A Peru State College biology professor is being awarded a large National Science Foundation grant to find and document new species in a Texas wildlife area.
Dr. Michael Barger has won the $267,000 grant to continue his research in the Big Thicket National Preserve in southeast Texas.
“We’ll be going down there with students in tow and getting wet in the streams and the lakes and the ponds and collecting fish and then examining those fish for the parasites inside them,” Barger says. “Then, describing new species to science and publishing our results.”
The preserve consists of a several hundred-thousand acres in an area extending from the Natchez River to near Houston. It’s traditionally been used for oil exploration and timber farming.
Dr. Barger says there are 95 species of fish that make their home in the waters of the preserve, along with hundreds of species of parasites that utilize the fish as habitat. He says there are two primary goals to the research that will be funded by the grant.
“The first is simply to try to find everything that occurs there,” he says. “There are a lot of species of parasites that have never been found by scientists. One of our goals is to try to find those that may be new to science and make them known to science.”
The second goal, he says, is more conservation oriented:
“We’re going to be using the fish and the parasites in comparisons between places protected by the preserve and places that are outside the preserve,” he says, “to see how good a job, essentially, the preserve is doing in protecting those ecosystems and the organisms that depend on them.”
The National Science Foundation grant will fund yearlong stipends for at least two Peru State students a year to participate in the research. The grant runs for three years, through 2016.
Peru State faculty members have received more than one-million dollars in National Science Foundation grants in the past 17 years.
By Matthew Leaf, KTNC, Falls City