April 8, 2014

Dr. Joshua Reece Earns Best Presentation Award at Conference

Dr. Joshua Reece

VALDOSTA – Dr. Joshua Reece, assistant professor of biology, received the Best Presentation Award during the 37th Annual Herpetology Conference, hosted by the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. April 4-5.

Reece was one of 16 presenters - whose talks included topics that covered all aspects of herpetology, or the study of amphibians and reptiles, including natural history, ecology, evolution and physiology.

“My presentation covered how loggerhead turtles in Florida and Georgia are affected by humans building on our coasts,” said Reece. “The presentation included contributions from VSU undergraduates Qiana Sweet and Brianna Shepherd – both freshman biology students.”

The talk highlighted Reece’s research on climate change and its effects on sea turtles. According to the study on the loggerhead turtles, placement of this nesting places have shifted northward over the course of 20 years. This move has been a shift away from coastal development – most likely in response to warming temperatures –toward areas of increased erosion. The study found a decrease in the width of beaches by more than 10 feet from 1986 to 2006, with models projecting a 43 percent loss in beach area by the year 2060. The study suggests that turtles will continue to migrate northward and eventually become crowded as beaches continue to shrink.

Reece’s examination of climate change, sea level rise and biodiversity was also the subject of a recent presentation at a climate change symposium at East Carolina State University. This presentation also included contributions from Sweet and Shepherd, along with Erika Shumacher, sophomore biology student, and Arturo Sanchez, senior biology student.

“The presentation focused on how the southeastern coastal plains have been affected in the past and how those factors will affect biodiversity in the future,” explained Reece. “Where beaches once could move in response to changes in climate, and ecosystems move and adapt along with them, they can no longer do this because we have changed the game by modifying these habitats.”

Reece joined Valdosta State as an assistant professor in fall 2013. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology from the University of Central Florida and a Ph.D in biology from Washington University in St. Louis. He currently teaches Introduction to Biology courses and a coastal biodiversity course at VSU.

Reece’s areas of research include coastal biodiversity and macroevolution. He is currently developing projects for VSU undergraduates who are interested in conducting research on changes in the nesting patterns of marine turtles in Georgia, similar to the one completed in Florida.