Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Radford University’s Best Kept Secret

Only fifteen minutes from Radford University’s campus is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
I might be a little biased, but Selu Conservancy is seriously gorgeous.

Selu Conservancy is just seven miles from Radford’s campus. The 380 acres of conservancy contains a boathouse equipped with canoes, a variety of woodland trails, a ropes course, a retreat center, an observatory, and countless other delights.

However, none of Selu’s treasures compare to the opportunities it provides for Radford students. Take me for example. I’m just a biology major with an affection for reptiles. How did I find myself at Selu with a summer of research ahead of me? I had a handful of faculty (specifically my advisor and a certain chemistry professor) that nudged me toward research. I kept hearing “hey, do you like snakes?” and “there’s this professor looking for research students.” It didn’t take many nudges to get me to the door of Dr. Matt Close, RU’s resident herpetologist (a herpetologist is someone who studies reptiles and amphibians). I have a hands-on learning style and his research appealed to me for that reason.

Dr. Close’s research is mainly centered on snake functional morphology. Morphology is the study of the form and structure of an organism, and let’s be honest, snake morphology is fascinating. What do you think it would be like to have no limbs and an extremely (and I mean EXTREMELY) mobile lower jaw? And those are only two examples of super cool snake morphology.

 Several grant proposals later and a semester of academic papers and species identification behind me, I now find myself preparing for a summer of field work.
See! That's me holding a baby box turtle!
As of right now, the majority of my time is spent building traps. And what am I trapping? Snakes, lizards, frogs, salamanders, and any other reptile or amphibian that makes its way through the sink holes of Selu. But specifically, my research focuses on marking two species of snakes. By marking them and recording how many I recapture I’ll be able to estimate the size of the population of these two species. To make this even cooler, one of the species I’ll be marking is the namesake of my blog, D. Punct.

So, which snake do you think I named my blog after?

A.     Hog-nose snake

B.     Ring neck snake

C.     Worm snake

D.     Copperhead snake
Stay tuned for the answer in my next post and feel free to leave a comment if you have a guess!