The Western Hemisphere

The Conservation Agency has supported projects in the Western Hemisphere from Newfoundland to Brazil. In the Canadian Maritimes and New England our subjects have been whales, marine and salt-marsh turtles, vernal pond wildlife, salamanders and acid rain, wetlands protection, and coastal island biogeography.


On the Outer Banks of North Carolina, islands that function as sand conveyer-belts, we have chronicled ecology and evolution and have observed adaptations of burrowing animals, migratory birds, and freshwater- dependent amphibians and reptiles.

In California we have concentrated on the chaparral and old-growth forests of Mount Tamalpias, where north and south meet and merge. We have challenged stereotypical views of controlled burning and other management techniques which are not appropriate in all cases.

Our staff has dedicated two decades of research to the critically endangered wildlife of the Florida Keys. From mice to miniature deer, these animals have inspired a battle to save critical habitat for unique species found nowhere else on earth. In 1991, due largely to efforts by The Conservation Agency and the Sierra Club Legal Defence Fund, the silver rice rat, a new species of small muskrat-like mammal discovered by staff biologist Dr. Numi Mitchell, was placed on the Federal List of Endangered Species. The rice rat and thousands of hectares of its Florida Keys habitat are now protected from development jeopardizing their survival. The Conservation Agency’s studies concerning resource use and threats to this, and other endangered species, have been made available for use by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for incorporation in their recovery plans.

West Indies projects are among our most varied: we are bringing back populations of lost birds such as flamingos and white-crowned pigeons; restoring dry forest habitats; and creating management and recovery strategies for populations of giant iguanas, dwarf owls, and fishing bats.  We are rapidly discovering new species of iguanid lizards, skinks, ground geckos, and many invertebrates, and are managing whole island ecosystems as wildlife sanctuaries.  In addition to bringing the roseate or greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), back to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), we have successfully restored white-crowned pigeons to the BVI, where they were extirpated by about 1950.  Within the BVI we have restored several populations of the critically endangered stout iguana (Cyclura pinguis), the largest New World lizard, and the beautiful red-legged tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria).  And we have restored one population of the bo-peep frog (Eleutherodactylus schwartzi), a species unique to the BVI.  Our major base of operations has been Guana Island for over 30 years.  This sanctuary has served as the foundation for our expansive book by Lazell and others:  Island: Fact and Theory in Nature (Publications).

In Brazil we completed a comparative study of the Outer Banks, the world’s largest sand barrier. Here we investigated worm lizards, microlepidoptera (insects), iguanid lizards of the maritime forests, and studied contrasts and comparisons with the barrier islands of North Carolina where our investigations span more than 20 years.