A University of Maine at Machias first year student has been accepted to intern this summer at the British Virgin Islands to study an endangered species of iguana.
Kyle Little of Lyman, Maine, whose major is Wildlife Biology, with concentrations in Herpetology and Ornithology, will be working with the Fort Worth Zoo on the island of Anegada in conservation efforts for the endangered Cyclura pinguis or Anegada Iguana.
“While there I will be learning field research methods, conducting field surveys, set up camera traps, and assist in the care of the iguanas,” Little said.
According to the Forth Worth Zoo, the Anegada iguana is one of the most endangered lizards in the world. The introduction of non-native mammal species has pushed this unique lizard to the brink of extinction. Feral cats prey heavily on newly hatched iguanas, so that very few individuals make it to adulthood. To combat this problem, hatchlings are caught and raised in a safe captive environment on Anegada. The animals are released back into the wild when they reach a larger, less vulnerable size. The goal of the Anegada iguana conservation project is to monitor iguanas released back into the wild.
A second goal of the project is to increase knowledge of the remaining wild population on Anegada. To help determine population density and distribution, work continues on an ongoing mark and recapture program and a burrow/retreat survey.
These types of experiences are key for UMM students, who are often working in the field on their first day of classes. Little’s UMM Botany Professor Eric Jones said, “The ultimate goal of higher education is not merely the acquisition of facts, rather it is the application of that knowledge to solve current practical issues. At UMM we understand the application of knowledge is best learned through hands-on exercises. Our philosophy is that the sooner students can get into the field they are interested in the sooner they can see the means to apply what they’re learning in the classroom.”
Little is currently working with UMM to try and raise the money he needs for the plane ticket, equipment, and food. He recently received a $1,500 scholarship from the George Mitchell Institute, to afford the initial cost of $1,450 to qualify for the program.
Little said that while on Anegada, he will create a journal and take photographs and videos of his experiences.
“We provide these opportunities in our classes and support our students who seek opportunities outside of the university setting, like internships,” Jones said. “Personally I’m very proud to see our students avail themselves of these kinds of opportunities.”