Monday, July 1, 2013

Rattlesnake Researchers Knee-deep in Ponds?

Rattlesnakes are awesomely beautiful creatures that I greatly enjoy working with. However, every once in a while it’s nice to marvel at other animals for a change. Fortunately, we have many opportunities to learn about different animals in the area from the other researchers that utilize the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve. One such researcher is Rachel Anderson, a Ph.D. student in the Lawler Lab at UC Davis. I have known Rachel for over a year now; we first met on the UC Davis Odyssey (a GREAT grad student orientation trip that occurs every year). She just started her research examining the relationship between invasive bullfrogs and native California red-legged frogs. She came to BORR a couple of days ago and graciously let us tag along while she collected samples from a few of the ponds.  

 Rachel demonstrates how she catches bullfrogs

What a change it was for us! Rachel collects all of her data at night when it is easiest to catch frogs. In contrast, we work during the day, roughly from 7 am to 5 pm. I’m not going to lie; working at night is hard when you are accustomed to going to bed at 9 pm.  However, working in the cool night air was much better than the blazing hot sun. The most extreme change for us was actually getting wet! Many of us (including myself) had never waded in murky, muddy ponds so it was definitely a new experience. Rachel let us borrow waders, overall-like pants that prevent water from getting your clothes wet (that is, if you don’t go too deep). We dove right in (not literally) to help her spot frogs. One pond was so full of bullfrogs you almost could not avoid stepping on them. Rachel caught a few red-legged frogs and showed us their beautiful coloration. To my surprise, these frogs make one of the cutest sounds when they are captured, as if they are pleading with you to let them go. We also found a beautiful garter snake, and our most unexpected surprise was a rattlesnake! Joey, one of my interns, spotted a rattlesnake right next to the water. They are known to swim, but was this snake attempting to ambush frogs? It was indeed a strange encounter. 

Kissing prince charming

Lauren got a two-for-one

Pretty little garter snake

We did not return back to the field station until around midnight – awfully past our bedtime! We immediately passed out in our tents, exhausted from so much froggy excitement, and arose the next morning bright and early ready for another day of snakes and squirrels. 

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