Researchers with the Biodiversity Research and Teaching Collection are conducting a biodiversity assessment at the East Wildlife Foundation located in South Texas. The Foundation operates on over 215,000 acres located in parts of Jim Hogg, Starr, Willacy and Kenedy Counties. As part of their mission, the East Wildlife Foundation seeks to document the biodiversity and native ecological conditions on South Texas rangelands. The primary scope of our research project is to document and distribute information on the terrestrial biodiversity of the South Texas Sand Sheet, which will serve the long-term research and teaching goals of the Foundation. These goals will be accomplished by intensive collecting and long-term surveys of birds, mammals, and amphibians and reptiles across the various Sand Sheet ecosystems. We will also help establish a reference collection on the Foundation properties that will benefit future researchers and educators and will be an invaluable source of information far into the future.
The East Foundation properties are uniquely situated to allow a thorough assessment of a broad variety of ecotypes, including the Wild Horse Desert, in what would be the first modern assessment of the distribution and habitat affinities of birds, mammals, and reptiles and amphibians. Scientific collecting of these animal groups will produce a research and teaching collection that will provide an integral platform on which the East Foundation can build and grow its mission.
Scientific collections form the basis for most of what we know about the natural world. These collections document diversity, its presence/absence in a given location, and the variation in that diversity across the landscape (from morphological/genetic variation in single species to comparative assessment of biodiversity across habitats and broader regions). By the manner in which modern specimens are preserved and the data associated with them taken, these collections also provide an important resource from which broader scientific questions can be addressed. These questions can include genetic variation, host-parasite interactions, and disease ecology in and between wildlife and domestic animal (e.g., livestock).
Collections from the South Texas Sand Sheet will serve several immediate and long-term research and teaching goals of the East Foundation. Of immediate utility will be the determination of species distributions within and across the various ecotypes of the region. This baseline data will serve as a reference for future management practices and research efforts. This collection, from a region with little information about vertebrate diversity and distributions, is a tremendous demonstration of partnering with private landowners to fulfill wildlife and biodiversity conservation objectives.