All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Burmese Pythons’
Golf Courses a Haven for Turtles? Davidson College Researchers Stick Their Necks Out to See What’s What
Shawna Foley ’11 used Davidson College’s own backyard—well, figuratively speaking; it was a nearby golf course—for her senior thesis research last year. The results have just been published by Springer Science + Business Media. Check out “Nest site selection of turtles on golf courses—urban ecosystems.”
Abstract: Urban landscapes present various challenges to semi-aquatic turtle reproduction. In developed regions, golf courses may provide some of the best remaining habitat for turtle populations. We explored nest-site selection of eastern painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) at a golf course pond in Davidson, North Carolina, USA, and modeled nest-site preference using Akaike Information Criterion, with the best supported model favoring nests surrounded by mulch and mowed grass. Additionally, we evaluated nest depredation rates using simulated turtle nests and found that golf course ponds did not have significantly greater nest depredation compared to urban and rural ponds. Our results suggest that golf courses may offer suitable habitat for turtle reproduction in developed areas.
Professor of Biology Mike Dorcas, Foley’s faculty collaborator in the research, is a co-author, along with Steven J. Price, postdoctoral research coordinator in the herpetology lab. Dorcas has been in the news recently with his definitive work on Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
On my way to work this morning, I was listening to a compelling NPR iteration of the big snake story out of South Florida, “Invasive Pythons Put Squeeze on Everglades’ Animals.” Then I heard a familiar voice: It was Mike Dorcas, our very own Davidson College professor of biology and international herpetology expert extraordinaire.
I rushed to my desk and called his number.
He said, “If you had told me 15 or 20 years ago that snakes would be established in South Florida, that I would be studying them, and that they would be having a devastating effect on animals, I would have said you were crazy. But crazy happens.”
Crazy is still happening for Mike: Reporters were already calling him last week, even before the media embargo was lifted yesterday on the release of his co-authored study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Then, the story shot into the Googlesphere like a rocket, and the calls are still coming. The story’s had nearly 600 national hits as of this writing, not to mention international.
Here’s the BBC story, “Pythons linked to Florida Everglades mammal decline.”
And here’s a link Mike sent that includes a video he did last year for the Tampa Bay Times’ “When pythons take over Everglades, raccoons, rabbits and other small mammals vanish.” In which, I note, at the very end, this Dorcas quote: “I don’t want to sound too pessimistic. The pythons will be here long after we’re gone. I guess my hope is that we will learn enough about what has happened here with the Burmese Pythons to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.”
So, could this kind of crazy happen around here? I had to ask.
“Some of the climate models indicate that Davidson is smack in the middle of the pythons’ suitable climate match,” Mike said. “It’s possible that they could survive the weather here. But there are a lot more factors besides just climate that might affect whether or not a reproducing population could become established.”
Dodger sez, ladies and gentlemen, start your garden hoes….
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the office, on Monday morning I walk in and there by the printer stands campus newsguy Bill Giduz ’74, mongering fear about Burmese pythons snaking their way up from south Florida to eat us up. The article he was waving, “Will Florida’s Burmese pythons move north? How far?” in the Christian Science Monitor, quotes the lead researcher of a major recent scientific foray into the swamplands of South Florida and South Carolina—none other than our own Associate Professor of Biology Mike Dorcas: “[T]here certainly is a possibility that pythons could survive in South Carolina and possibly even farther north.”
Oh. I see. South Carolina. Well, why didn’t you say so, Mike?
But seriously, folks, you’d better read the whole article. There’s even a link to a story called “Hybrid man-eating pythons? Florida is on alert.”
What’s in your crawlspace?