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Personal Biography of Donald Sparling, Ph.D.

Dr. Donald Sparling is the Associate Director of the Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory and Associate Professor, Zoology Department, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.  He has two primary and divergent research interests: 1) Effects of contaminants on wildlife health and populations; and 2) Upland game bird ecology and management.

His research in contaminant ecology focuses on the effects of pollution pesticides, heavy metals, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and others as environmental stressors. There are many factors in the environment such as disease, poor nutrition, parasites, predation, and contaminants that can impair the health of individuals and ultimately affect the survival of populations.  His focus is to determine the physiological and ecological effects of the contaminants on a variety of animal taxa but primarily on amphibians and reptiles.  He measures direct mortality and sublethal effects including growth, development, malformations, indicators of impaired physiological functioning, and biomarkers of exposure. Research is conducted both in the field and the laboratory to develop a clearer understanding of real life problems and their solutions.

His research in upland game birds stems from his doctoral research of many years ago that looked at the ecology and behavior of greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse and tried to identified how and why hybridization occurs between the two species. Illinois and the Midwest have several species of upland game birds that provide recreational opportunities for many sportsmen. Chief among these species in southern/central Illinois are northern bobwhite, mourning doves, and ring-necked pheasants.


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