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November Monthly Membership Meeting & Lecture: Saving the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow

Paul R. Reillo, Ph.D.

Monthly MEETING and LECTURE: “Saving the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow – big challenges for a tiny bird” by Paul R. Reillo, Ph.D., President, Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, and Co-Director, Tropical Conservation Institute, Florida International University

Tuesday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. meeting & lecture.

Paul R. Reillo, Ph.D., President of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF), will be discussing the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow (FGSP) captive breeding program and real-time strategies and interventions to prevent its imminent extinction. The talk will present an overview of recovery objectives and challenges and a multi-pronged approach to growing a genetically managed population. He will also discuss options for the future, both in captivity and in the wild.

The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is a non-migratory subspecies with a historic range limited to the prairie region of south-central Florida. Over 80 percent of the bird’s habitat has been lost in recent decades with much of the remaining prairie degraded by fire suppression and encroachment by trees and shrubs.

For the first time ever in captivity, RSCF’s colony of critically endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrows has successfully hatched four chicks! This groundbreaking event took place on May 9th and 10th, with one clutch of eggs hatching over two days. The chicks are thriving, and parental care is excellent. The chicks develop extremely quickly–they typically fledge nine days after hatching.

Come enjoy this informative program!

About Paul R. Reillo, Ph.D.:

Dr. Reillo is founding director of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF), a publicly supported 501c(3) wildlife conservation organization based in Loxahatchee, Florida. A Maryland native, Reillo has a background in environmental engineering (B.A., Johns Hopkins) and ecological genetics (Ph.D., University of Maryland) and has spent many years as a field-oriented research zoologist and conservationist. Today he focuses on the demography and genetics of small populations of endangered wildlife, and he develops recovery strategies for flagship species, notably the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, the mountain bongo antelope from Kenya, and the endemic Amazon parrots of Brazil and the Caribbean. When asked why he abandoned academic research to pursue a career in wildlife conservation, he replied, “I simply couldn’t continue esoteric, academic research on individual species, while all around me the forests and ecosystems they depend upon were vanishing.”

Over the past 25+ years, Reillo and colleagues at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation have taken a practical, hands-on approach to biodiversity conservation, developing novel husbandry, management and recovery methods for endangered species that effectively leverage preservation of biodiversity-rich ecosystems. A dedicated and tireless conservation advocate, Reillo leads an atypical organization. Known for being lean and pragmatic, Reillo’s team manages to accomplish what many larger conservation organizations cannot—real-time conservation solutions for habitats and species in peril. For more information, please see www.rarespecies.org and www.rarespecies.org/fgsp .

Today Reillo also helps direct the Tropical Conservation Institute (TCI)—an innovative collaboration between RSCF and Florida International University.  The Institute merges the full conservation portfolios of RSCF and FIU to leverage protection of critical species and ecosystems, while training the next generation of conservation practitioners. Like RSCF, TCI focuses on hands-on, practical conservation solutions for Earth’s most endangered wildlife.

Also at the meeting, our expert, Clive Pinnock will speak about the November Bird of the Month, Savannah Sparrow.

Meeting and program are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for light refreshments in rooms 101 and 102 at FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, 6301 Summit Blvd (near Jog Road) in West Palm Beach. We look forward to seeing you there!