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June 15, 2010

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

UT Tyler Biology Professor Receives Research Grant to Study Turtles


Dr. John S. Placyk, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, has received a grant from the Chelonian Research Foundation to study turtles, Dr. Arlene Horne, vice president for research and federal relations, announced.

As primary investigator, Placyk will conduct a rangewide molecular phylogenetic study of the North American Box Turtle (Terrapene sp.).

“The evolutionary history of the group is not fully resolved, and I hope to shed light on that,” Placyk said. “Many of the species and subspecies included in this group are also of conservation concern, and better understanding their phylogenetics will assist conservationists in employing appropriate management strategies.”

UT Tyler graduate student Bradley Martin of Palestine and undergraduate Juan Galvan of Tyler are research assistants in the one-year project.

CRF logo

The Chelonian Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 for the production, publication and support of worldwide turtle and tortoise research, with an emphasis on the scientific basis of chelonian diversity and conservation biology.

According to Placyk, conservation efforts are underway, but data on evolutionary history and population genetics are lacking. The proposed research holds goals relating back to conservation efforts.

“This work will allow us to support or reject the current classification of this group and to possibly make recommendations on raising some subspecies to full species status.

“Our second objective is to examine the more fine-scale population genetics of Box Turtles to determine if specific populations have already declined and to decide which populations are in the greatest need of management,” Placyk added.

A UT Tyler faculty member since 2007, Placyk holds a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and a master of science in biology from Northern Michigan University.

During his tenure at UT Tyler, Placyk already has received research grants totaling about $143,000.

He serves as a UT System Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation faculty mentor at UT Tyler. The UT-LSAMP program is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation and provides undergraduate research experiences in an effort to increase the number of underrepresented students pursuing graduate level studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For more information about CRF, visit http://www.chelonian.org/.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 90 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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