Research activities have centered on both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Projects
have involved numerous investigators who have focused on many areas of science (e.g.
Wildlife Ecology, Conservation, Aquaculture, Physiological Ecology, Behavioral Ecology,
Reproductive Biology, Ecological Genetics, Biogeography, and Systematics).
Investigators have contributed regionally and nationally to the understanding and
solution of ecological issues. Regional contributions have included works that focus
on understanding the biodiversity of the area and the impact of proposed activities
on the quality of life within the area.
Examples include research in aquaculture (hormonal/environmental control of reproduction,
stress physiology, and water quality), assessments of rare and endangered plants and
animals at several sites, assessment of plants and vertebrate animals on a proposed
coal gasification site in southwestern Memphis, survey of significant biota within
the surroundings of a sewage treatment plant in Memphis, development of a checklist
for mammals, streams surveys at a national park in the region, and a survey of mammals
within the Cumberland River Drainage Basin of Tennessee.
Contributions at the national and international level are demonstrated by the publication
of work in prestigious scientific journals, such as Journal of Wildlife Management,
Wildlife Society Bulletin, Journal of Mammalogy, Ecology, Animal Behavior, Genetica,
Systematic Zoology, Journal of Parasitology, Copeia, Aquaculture, Transactions of
the American Fisheries Society, General and Comparative Endocrinology, Physiological
Zoology, Auk, Ethology, and Heredity. Additionally, information derived from these
works have been presented at scientific meetings in many different parts of the world
as well as discussed in numerous newspaper articles, magazines, and other popular
Ongoing research programs of the ERC can be divided into three main categories:
Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology, Physiological Ecology, and Theoretical
Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology. These programs draw from numerous faculty in
Biology and other departments.
The research objectives in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology are varied and
- understanding the role and impact of "mesopredators" (e.g., raccoons and opossums)
in their ecosystem and their impact on nesting northern bobwhites,
- improving management practices to provide more food resources for migratory waterfowl
- investigating the feasibility of restoring canebrake habitat, which was once a major
feature of the Mid-South landscape,
- evaluating the role of macrophyes in cycling of nutrients and contaminants in aquatic
- monitoring deer populations in collaboration with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources
Agency and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
- identification and distribution of mammalian biodiversity in Tennessee,
- understanding landscape-level effects on biodiversity, and
- evaluating the effects of urbanization on ecosystems..
Research in Physiological Ecology addresses numerous issues involving a variety of
organisms. Examples of such research efforts include:
- understanding the physiological effects of natural and anthropogenic factors (such
as flooding) on plant survival, productivity, and distribution,
- evaluating the effects of salt water intrusion on plant systems in the Gulf of Mexico,
- identifying the influences of environmental conditions on nest emergence in hatchling
turtles and embryological development in a variety of vertebrates,
- identifying environmental influences on digestive efficiency and feeding in snakes
- identification of the nature of behavioral and environmental cues used by birds to
time reproduction and how this is influenced by nutrient status,
- determining the role of environmental influences and hormones such as melatonin on
the regulation of seasonal cycles in mammals,
- determining factors that limit growth and reproduction of channel catfish in aquaculture,
- assessing the influence of predators on foraging and vigilance behavior of elk in
western national parks.
Ongoing studies in Theoretical Ecology Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology include
- the dynamics of mating strategies in small mammals,
- the role of hybridization in the survival of amphibians, and the response of bottomland
tree species to changes in flooding regimes,
- the impact of chromosomal integrity and ploidy on organisms and natural populations,
- the role of enzymes and blood proteins in the population dynamics of cotton boll weevils,
kangaroo rats, crayfish, fish and amphibian populations.
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