In a time when a five-year grant is considered a long-term grant, Alan R. Templeton, PhD, a professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has managed to follow some of the species he studies for 10, 20 or even 30 years.
Early in his career he studied parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, in fruit fly populations at a dump and in cactus patches in Hawaii.
"Drosophilia have fast generation times," he says, "but I studied them for 12 years. And because I followed them for 12 years, I saw patterns I wouldn't otherwise have seen. In fact, had I not stuck with it so long, I often would have made incorrect conclusions."
But the fruitfly study is a sprint compared to his lizard work, described in the cover story of the September 2011 issue of Ecology. The Ecology article covers more than 20 years of a 30-year followup monitoring the reintroduction of collared lizards on Ozark glades in 1984. (For the story in pictures, see the slideshow to the right.)
During this time, 1,662 lizards living on 139 glades on three mountains were captured or recaptured 4,545 times. The acknowledgements section of the paper thanks more than 20 people for their help in capturing lizards.
The major revelation of the work was that burning entire mountains and valleys, called landscape-level burning, undid ecological damage that was slowed but not stopped by smaller prescribed burns.
In fact, it allowed the lizards to undertake their own expanded restoration effort without the assistance of worried biologists.
Moreover, burning benefited many species besides the lizards, including a rare fen orchid and fen dragonfly, that were flying under the radar and would probably never have commanded labor intensive restoration efforts on their own.
In short, fire turned restoration from a time-consuming labor-intensive process to one that ran pretty much on its own.
|Contact: Diana Lutz|
Washington University in St. Louis