Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our first week at Blue Oak Ranch Reserve

We arrived at BORR Friday May 20th at around 6pm. The rolling grassy hills interspersed with oak trees are very beautiful, and I am grateful to be working here. We drove to Cedar Barn, the UC Berkeley field station that we will use during our stay here. We met Mike, the reserve manager and he gave us the low down on how the reserve works and what hazards to look out for. One of the main hazards is, of course, rattlesnakes which he didn't need to tell us about. We unloaded the "Green Machine" (nickname for our truck) and trailer, then set up our tents just as the sun set. We will be camping here for the next 7 weeks as we study rattlesnake-ground squirrel interactions.

The typical oak woodland landscape at BORR
The Green Machine ready to be unloaded

 Field assistants carrying equipment to Cedar Barn

Tents all set-up

Our first days of field work consisted of capturing as many snakes as possible. The best way to find snakes is to walk; just keep walking until you find one. I'm not lying, there's no secret method to it. We have been walking up and down hills and in between ravines and dried creek beds. We caught 6 rattlesnakes and 2 gopher snakes the first day! As of right now we have a total of 16 rattlesnakes which is currently a good sample size to be at. We will, however, need to catch more if we want our statistics to be robust. Once we put transmitters inside these snakes and release them, they should lead us to more.

First group ride in the Green Machine (field assistants unite!)

Found some abandoned baby voles--probably eaten by a snake by now

First gopher snake find! Darren and Annie are excited. 

We bagged so many snakes!


  1. How are the new transmitters working out as well as the wireless cameras?

  2. External transmitters = the worst. We attached them to two snakes that we caught and then released them. The next day, one had already almost fallen off and the other was starting to untie. I had to duct tape one on. Haven't set up the cameras yet.