The WildLife: The Dark Side of New Species Discovery, Bryan Stuart

Bryan Stuart, curator of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, talks about the dark side of the discovery of new species. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about his experience following his scientific discovery in Laos of a warty salamander (Paramesotriton laoensis) with striking markings. Shortly after describing the previously unknown species in a scientific paper published in 2002, commercial dealers began collecting the salamanders for sale into the pet trade. Particularly galling to Bryan was the fact that they used his geographic description as a roadmap to find the rare newt. This situation is not unique. It’s also happened with a turtle (Chelodina mccordi) from the small Indonesian island of Roti, which so heavily hunted that today it is nearly extinct in the wild. Similarly, a rare gecko (Goniurosaurus luii) from southeastern China was extirpated from its locality as prices in importing countries soared to highs of $1,500 to $2,000 each. It’s a dual dilemma. On the one hand, publishing new species descriptions may inadvertently facilitate their extinctions for commercially valuable species, yet on the other, the conservation benefits of describing the new species can outweigh this potential risk. Bryan recommends that taxonomists work closely with relevant governmental agencies to coordinate publication of the description with legislation or management plans that thwart overexploitation of the new species. In fact, Bryan and his students have worked tirelessly in this regard and, in August 2008, Laos’ Department of Forestry protected this salamander from commercial trade. Now the remaining question is enforcement. Note: Laurel first met Bryan while researching a wildlife trafficking case for ABC News Nightline that involved the illegal import of hundreds of these rare salamanders that were dried and destined for traditional medicine.

Bryan Stuart is curator of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. He received his Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in biology from Cornell University, a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in zoology from North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Illinois. He also held a post-doctoral appointment at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, before returning to Raleigh to join the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in September 2008. His research interests are in the biodiversity, systematics, biogeography and conservation of amphibians and reptiles. Much of his research has focused on amphibians and reptiles of the Old World tropics, especially Southeast Asia, where he has maintained an active field program for the past decade. He has particular interest in using molecular tools to define species boundaries and unravel their evolutionary histories. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on March 14, 2011.


The WildLife: Wildlife Biologist Adventures, Susan Jewell

Wildlife biologist Susan Jewell shares her adventures studying wildlife throughout the East Coast. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about her trials and tribulations as she rehabilitated owls, cared for rattlesnakes, chased an escaped coyote, tracked the elusive bobcat, investigated the habits of wood storks and slogged after alligators. She’s a modern day “Indiana Jane” of the wild world who has researched wildlife from Maine to Florida by motorboat, airboat, canoe, airplane, helicopter, tree climbing, scuba diving, and muddy feet. She has worked for the National Audubon Society, the National Park Service, and others. Since 1992, she has been a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In her spare time, she is a freelance writer on wildlife and environmental issues.  Her books include Exploring Wild South Florida:  A Guide To Finding the Natural Areas and Wildlife of the Southern Peninsula and Florida Keys, Exploring Wild Central Florida: A Guide to Finding the Natural Areas and Wildlife of the Central Peninsula and her most recent, Gators, Gourdheads and Pufflings: A Biologist Slogs, Climbs and Wings her Way to Save Wildlife. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on February 1, 2010 and was rebroadcast on February 21, 2011.


The WildLife: Detection Dogs for Wildlife Conservation, Megan Parker

Megan Parker, Executive Director and co-founder of Working Dogs for Conservation, talks about using detection dogs for wildlife conservation. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how she trains dogs to detect wildlife samples, including plants, animals, seeds and scat. The dogs are often able to uncover what wildlife biologists can’t easily see or find, and they do so more efficiently and in a non-intrusive way—that is, without the baiting, luring, trapping, handling or radio-collaring the animals. The dogs at Working Dogs for Conservation have sniffed out dwindling populations of cheetahs in Kenya, helped with population surveys of endangered snow leopards in eastern Russia and uncovered invasive cannibal snails in Hawaii.

Megan Parker grew up in Montana, where she began training dogs when she was just 10 years old. She received her B.A. from Middlebury College in Vermont and her M.S. from Boise State University in raptor ecology, studying falcons in Guatemala. She has worked as a biologist in many states in the U.S., Canada, Central America, Asia and Africa. Her Ph.D. at the University of Montana focused on researching scent marking behavior and chemistry for conservation of African wild dogs in northern Botswana. Beginning in 1996, Megan started exploring the wider potential for dogs in non-intrusive wildlife research. Her idea of training dogs to find scat of specific species in the wild coincided with the increasing capacity of biologists in the mid-1990s to extract viable DNA samples from tissue particles contained in animal scat. She is particularly interested in the international application of working dogs in conservation to help developing countries and under funded projects acquire excellent samples and reduce costs. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 3, 2010.


The WildLife: Illegal Reptile Trade, Bryan Christy

Bryan Christy, author of The Lizard King, talks about the illicit reptile trade and his adventures researching this underworld. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the massive challenges in stopping the trade and also what it’s like to have a monkey (literally!) on your back. Bryan Christy is an investigative journalist and author.  He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Cornell, the University of Michigan Law School and was a Fulbright Scholar to the University of Tokyo Law School. His most recent story, The Kingpin, profiled illegal wildlife trader Anson Wong for the January 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Before becoming a journalist, Bryan was a lawyer in Washington, DC specializing in international trade law and policy.  He worked on such issues as US-Japan Supercomputer negotiations, Norwegian Whaling, and sales of lightwater nuclear reactors to North Korea.  He also worked in the Executive Office of the President. Mr. Christy is the author of The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers. In researching that book, he was bitten between the eyes by a blood python, chased by a mother alligator, sprayed by a bird-eating tarantula, and ejaculated on by a Bengal tiger. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 26, 2010.

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