Templeton's acquaintance with the lizard began when he was 13. He was hiking with his Boy Scout troop near Mina Sauk Falls in the Ozarks when they happened upon a glade, and he saw his first collared lizard.
"I'd never seen anything like it in Missouri. It was big, it was colorful and it got up on its hind legs and took off running. I just fell in love with them." Later as a nature counselor at Camp Taum Sauk, he led kids on popular collared lizard hikes.
But then he went off to get his PhD in Michigan and to do research in Hawaii and at the University of Texas. After this sojourn, he returned to Washington University, where he is currently the Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences.
After he returned, Owen Sexton, PhD, a WUSTL ecologist who was studying the life history of collared lizards, told him he was having trouble finding his study subjects.
"I said I'd take him down to this area and show him all these collared lizard populations," Templeton says. "So I went down there and in glade after glade after glade that had collared lizards when I was a teenager, now they're not there. I was shocked and very concerned. So I started looking into it."
In 1982, after a rigorous survey of the Missouri glades, Templeton and his colleagues estimated that at least 75 percent of the lizard populations had gone extinct. In some areas of the Ozarks, the lizards had vanished entirely.
The red cedar lag
What had happened? The answer turned out to be firefighting,
"In the Ozarks, you really didn't have effective fire suppression until after World War II," Templeton says. "That's when all the fire towers and lookout towers went in, and the forest service began to fight wildfires." (Smokey the Bear, the forest service's mascot, dates from 1944.)
Glades no longer swept by fire were invaded by Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). "Before fire suppres
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Washington University in St. Louis