LMU Faculty and Student Author Article in 'Biological Conservation'


bairdstaperLincoln Memorial University (LMU) Associate Professor of Conservation Biology LaRoy Brandt and recent graduate Maggie (Singleton) Coffey have published research findings in the May 2020 issue of “Biological Conservation.” The article, entitled “Population status, connectivity, and conservation action for the endangered Baird's tapir,” incorporates data collected as part of research trips to Costa Rica.


Baird’s tapirs are mammals known for flexible, tube-like snouts used to collect vegetation. Even though it is often called the “mountain cow,” the tapir can move fast on land, and can swim and climb. Tapirs live in forests and wetlands of Central America and South America and are mainly threatened by hunting as well as the destruction of their habitat.


“This article is a large-scale collaboration of many researchers and agencies that analyze Baird’s tapir habitat connectivity across the whole of Central America,” said Dr. Brandt. “Overall, the results highlight a break in tapir distribution and areas of significant habitat fragmentation. The data that Maggie Coffey and I provided helped fill in one of the gaps with evidence that the tapirs are existing in an area of Costa Rica where they were thought to be extirpated.”


Coffey’s data was collected as part of her junior/senior research project at LMU and was partially grant funded. She is currently doing graduate work in biology at East Tennessee State University.  


“When the opportunity arose to conduct research in Costa Rica with Dr. Brandt, I was eager to accept,” Coffey said. “It’s one thing to see an animal in a zoo or read about it in a book, but to be able stand in that animal’s habitat and experience it firsthand in the wild is life-changing. There are some biologists that never get that opportunity, so for me to get that as an undergraduate in the LMU Conservation Biology Program was special.”


Dr. Brandt, Coffey, and two other students, Victoria Long and Justine Jusack, spent three weeks at the La Suerte Biological Field Station in May, 2017, where they set up trail cameras in the forest to capture photographs of wildlife, specifically targeting the Baird’s tapir.


“There had been sightings of tapirs nearby the field station, so we were hopeful that we would get pictures of them,” Coffey said. “We went back to Costa Rica in December of 2017 to pick up our cameras. We were ecstatic to see that almost all of our cameras had captured pictures of tapirs. This provided the first photographic evidence of the Baird’s tapir in the wild for that region of Costa Rica. It makes me proud to know that our small part of the research has contributed to a great effort to conserve the Baird’s tapir.”


They shared the findings with researchers from other universities and organizations conducting similar studies in other regions of Costa Rica. The combined effort has helped to identify areas throughout Central America and South America that the tapirs are most likely to utilize, which helps to justify future conservation efforts to protect their habitat and to raise awareness for this endangered species.  


You can view the article at the following link:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718317890?dgcid=coauthor or email Dr. Brandy for a copy of the article at [email protected]


Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423.869.6280 or email at [email protected].

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