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UT Tyler Biology Department Receives Grant to Study Harvester Ants through Ecolab Program

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May 5, 2014

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

May 5, 2014

The University of Texas at Tyler has received a research grant to study harvester ants through the Texas Ecolab Program, Dr. Michael Odell, vice president for research and technology transfer, announced.

With the $6,000 award, the UT Tyler Department of Biology, led by research associate Dr. Katrin Kellner, will study the population genetics of two Texas red harvester ant species, Pogonomyrmex barbatus and Pogonomyrmex comanche.

The survey will reveal if populations of these ants are endangered and need further protection status. They currently are listed as ‘Species of Interest.’

“These ants collect plant seeds and are found throughout dry areas of the southern U.S.,” Kellner said. “They are of special ecological importance because they consume and disperse seeds – meaning they collect more seeds than they actually eat – of various plants. With the excavation of their subterranean nest, they move significant amounts of soil, which is important for soil aeration and nutrient cycling.

“These ants are also the main food source of the state reptile, the endangered Texas horned lizard,” she added.

Texas Ecolab is a partnership between private landowners and researchers. This program allows researchers to access private properties to conduct research, which has been difficult in Texas where 97 percent of the land is privately owned. Not only does the Ecolab Program provide access to private property as well as grants for conducting research, landowners who invite researchers can also reduce their property taxes.

Landowners who have agreed to participate in the Pogonomyrmex project are in Henderson, Brazos, Bastrop, Hopkins and Caldwell counties.

“This grant will give an exciting opportunity for a UT Tyler student research position for the summer. The student will gain exposure to molecular techniques and the native habitats of Texas,” Kellner added.

For more information, contact Kellner, 903.566.7280 or kkellner@uttyler.edu.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler features excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 7,500 high-ability students. UT Tyler offers courses at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine as well as a location in Houston.

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