Featured Expert

David Belcher, Ph.D

Professor of Human Biology, Zoology and Herpetology
Department of Biology
229-333-5759 (office phone)
dbelcher@valdosta.edu
http://chiron.valdosta.edu/dbechler/default.htm

Dr. David Belcher

Areas of Expertise:

  • Biological diversity
  • Species and speciation
  • Anatomy and physiology

Education

  • Bachelor of Arts in Zoology with a Minor in Chemistry and Psychology, Indiana University
  • Master of Science in Biology, University of Louisiana-Monroe
  • Ph. D. in Behavioral Ecology/Biology, St. Louis University

Research

Last year, Belcher found a new blackbanded sunfish population -- the first new population in Georgia since 1980 -- and confirmed another not documented since 2001. Belcher, along with graduate student Josh Salter, led a team working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resourcesto help the DNR Wildlife Resources Division conserve the fish, which is state-listed in Georgia as endangered and considered a health indicator of the natural ecosystems it inhabits.

The study included the survey of 72 sites. In south Georgia, the fish was documented at 11 sites spread across the region, from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Alapaha River system near Tifton and the Aucilla River drainage south of Thomasville. The distance between populations makes each more vulnerable. If one is wiped out, the opportunities for other blackbanded sunfish to migrate to that site and replenish it are limited.

Georgia is a leading state both in aquatic biodiversity and aquatic fauna at risk. About 30 percent of the state's freshwater fishes and crayfishes are extinct, endangered, threatened or considered species of special concern. The blackbanded sunfish survey is part of a Nongame Conservation Section initiative started in 1998 to determine the status of Georgia's aquatic fauna and develop conservation plans for declining species.

Less than 4 inches long and marked by black bars on the sides, blackbanded sunfish are found below the fall line from New Jersey to northern Florida. Yet the fish is threatened across its range because of habitat loss to natural and man-made causes such as drought, development and excessive water withdrawals. Read more >