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