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UT Tyler Biology Department to investigate painted crayfish

TYLER, March 17, 2014— The University of Texas at Tyler biology department has been awarded more than $25,000 through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant Program to study a threatened species of crayfish, Dr. Michael Odell, vice president for research and technology transfer, announced.

UT Tyler research team members are Dr. Lance Williams, associate professor; Dr. Josh Banta, assistant professor; and Marsha Williams, research associate.

The team will work with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in collaboration with the USFWS, to develop conservation efforts for the Kisatchie Painted Crayfish, which makes its home in Red River tributaries in Northeast Texas and central Louisiana. Biologists have recently discovered a population decline in Louisiana.

“With this study, we want to create an ecological niche model, using existing historic collection sites, to refine the known distribution of the Kisatchie Painted Crayfish in Texas. The crayfish is being considered for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act, but little is known about its distribution and ecology,” said Lance Williams, whose research expertise is in aquatic ecology. “We also want to identify the environmental variables that are important for the conservation of the species in Texas.”

This crayfish species is threatened by the possible conversion of surrounding forests into agricultural land, he added.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service State Wildlife Grant Program allows systematic intensive study or focused investigation that answers specific management questions and contributes to the scientific foundation of wildlife ecology or management.

Its objectives are primarily designed to yield practical results, improve a specific conservation aspect or practice or solve identified management problems.

Serving UT Tyler since 2007, Lance Williams’ research has focused on understanding how different land use practices influence the functional ecology of headwater streams in the eastern United States.

Banta is an integrative biologist who studies the causes and consequences of variation in nature, using approaches ranging from genomics and bioinformatics to community ecology and evolutionary biology. He has served UT Tyler since 2011.

Marsha Williams is a fluvial geomorphologist and Geographic Information System specialist at UT Tyler. 

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