma, U.S.A. In: J. Sekbach [ed.] Algae and Cyanobacteria in Extreme Environments, pp. 683-694. Springer, Berlin.

Kirkwood, A.E. and W. J. Henley. 2006. Algal community dynamics and halotolerance in a terrestrial, hypersaline environment. J. Phycol. 42:537-547.

Potter, A.T., M.W. Palmer and W.J. Henley. 2006. Diatom genus diversity and assemblage structure in relation to salinity at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. Amer. Midl. Nat. 156:65-74.

Kvíderová, J. and W.J. Henley. 2005. The effect of ampicillin plus streptomycin on growth and photosynthesis of two halotolerant chlorophyte algae.J. Appl. Phycol. 17:301-307.

Major, K.M., A.E. Kirkwood, C.S. Major, J.W. McCreadie and W. J. Henley. 2005. In situ studies of algal biomass in relation to physicochemical characteristics of the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma, USA. Saline Systems 1:11.