MSUToday
Published: Aug. 19, 2011

Faculty conversations: Jim Harding

Contact(s): Erica Shekell Office of Communications and Brand Strategy erica.shekell@cabs.msu.edu

Jim Harding is MSU’s "critter guy."

Harding fields questions about wildlife — such as identifying snakes or getting lizards out of the house — posed from MSU, and even from all over the world.

Harding is a wildlife information specialist at the MSU Museum and an instructor and undergraduate adviser in the Department of Zoology. His particular area of expertise is in herpetology, or the study of reptiles and amphibians, and he is actively engaged in the conservation of herps in Michigan.

"My biggest project is an ongoing project that began in 1969," Harding said. "When I was working on my Master’s degree, I started taking data on a population of wood turtles in the Upper Peninsula."

He collects data and marks the turtles he has found. He said he still finds turtles that he marked 40 years ago.

His studies have indicated that adult turtles can still be living even decades after the species has ceased to be viable. In other words, while adult turtles still exist, no new turtles can survive — and the population is dying out.

But Harding thinks he may have a solution. He and others at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids have worked to raise baby wood turtles until they are larger and have a greater potential for survival when released. With the discovery of several young turtles and a female nesting for her first time, the results look promising.

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Jim Harding, wildlife information specialist at the MSU Museum and instructor and undergraduate advisor in the Department of Zoology. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

Jim Harding, wildlife information specialist at the MSU Museum and instructor and undergraduate advisor in the Department of Zoology. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

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