J.D. Willson, assistant professor of biological
sciences, has found a thriving field laboratory at the Woolsey Wet Prairie Sanctuary on the
outskirts of Fayetteville. He and his students are studying the effects of a restored prairie
wetland habitat. So this is basically using reptiles and amphibians
as indicators of environmental degradation or environmental health.
Willson and his students use traps to capture and study reptiles and amphibians in the sanctuary.
I kind of contribute it to fishing cause you never know what you’re going to get but there’s
always, there’s usually something pretty exciting inside.
Through a year or two of research that yes we have some of the rare prairie associate
species that most people think are gone from this region but they exist here, they responded
positively to the wetlands mitigation and the habitat management here. The question
is why. That question of “why” is what drives the
researchers to the sanctuary throughout the year to witness how aquatic wildlife is responding
to the restored habitat. I find field work to be the most important
teaching tool that I use both for graduate students and for undergraduates.
I love being out here and actually being able to put my hands to the science that I’ve learned
about. The goal of my research is to determine what kind of habitat use impacts crawfish
frog biology and how to better preserve our natural resources and the wildlife that use
them. Essentially we’d like to understand are these
wetland mitigation programs, are they benefitting certain species, are they helping reptile
amphibian communities at all. So far the answer is yes. The Graham’s crayfish
snake hadn’t been seen in north Arkansas in six decades until Willson’s team began trapping
and marking hundreds of them. We have increased populations of some individual
species often times just open habitat species like the Graham’s Crayfish Snake and the crawfish
frog, and so that’s ultimately what we want to see is that all this hard work that the
city’s put in is really benefiting