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Date: Apr 18, 2008
Hofstra Biology Professor Russell Burke Awarded a Fulbright Grant to Research Italian Wall Lizards in Rome
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY … Dr. Russell Burke, an associate professor of biology at Hofstra University, has received a four-month Fulbright grant to work as a senior research scholar at the Museo Civico di Zoologia in Rome, Italy, during the 2008-2009 academic year. He will be studying the ecology of Italian wall lizards in Italian urban and suburban settings where that species has been living for approximately 2,000 years. The Italian wall lizard was introduced to Garden City, Long Island in 1966, and Dr. Burke has been studying it since 1997. His work should improve understanding of how commensal species adapt to live in human-altered environments.
“We are delighted that Russ' pioneering work has been recognized with this coveted Fulbright Award,” said Dr. Bernard J. Firestone, Dean of Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Russ has contributed significantly to our understanding of the urban and suburban environment that humans share with other animals.”
Dr. Burke’s work on invasive species such as the Italian wall lizard is designed to answer questions about why some species can invade successfully and others fail. Invasive species, both animals and plants, cost American taxpayers over $140 billion dollars each year, and invasive species have extremely costly impacts on American rare and endangered species. Despite their economic importance, little is known about how to identify potentially invasive species before they arrive here, or how to control them once they have become established.
While he is in Rome, Dr. Burke will lecture at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre. He will be working with Dr. Massimo Capula, curator of herpetology at the Museo Civico di Zoologia of Rome, and Dr. Luca Luiselli at the Università degli Studi Roma Tre.
Dr. Burke, a resident of Bellmore, NY, earned his M.S. in wildlife ecology from University of Florida and his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in the Department of Biology. He spent two years as a post-doc at UM's School of Natural Resources and the Environment. He joined Hofstra as an assistant professor in 1996 and was promoted to associate professor in 2002.
Dr. Burke is interested in the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of turtles and lizards. Most of the species he has studied have either been introduced species or rare species, therefore population control is the focal issue.
The other predominant topic of his research in turtles is that of sex determination, both environmental and genotypic. Currently, his major research projects involve diamondback terrapins at Jamaica Bay, wood turtles in Northern New Jersey, and wall lizards on Long Island.
His courses at Hofstra include ecology, evolution, behavior, conservation biology and human biology.