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UT Tyler Assistant Professor Awarded Funds to Examine Texas Gartersnake

September 27, 2012

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

Dr. John Placyk, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, was awarded nearly $25,000 from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to help in the Texas Gartersnake conservation efforts, Dr. Michael Odell, associate vice president for sponsored research and director of federal relations, announced.

With the award, Placyk will collaborate with the department to provide natural history, distribution, taxonomy and population biology data for the species, which has been recently listed as imperiled.

“The Texas gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis annectens) was described in the 1950s as one of the 11 currently recognized subspecies of the common gartersnake (T. sirtalis) based solely on morphological data,” Placyk said. “Since its initial description, its behavior, ecology and systematics have not been examined, and it remains one of the more enigmatic of the subspecies. It was given a conservation rank of S2 [imperiled] in the state of Texas, and those that are familiar with it have suggested that its numbers are dwindling. If conservation managers are to make any attempt at conserving this species in the future, baseline data on its distribution, taxonomy and population biology is needed.”

He will incorporate UT Tyler student research within his laboratory for the two-year project. The current focus of his laboratory is on conserving species using genetic data.

Serving UT Tyler since 2007, Placyk holds a master of science in biology from Northern Michigan University and a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Tennessee.

Among honors, he received the UT Tyler Alpha Chi Scholastic Honor Society’s “Outstanding Faculty Award” in 2010. Placyk also recently served as the keynote speaker at this year’s Tennessee Herpetological Society’s annual meeting.  

For more information about the UT Tyler Department of Biology, contact Dr. Srini Kambhampati, Sam A. Lindsey professor and biology department chair, 903.566.7252 or srini@uttyler.edu

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of almost 7,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.
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