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Russell Burke - Hofstra University. Hempstead, NY, US

Russell Burke Russell Burke

Professor of Biology | Hofstra University


Dr. Burke's current research involves diamondback terrapins at Jamaica Bay, wood turtles in northern NJ and the coyote invasion of LI



Russell Burke Publication




Growth Rings on Terrapins Student Research at Jamaica Bay Off the Trail with Ranger Powers- Episode 9: Invasive Species Diamondback Terrapin Turtles




Dr. Burke is interested in the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of vertebrates, mostly reptiles and mammals. Most of the species he studies are either introduced species or rare species, thus population control (either up or down) is important to him. And because a lot of his field work takes place in the urban and suburban habitats of New York City and Long Island, it is often referred to as Urban Ecology.

Currently, his major research projects involve diamondback terrapins at Jamaica Bay, wood turtles in northern New Jersey, the coyote invasion of Long Island and its community ecology implications, and interesting new ways to census vertebrates.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (7)

Urban Ecosystems Urban Environments Suburban Spaces and Development Ecology Evolution Conservation Biology Herpetology

Education (3)

University of Michigan: Ph.D. 1994

University of Florida: M.S. 1987

Ohio State University: B.S. 1981

Media Appearances (7)

Coyotes born in Queens will multiply, spread to LI, say experts



“Multiple individuals will be dispersing and looking for new territory,” said Russell L. Burke, chairman of Hofstra University’s biology department. “Eventually, all the spaces on Long Island that can take coyotes will be filled. That might take 50 years, but by then we’ll all be used to it.”

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Diamondback Terrapins Thrive Where Others Can’t

New York Times  


A female terrapin lays one or two clutches of eggs, each containing anywhere from three to 18 eggs — if she is not hit by a car, waylaid by a roadside curb, tangled in vegetation or killed by a raccoon. Research conducted by Russell Burke of Hofstra University suggests that less than 3 percent of turtle eggs in Jamaica Bay survive; this is troubling in the context of an ever-increasing population of urban raccoons, but not unusual throughout the terrapin’s range...

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Turtles Lay Eggs And Build Nests at New York's JFK Airport, Causing Flight Delays

Nature World News  


The turtle population around Jamaica Bay had also been kept in check by raccoons, which are natural predators of the newborn terrapins. Dr. Russell Burke, a biologist at Hofstra University, hypothesized that something must have happened to the raccoons at JFK several years ago that led to the survival of those eggs that were laid in the area.

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Possible coyote sighting in Middle Island, experts say

Newsday  print


There they were — a couple of dogs in the middle of the road, ravaging a neighbor’s trash.

Or were they?

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Coyote breeding on Long Island 'inevitable,' researchers say



One goal of the group of 12 to 15 researchers is to prepare the public, letting residents know that, like raccoons and opossums, coyotes "are very afraid of humans and will stay as far away as they can get," said Russell L. Burke, chairman of Hofstra University's biology department. He is one of six co-authors of "Coyotes Go 'Bridge and Tunnel,' " a report on the value of starting research and education programs well before the creatures' mass arrival.

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Saving Salt Marshes for the Diamondback Terrapins


If you take the ‘A’ train to the end of the line in Queens, you land at Jamaica Bay, where salt marshes support endangered birds and rare turtles.

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Studying What Lures Turtles to a Tarmac at Kennedy Airport

New York Times  


But on that July day five years ago, Russell Burke, the chairman of the biology department at Hofstra University, said, “Something made a huge number of turtles come up to Runway 4L.”

Two years later, it happened a second time. And on Thursday, a group of turtles appeared on Runway 4L yet again, despite recent steps aimed at keeping them away.

For Dr. Burke, who has long studied the terrapins that live in the wildlife refuge, the reptiles’ repeated forays onto the tarmac are the subject of serious study. Shortly after the first invasion, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey enlisted him to help it come to a better understanding of the turtles and their mysterious ways. As part of that effort, he works closely with the Port Authority’s chief wildlife biologist, Laura Francoeur, who described the turtle takeovers as among the more vexing challenges confronting her unit...

