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Biology Research Professor has taking students to the Bahamas to study Allen Cay Rock Iguanas for more than 30 years.

Students and Faculty Help to Protect Endangered Species

June 25, 2013

Earlham College students helped with a project to eradicate an invasive species on the Bahamas Allen Cay during two May Terms.

Allen Cay is home to the endangered Bahamas-endemic Allen Cay Rock Iguana, which John Iverson, biology research professor, has been researching for more than 30 years. Iverson continues his research with groups of students for three weeks each May by capturing, tagging, and documenting weight, length, and other physical characteristics of the endangered iguanas. Allen Cay Iguanas are unique in that they are nearly twice the size of other iguanas and can grow to five feet long. Iverson’s research has revealed a 40-year-old specimen.

Non-native house mice had been inadvertently introduced on the island and were damaging the island’s ecosystem and the growing number of house mice threatened the Allen Cay Iguanas population even more.

Taking Action to Protect Iguanas

“The house mice slammed the Allen Cay iguanas,” says Frances Hall ’13, who participated in the recent May Term. “The mice ate their eggs and ate their vegetation, which are two very big issues.”

Iverson is a member of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) Island Conservation partnership, which initiated the mouse eradication endeavor. The removal project, began in May 2012 and included the translocation of nine iguanas while poisonous mouse bait was dispersed throughout the island.

The BNT group visited the Cay in May and confirmed the absence of mice. After the announcement, the Earlham May Term students recaptured and reintroduced two resident iguanas back to Allen Cay. In addition, the students took steps to encourage reproductive success.

“Allen Cay has giant rock formations, and we poured sand into the crevices and other areas hoping to make nesting habitats for the iguanas,” Hall says.

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