Dr. TJ Boyle addresses the Big Country Master Naturalists

Dr. T. J. Boyle

Dr. T. J. Boyle addresses the members of the Big Country Master Naturalist association.

Dr. TJ Boyle gave a presentation to the Big Country Master Naturalists on Thursday Jan. 15th.  His presentation was titled ”Rhithropanopeus harrisii in Texas, a tale of local adaptation and invasion success”.  R. harrisii is an estuarine crab that is native to the east coast of North America from Canada to Mexico.  The species was first documented in Possum Kingdom reservoir in the summer of 1997 but has since spread to a total of 10 lakes here in Texas.  Dr. Boyle has spent the last 12 years studying all aspects of the biology of this crab and its impacts on our reservoirs.

Key points in his talk from Thursday were:

The inland crab populations are capable of reproducing at a salinity below 2 ppt (which is the recorded lower limit found in previous studies), thus allowing this species to continue to continue to spread from lake to lake.

The inland crab populations likely had this adaptation in their native population due to increased competition with other native species in the estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico.  The ability to continue to reproduce at lower salinity levels predisposed this particular species for introduction into freshwater bodies.

The inland populations appear to be replacing native crayfish species by out-competing them for shelter.  Lake fish have seemingly transitioned from feeding on crayfish to feeding on the crab species.  The crabs do not appear to be adversely affecting the local bivalve population, but this is an area that Dr. Boyle plans on studying further.

Lastly, he showed that based on his research, this species was most likely spreading in its larval stage through the transport of waters with the larvae in it.

It was a great experience for Dr. Boyle who thoroughly enjoyed giving the talk and the corresponding Q&A with the members of the Big Country Master Naturalists.  The Master Naturalist program represents a partnering between the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and 370 local partners that work together to instruct local individuals in the biology of Texas and give them the resources to pass on that knowledge.

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Firebase Libby–a dream come true

Rev. Bill Libby

Rev. Bill Libby signs the deed to Firebase Libby, which will be used as a field research station by the Biology Department.

Rev. Bill Libby, long time supporter of McMurry University and its students, made some dreams come true today by donating Firebase Libby for use as a field research station by the Biology Department.

Firebase Libby will provide a venue where students and faculty can monitor ecological and physical conditions in an undeveloped setting, resulting in longitudinal datasets that may reveal noteworthy patterns. Firebase Libby will join a network of institutional field stations, state parks and wildlife management areas, and NGO conservation areas dedicated to studying the flora and fauna of the Cross Timbers and Rolling Plains regions.

McMurry students will benefit from the real world, hands-on experience of collecting this essential data, better equipping them for post-graduate opportunities. Already, Firebase Libby has provided 14 students with a study site for their research projects, including 3 projects that were presented at regional scientific meetings. Rev. Libby’s generous donation will allow students to comprehensively monitor this small portion of the Texas prairie and apply the resulting recommendations across the Rolling Plains and Cross Timbers. It is our hope that future researchers and students will be familiar with the trees, birds, insects, and mammals on the property.

We wholeheartedly echo the words of Dr. Joel Brant, member of the Biology faculty, when he says,

“I am grateful to Rev. Libby for his permission to conduct research on his property. I am humbled by his generous donation of this property to McMurry so that our research may continue in perpetuity. I am proud to know and call friend this man of God. Finally, I am eager to share this property with my students, colleagues, and friends at McMurry.”

(story contributed by Drs. Joel Brant and A. T. Wyatt)

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