Conservation // 5 min Read

Lunch with a Biologist

Written by Megan Shannahan

Jul 8, 2019

Lydia Moore, the Research and Education Coordinator here at Palmetto Bluff, oversees exactly what her title says and more. Whether she’s leading a lecture on pollinators or outside collecting data for her most recent research endeavor, there is constant learning happening. We got a chance to sit down with her during the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy’s “Lunch with…” series to learn more about her and what she does here on the Bluff.

What made you want to become a biologist?

From a young age I enjoyed learning about plants and animals and that passion continued to grow as I matured. While I loved exploring outside as a kid, exploring without learning was never enough. I felt compelled to learn about the natural world around me! I loved everything about biology in school: being outside, dissections, learning about the interconnectedness of ecological communities…. My experiences in the classroom and my own explorations really set me up for this career.

What is your background in biology?

I originally wanted to become a marine biologist (I grew up on a saltwater creek in Charleston), but my interests diverged. First, I became obsessed with birds and went through a prolonged ornithology phase, then snakes and tortoises drew my attention, followed by insects, before I finally settled on bats. My research focus is really community ecology - which basically studies how species interact with (or exclude!) each other within the same geographic area. Bats are a wonderful focal taxa for the types of questions I usually ask. My research at Palmetto Bluff is expanding my focus from bats to reptiles, insects, and birds.

What brought you to Palmetto Bluff and what are some of your responsibilities?

This wonderful job that I have is what landed me here at the Bluff! The position seemed too good to be true when I saw the job posting and it has been pretty incredible. I run the research and education programs for the Conservancy. There were several ongoing wildlife monitoring projects through the Conservancy before I arrived, which means there was a substantial data set sitting on my desk when I first walked through my office door. My research duties include statistically analyzing existing data sets, initiating new research projects, and collaborating with other researchers. Responsibilities related to education include organizing our summer kids camp, beginning new education programs, and participating in the ongoing Explore PBC series.

Talk me through an average day for you on the Bluff.

Oh boy. Every day is different which I absolutely love! Sometimes I come in and spend most of the day in front of my laptop. Most people think field biologists spend the entirety of their career outside and don’t realize that the majority of a biologist’s time is actually spent looking at a computer screen. On those days I am usually entering data, analyzing data, or doing background research on one of several projects I would like to get started. Sometimes I get to spend the entire day away from the office participating in one of our education programs or conducting surveys for one of our research projects.

What makes Palmetto Bluff such an interesting place from a biology perspective?

Palmetto Bluff has an incredible diversity of habitat within its 20,000 acres. This can potentially lead to a large species richness (or the number of species within a given area), including the occurrence of rare or federally listed species. In 2016, a federally threatened species of bat was discovered in the coastal plain of South Carolina for the very first time – right here on Palmetto Bluff! That is incredible! I’m excited to see what else we find here.

What are you hoping to learn from the land here at the Bluff?

I think one of the biggest things we can learn here is how humans and wildlife can coexist. We still have so many acres of good habitat left at the Bluff that we really get to see wildlife up close, which is thrilling to many of our visitors. Observing human-wildlife interactions can inform us of how successful we are as stewards of the land in making sure we have things like effective wildlife corridors and suitable habitat for specific species.

The dates for the rest of the “Lunch with” series are:

Lunch with a biologist: July 18

Lunch with a wildlife manager: August 1