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November 28, 2007

Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
News and Information
The University of Texas at Tyler

UT Tyler Professor to Investigate Reptile, Amphibian Populations


Dr. Neil Ford, professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, has been awarded a research grant to examine reptile and amphibian populations in bottomland hardwood forests near the Sabine River, Dr. Alisa White, UT Tyler College of Arts and Sciences interim dean, announced.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department awarded the $24,611 contract.

Ford, the principal investigator, will study how flood reductions which occurred over the past two years at the Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area have affected the diversity and abundance of the amphibians and reptile populations there. UT Tyler graduate students David Kimberly of Little Hocking, Ohio and Jake Pruitt of Murfeesburo, Tenn. and undergraduate student Chevaun McCray of Chula Vista, Calif. will assist Ford.

Ford weighing a snakeAt left, Ford works out in the field weighing a snake. Below, McCray assists Ford with research in the field.

The OSBWMA is a 5,727-acre bottomland hardwood forest in Smith County and one of the largest bottomland forest remaining in East Texas. According to Ford, it is characterized by periodic flooding from two reservoirs upstream. Normal flood patterns occurred from 1998 through 2000.

“In 2005 and 2006, flooding of the management area was severely reduced because of drought conditions and the lower releases of water from Lake Tawakoni and Lake Fork,” said Ford. “A comparison of the herpetofauna currently present should give insight into how the lack of flooding has impacted the species of this wetland. This study will specifically indicate which amphibians and reptiles have declined or disappeared and which have increased in number.”

Understanding how individual species of amphibians and reptiles respond to different levels of flooding will help determine how wildlife in bottomland forests, such as the OSBWMA, will be changed due to the impact of reduced yearly flood regimes, according to Ford.

McCray working in field
“The survival of these habitats is influenced by the variable flooding patterns related to the timing of water release from Lake Fork and Lake Tawakoni,” he said.

“The nature of temporary pools and streams is a natural part of the bottomland forest. Understanding how the animals at the OSBWMA change in response to reduced flooding is also important to understanding how management practices might help species dependent on habitats created by floods.”  

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

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