Dr. M. Chris Barnhart



Role: Staff
Campus: Springfield

Postal mail

Missouri State University
901 S. National Ave.
Springfield, MO 65897


Dr. Chris Barnhart, distinguished professor of biology, studies a group of animals that have a low profile - they live buried in the bottom of rivers.

His interest in freshwater mussels dates back to childhood experiences in midwestern rivers, and takes him to the wilds of Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as Europe, China and New Zealand. Barnhart enjoys learning and teaching at all levels. As volunteer curator of the Roston Native Butterfly House in the Springfield Botanical Center, he promotes nature awareness and urban ecology. His public speaking topics include Freshwater Conservation (Sacrificial Clams - the Conservation Significance of Freshwater Mollusks), Parasitology (Who’s Eating Who, and Why Does It Matter?), Invasive Species (World of Weeds - the Homogenization of Nature), Pollination (Special Delivery: the Beauty of Plant-Pollinator Relationships) and Butterflies (Touched by Butterflies: Opportunities for Ecological Education).



  • PhD, Biology, 1984, University of California, Los Angeles
  • MA, Biology, 1978, University of Kansas
  • BS, Zoology, 1976, Iowa State University

Research and professional interests

My research interests include the physiological ecology of animals, particularly in freshwater. Current projects focus on the conservation biology and captive propagation of freshwater bivalves, and the effects of hypoxia on aquatic organisms.

Awards and honors

  • Outreach and Education External Partnership Award, 2017, Missouri Department of Conservation
  • Gift of Time Nominee, 2017, City of Springfield/Springfield Council of Churches
  • Faculty Excellence in Research Award, 2016, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, Missouri State University
  • Faculty Excellence in Community Service Award, 2016, Missouri State University
  • Special Recognition, 2016, Friends of the Gardens, Springfield, MO
  • Board of Governors Faculty Excellence in Public Affairs Award, 2015, Missouri State University
  • Faculty Excellence in Service Award, 2015, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, 
  • Faculty Excellence in Research Award, 2012, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, 
  • Outstanding Faculty Research Director's Award, 2012, Honors College, Missouri State University
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011, Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society
  • Collaborator of the Year Award, 2010, Missouri Department of Conservation
  • Conservation Champion Appreciation Award, 2009, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Additional resources

Area of expertise

Science Animals Conservation

Media appearances

Fearsome-looking hickory horned devil transforms into regal beauty
Springfield News-Leader
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart talks about hickory horned devils and Regal moths.

California Floater Mussels Take Fish for an Epic Joyride
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart talks about reintroducing the California floater mussel to Mountain Lake.

Effort Continues to Learn More about the Migration of Monarch Butterflies
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart explains about monarchs.

Mussels in MSU Lab to Provide Clean Waters in New Zealand
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart explains about the project.

Will Missouri American Reservoir Affect Shoal Creek?
The Joplin Globe
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart explains why the reservoir plan could present environmental challenges.

How Mussels Fool Fish Into Carrying Their Parasitic Babies National Geographic online
National Geographic
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart sheds light on glochidia.

Volunteerism in the Ozarks: Roston Native Butterfly House
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart talks about volunteering in the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House at Nathanael Greene Park.

Why Do Some Animals Live Life in the Slow Lane?
National Geographic
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart explains the speed of animals.

Slugs and Bugs: 6 Bizarre Animal Mascots in U.S. Sports
National Geographic
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart talks about Banana slugs.

Mussels Most Endangered Group of Animals in Country
The Joplin Globe
Biologist Dr. Chris Barnhart addresses dwindling mussels population.


Mussel research provides conservation insights Native butterfly species thrive in local butterfly house Dr. Chris Barnhart discusses biology careers, research Moms in the wild: Biologists share maternal instincts of animal kingdom