When Cornell biologist Edward C. Raney wanted to study frog behavior at the E.N. Huyck Preserve (Rensselaerville, N.Y.) in 1939, he knew he needed to improve on the usual methods for tagging the creatures. One technique involved making tiny incisions in frogs’ feet to distinguish the animals from one another. But the number of possible incision patterns was limited making it difficult to keep track of more than a few dozen animals at a time. Other scientists tied cords with numbered tags around the frogs’ waists. The trouble was that if the belts were too loose, the frogs could slip out of them; if the belts were too tight, the frogs developed injuries.
Raney, however, adapted a method that had been used successfully to mark fish—he attached numbered metal tags through the frogs’ jaws. At first he was nervous that his technique might harm the animals. He was relieved when the first 50 frogs he tested remained healthy—they developed no infections, had hearty appetites, and their voices remained strong. Once he was sure that his tagging method was safe, he captured, marked, released, and recaptured more than 600 frogs, in particular green frogs (Rana clamiyans) and bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). He returned to the Preserve for several summers to continue his research and later expanded his studies to include salamanders and birds.
Edward C. Raney (May 23, 1909-April 20, 1984)
Raney went on to become professor at Cornell and a leading ichthyologist (a zoologist who studies fish). He authored more than 140 papers dealing with the systematics, behavior, and ecology of fishes and other invertebrates. His studies on striped bass will remain as authoritative references for generations of ichthyologists and fish biologists for generations to come. He was also an expert on aquatic environmental problems and served on numerous environmental advisory committees. His students are among the leaders in ichthyology today.
The Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve and Biological Research Station is a 2,000-acre nature preserve in the tiny hamlet of Rensselaerville, N.Y. The hamlet is nestled in the Helderberg Mountains and is 26 miles southwest of Albany. The Preserve was founded in 1931 by Jessie Van Antwerp Huyck and named for her husband whose family once owned the forests, lakes, and waterfalls that make the up the Preserve. The Preserve’s trails are open to the public and public programs are offered throughout the year. In 1938, the Preserve added its scientific research station and scientists have been doing ecological research there ever since. For more information about the Preserve, visit http://www.huyckpreserve.org.