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Biology department teaming up with state to protect non-game species

By Alec Jennings
University News Service
February 3, 2009

Mike Forstner

Mike Forstner

Participating in conjunction with five Texas universities and two Texas zoos, the Texas State University-San Marcos Department of Biology and its students are working to protect non-game wildlife throughout the state.

Using resources from a five-year, $200,000 per year grant by Texas Parks and Wildlife, biology students (graduate and undergraduate) alongside research faculty at Texas State study non-game species in the field to determine whether they can sustain commercial harvest or if they require further protection or regulation. Michael Forstner, professor of biology at Texas State, said that only two years ago, non-game animals were unprotected and could be harvested without limit. This posed a significant threat to the long-term health of the majority of the species.  

New rules put in place by the state with consultation and involvement from Texas State faculty now limit which species can be commercially harvested and continue to evaluate in a way that what commercial harvest does continue does not pose a long-term threat to the overall populations. More specifically, their recent work has examined turtle species which, prior to the new rules were nearly all legally taken for unlimited for-profit harvest both in the pet trade and for the Asian food market.

Apart from a knowledgeable faculty and student population, Forstner said Texas State's location and resources make it an institution well suited for this type of research.

"Texas has tremendous wildlife diversity," Forstner said. "Texas State sits right in the middle of that."

Future research will include a new collaborative study of the spot-tailed earless lizard, a species native to the area that has been rarely seen in recent years. Work will be centered upon determining how many of these creatures exist within the local environment. 

Forstner said that though many assumptions can be made regarding the overall health of the species given that they have been rarely seen as of late, the fact is that they simply don't have any data to make any responsible scientific conclusions. Students and researchers will work to assemble useful data that currently doesn't exist.

For more information about this subject, please contact the Texas State Department of Biology at (512) 245-2178.