The Role of the Florida Park Service-Florida Atlanta University "Parknership" Research Program in Wildlife Biology in Setting Endangered Species Conservation Policy

Article excerpt

The Florida Park Service District 5 "Parknership" Research Program is a multifaceted wildlife biology research collaboration. The program's objective is to provide wildlife biology research opportunities in District 5 (southeast Florida) state parks for graduate students, undergraduate students, and cooperating wildlife ecologists with Florida Atlantic University graduate degree programs, Florida Atlantic University's Wilkes Honors College, Palm Beach Community College, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, The State Museum of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA), the U.S. National Wildlife Research Center (Fort Collins, CO), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The program is based on the need for practical wildlife management research in parks, especially regarding endangered species, and synthesizes a unique mix of seven objectives and concepts:

1.) Managing endangered species to facilitate their recovery;

2.) Effective and efficacious control of exotic wildlife species to prevent their adverse impacts on native Florida wildlife, especially endangered species;

3.) Integrating scientific, political, and economic aspects of wildlife and endangered species management;

4.) The immense popularity of the "watchable wildlife" phenomenon throughout all Florida State Parks;

5.) The desire of university students, university faculty, and outside researchers to conduct this work in Florida's nationally-renowned state park system;

6.) The overall, guiding philosophical recognition that wildlife research conducted in parks should provide needed "management" information which can be implemented in parks, or provide other benefits to species (including economic evaluations of wildlife management practices for efficacy.);

7.) and, perhaps most importantly, agreement by researchers, including student researchers, that all work be completed in a timely fashion, and then submitted to a scientific journal so that the information is validated and shared with the academic community and other state and federal natural resource management agencies, for their use.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

With the enthusiastic support of the aforementioned collaborating "Parkners," especially the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, the program has produced an impressive number of peer-refereed publications co-authored by the colleagues in both journals and books. Endangered Species UPDATE has been very supportive of the program and several of these publications have recently appeared within its forum. Some of the high-profile federally and state listed endangered and threatened species addressed in the various journal papers, as well as unpublished theses, include the roseate tern (Sterna dougallii), snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), and the wood stork (Mycteria americana) as well as other listed wading birds; the Florida gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) with its suite of fire-adapted associate species; and sea turtles--especially conservation efforts to limit the effects of raccoon depredations of their nests. This writing and publication process has culminated in a hands-on educational experience for students working with multiple mentoring colleagues that synergistically extends well beyond the individual components of the park, classroom, internship, and thesis. For Florida Atlantic University, Palm Beach Community College, and Florida International University students alone, this has resulted in 18 co-authored undergraduate and graduate "Parknership" student publications.

In 2003, the Florida Park Service "Parknership" Research Program won the "Davis Productivity Award" from "Florida Tax Watch," the watchdog of citizens' hard-earned tax dollars, which recognizes state government employees whose work measurably increases productivity, improves government services, and saves taxpayer money. …