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Research Focus (1)

Diamondback terrapins, wood turtles in northern NJ, ticks and Lyme Disease, coyote migration

Ecology, conservation, and sex determination of diamondback terrapins

Ecology and conservation of wood turtles in northern NJ
The effects of tick host species diversity on Lyme Disease risk

Box turtle resources use and its life history implications

The effects that the coyotes making their way to Long Island will have on current vertebrate communities

Novel ways of estimating the number of vertebrates in an area; this includes using parasite densities to estimate local terrapin numbers, and using camera traps to count mammals

Courses (1)

General Ecology, Conservation Biology, Field Ecology, Advanced Conservation Biology

General Ecology
Lecture on the basic principles determining the distribution and abundance of populations and species, including ecological tests of adaptation. Structure and relationships at the population, community, landscape, and biosphere levels. Emphasis on applied topics such as pollution abatement, ancient and contemporary climate change, pest and wildlife management, and human population growth.

Conservation Biology
Lecture and discussion of the basic principles of the conservation of biological diversity. Review of the main causes of extinction events past and present, sustainable development, and the importance of zoos and laws to species conservation.

Field Ecology
The study abroad class meets for two to three days on campus in the fall, then we head for Ecuador for about 20 days. This includes about 11 days in the Galapagos Islands and 3 days in the rainforest.

Advanced Conservation Biology

Lecture and discussion of the basic principles of the conservation of biological diversity. Review of the main causes of extinction events past and present, sustainable development, and the importance of zoos and laws to species conservation. Computer simulations to compare management/restoration strategies for endangered species and ecological communities.

Articles (4)

Development of sexing primers in Glyptemys insculpta and Apalone spinifera turtles uncovers an XX/XY sex-determining system in the critically-endangered bog turtle Glyptemys muhlenbergii Conservation Genetics Resources


In species or developmental stages where the sex of an individual cannot be reliably identified through external morphology, molecular markers can provide a critical tool to study sex-specific traits that are elusive otherwise. Here we generated two sets of sex-diagnostic PCR primers for each of two focal turtle species with contrasting genotypic sex determination (GSD) systems: the wood turtle, Glyptemys insculpta (XX/XY), and the spiny softshell turtle, Apalone spinifera (ZZ/ZW). These markers identified males and females with 100% accuracy as validated with numerous individuals of known sex...

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Coyotes Go "Bridge and Tunnel": A Narrow Opportunity to Study the Sociological Impacts of Coyote Range Expansion Cities and the Environment


Currently, Long Island, NY is without a breeding population of northeastern coyote (Canis latras var.), yet
recent evidence of dispersing individuals on the island, coupled with the “dogged” momentum of coyote
range expansion across North America, suggests a Long Island coyote population is close at hand. We
highlighted the fleeting opportunity to takes advantage of this natural experiment by developing a
multidisciplinary research framework to investigate the ecological and social impacts of the coyote, pre- and
post- range expansion. We reviewed coyote spatial ecology, community ecology, and human dimensions
research and identified three components of future investigation: predicting future occupancy, monitoring
colonization, testing hypotheses of trophic cascades by leveraging and expanding existing ecological data, and
exploring attitudes towards coyotes to better understand and mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. Each
proposed component will integrate for a comprehensive investigation to advance theory and applied
management of northeastern coy

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Cues Used by Raccoons to Find Turtle Nests: Effects of Flags, Human Scent, and Diamond-Backed Terrapin Sign Journal of Herpetology


We simulated nests constructed in an area heavily used by ovipositing Diamond-backed Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) and foraging raccoons (Procyon lotor), to investigate the cues used by raccoons to locate terrapin nests. Marking nests with flags did not increase predation rates, and human scent decreased predation rates. Raccoons seemed to locate nests based on soil disturbance, ocean-water scent, or a combination of these cues...

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Nesting Ecology and Predation of Diamondback Terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin, at Gateway National Recreation Area, New York Journal of Herpetology


We studied Diamondback Terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin, at Gateway National Recreation Area, New York. We found evidence of nesting terrapins at three locations within the Recreation Area and focused our research on the islands of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Female terrapins nested from early June through early August and oviposited at least two clutches per year...

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