Russell L. Burke
Russell L. Burke’s longstanding interest in reptiles was the major influence in his decision to pursue a career in biology. His biggest complaint growing up in northern Ohio was that there were no venomous snakes near where he lived, and he seized the earliest opportunities to visit Florida where they could be found. He earned a B.S. in zoology from Ohio State University. While reading Archie Carr’s work on sea turtles he was especially taken by Carr’s argument that wildlife can be harvested sustainably and pay for their own conservation if they are managed wisely. This led to graduate work on gopher tortoise conservation and an M.S. in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida in Gainesville. Burke earned a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Michigan where his work involved investigations of ecology and evolution of midwestern freshwater turtles.
His main research foci have concerned the ecology, evolution, and conservation of reptiles, particularly the manipulation of populations. This can be valuable when populations are small, such as rare and desirable species; when they are too big, such as for pest and disease species; and when they are valuable, such as for harvested species. His current long-term projects include ecological studies of diamondback terrapins in Jamaica Bay and wood turtles in northern New Jersey, both rare species. He has conducted numerous shorter studies on the ecology of invasive Italian wall lizards on Long Island and in Italy. He has been involved with studies of Lyme disease, its tick vectors, and its wildlife hosts, since 2002. He regularly collaborates with colleagues from the American Museum of Natural History, Queens College, University of Rhode Island, Michigan State University, University of Tennessee (Knoxville), Georgia Southern University, and Museo Civico di Zoologia (Rome). He has received grants to support his research from the Hudson River Foundation, the New York City Environmental Fund, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Park Service.
At Hofstra Dr. Burke teaches ecology, evolution, conservation biology, urban ecology, and wildlife disease ecology, and he is one of the coordinators of the new Urban Ecology program. He co-teaches Hofstra’s biennial biology-geology study abroad class on the Evolutionary Ecology and Geology of Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands. He has an active research laboratory that involves high school students, Hofstra undergraduates, and usually six to eight graduate students in every aspect of his research projects.