Biology Professor Jim Ryan will study a rare shrew thanks to National Geographic
May 24, 2000 GENEVA, NY – The National Geographic Society recently awarded a grant of $18,000 to Jim Ryan, professor of biology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and his colleague Dr. Dennis Cullinane, of Boston University. The grant funds an expedition to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, home of the mountain gorillas.
The expedition will study and film the hero shrew, a rare and unusual small mammal. Virtually nothing is known about the hero shrew, except that it has the most elaborate vertebral
column of any mammal. The hero shrew is capable of supporting 1,000 times its own body weight on its back, and the Mangbetu people of the Congo once considered the hero shrew to be a talisman that made them invincible in war. Ryan will likely conduct the expedition in the summer of 2001 for about six weeks.
Ryan came to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1987. He earned the B.A. at SUNY Oswego, the M.S. at the University of Michigan, and the Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. His research includes efforts to conserve mammalian biodiversity in Africa. He is a co-author of a college textbook on mammalian biology, Mammalogy.
In the early 1990s, Ryan spent three summers surveying Madagascar’s rainforests, as part of a select scientific team assembled by the Smithsonian Institution. He has studied vampire bat in Trinidad, studying the male bat’s reproductive system, the diet of pygmy shrews, and the effects of free radicals on cultured nerve cells. In 1997, Ryan traveled to the forests in Ghana to take part in an international survey of Ghana’s coastal forests in conjunction with the nation’s Wildlife Department and the University of Ghana. The survey cataloged the area’s plants and animals and set up a program to monitor their welfare.
Ryan and his family live in Geneva.
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