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Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

Texas A&M professor seeks to balance Florida Key mammals, human presence

By Brooke Barker

September 17, 2006 | Sandy beaches, hibiscus plants and dark tans -- some things Cache Valley doesn't have to offer its residents and tourists. The Florida Keys can, however, as many people have come to find out in recently.

Dr. Nova Silvy, a professor in the department of wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University, spoke to about 40 students on the Florida Keys for the Ecology Seminar Series on Thursday.

He talked about the effect the human population has on the animals that live on the string of nearly 1,700 islands. More than 79,500 people now call the Keys home.

The Key Largo woodrat, Lower Keys marsh rabbit, Key deer and silver rice rat have all been placed on the endangered species list since 1967 -- and traditionally live on 12 to 15 islands in the Keys. Silvy and several of his graduate students have been involved in coming up with ideas to protect the species and track their breeding and movement patterns across the islands.

Silvy has also been involved with trying to form a solution to urbanization by working with engineers for road development on Big Pine Key, which is one of the islands where most of the endangered animals call home.

"It's a conflict between the residents and landowners, government agencies and environmental groups," said Silvy. Habitat Conservation Planning began in 1998 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stepped in to determine the amount of future development and road improvements on Big Pine Key that would be allowed. 150 to 300 homes will receive building permits in the next 20 years, depending on the impact they will have on the ecosystems in the Keys.

"If you take a Key deer out of the Keys and try to move him somewhere else, he 's no longer a Key deer," said Silvy of the small deer that is known for its juvenile characteristics. "They just look cuter than other deer."

Silvy has been studying the endangered mammals in the Keys since 1967, when he finished his master's at Kansas State University. He was chosen to participate in the Ecology Seminar Series after different professors and students were asked to pick choice lecturers.

"I guess I was just lucky to get to go first," said Silvy. He says many of his former students have come to USU to finish up higher degrees and he has met many of the professors who teach here at different conventions.

The next ecology seminar speaker will be Jonathan Chase, an associate professor of biology at Washington University on Oct. 18-19.

More information can be found at: www.usu.edu/ecology/seminar-speakers/NEWseminar_speakers.htm.

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