GVMagazineSpring2016 - (Page 32)

RESEARCH Rattlesnake refuge T here are almost 20 species of snakes that are native to Michigan, but the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is the only venomous native. Grand Valley researchers have been actively trying to keep this species, currently threatened by snake fungal disease, from slithering its way onto the U.S. endangered species list. Snake fungal disease was first detected in Michigan massasaugas in 2013. Jennifer Moore, assistant professor of biology, said the eastern massasauga is threatened or endangered in every state where the species resides, except for Michigan where it is listed as a "species of special concern." Moore and a team of students have been conducting research for two years in an effort to keep the snake off the endangered list, but the species was proposed for federal listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September. Moore said the team anticipates the results of the proposal will be announced this fall.  "We currently don't know what impact this disease will have on wild snake populations, but all rattlesnakes that have been brought into captivity for potential treatment have died, so the potential for serious declines exists," Moore said. Conducting research is only half the battle when it comes to saving eastern massasaugas. Public education 32 Spring '16 by Matthew Makowski Bradke said along with the disease, about the species has been a central eastern massasaugas have also suffered focus of the team's efforts through large population declines due to road media appearances and conference mortality and persecution by people presentations. who are afraid of snakes or don't "If the public has a better like them. understanding of the importance of "Like other animals, these snakes have these snakes for healthy, functioning an important role in the ecosystem," wetland ecosystems, people might be Bradke said. "They help control rodent more inclined to support rattlesnake, populations and act as food for other wetland and species conservation, as species. Additionally, protecting this well as environmental stewardship more species means protecting their generally," Moore said. wetland habitats, which is very Moore added that the general public valuable because they can help in these preservation efforts control flooding, help by supporting policies, institutions and maintain good water groups geared toward threatened and quality, and endangered wildlife conservation. provide suitable "The main reason these snakes are habitats for threatened is loss of their natural many other habitat," Moore said. "Supporting groups animals that protect land, and the critical habitat and plants." that these species need will go a long way." Since the proposal in September, Moore's team has been concentrating on long-term monitoring of a population near Left, Jennifer Moore, in front, and Hastings. Last summer, the team student researchers conducted fungal disease testing at examine an eastern four sites in Michigan, one of which massasauga was Bois Blanc Island, which Moore rattlesnake at Pierce said is a haven for rattlesnakes. Cedar Creek Institute. In addition to field research, the Right, The eastern team has monitored the species at massasauga Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Barry rattlesnake species has been proposed County to assess its long-term for inclusion on the viability. Danielle Bradke, a graduate U.S. endangered student majoring in biology, said the species list as of institute is interested in collecting September 2015. data on this population so officials can make land management decisions that will help conserve these reptiles. Along with studying population demography and how habitat management activities may affect the presence of the disease, Moore's team is aiming to better understand the ecology of the fungus, Ophidiomyces, which causes snake fungal disease.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GVMagazineSpring2016

Campus News
Donor Impact
Q&A Faite Mack
Saddle up: professor leads research on speech therapy technique
Cultural competency in health care
Hot ideas and inventions
Focal Point
Life before Louie: making a mascot
Alumni News