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Bob Powell


After growing up in Germany and small-town USA, Bob found a home away from home in the West Indies. Since the mid-1980s, he has been traveling to the islands, often with undergraduate students, to study frogs, lizards, and the snakes that eat them. He enjoys nothing more than a stroll through one of the myriad habitats on West Indian islands, walking at what he calls “snake-hunting” speed and stopping to look at (and sometimes grab) anything that catches his eye.


Since his retirement after 47 years as a biology professor at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, Bob notes that, although no longer a professor, he’s still a biologist. Although the pandemic has interrupted fieldwork, he still works on various projects with colleagues, many of them former students.


His research focuses on how amphibians and reptiles interact with their environments and he is especially interested in the effects of human-mediated alterations to those environments (although a few species benefit, the vast majority suffer in various ways when we modify habitats). Dealing largely with West Indian topics, he has published over 500 articles, notes, reviews, book chapters, and co-authored or co-edited 12 books, including (with Robert W. Henderson) Natural History of West Indian Reptiles and Amphibians, Amphibians and Reptiles of the St. Vincent and Grenada Banks, West Indies, and (with Henderson and John S. Parmerlee, Jr.) two editions of The Reptiles and Amphibians of the Dutch Caribbean: Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten.


Two current projects focus on Curly-tailed Lizards (genus Leiocephalus) and Groundlizards (genus Pholidoscelis). All Lesser Antillean species of the former and some of the latter have become extinct since the arrival of humans on the islands. Looking for a “smoking gun” has not been successful, undoubtedly due to complex interactions of many causes associated with first the arrival of Amerindians from South America and then the Europeans from across the Atlantic. Other projects have focused on snakes, using mark-recapture methods to monitor movements and growth over periods of several years.


Bob will be in Saba in October to talk about the latter. Find out what we’ve learned from chasing snakes in paradise.

Presentation: Friday, October 21st 

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