Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Special Edition of the Suizo Report

Howdy Herpers,                             15 December 2012

Welcome to a special edition of the Suizo Report!

I want to begin by quoting from the last regular Suizo Report, sent on 18 October, 2011. It closed with these words:

"Also in peril is our ability to continue our study. By January of 2012, we will face an expense of $2,000.00 for PIT tags and transmitters. It is at that point where the final decision will transpire. But regardless of that decision, we will at least be out there tracking until the end of September 2012. We look forward to where our new friends will take us, as well as developments with the old."

Thank you to all who wrote in encouragement of the Suizo Study. People, some of whom I've never met, are willing to help us continue. Your willingness to support our scientific endeavors was very heartening.

The suggestion that we pass the hat for help came from many directions – and then right in the thick of all this angst about funding, my talented niece, Susan Barzacchini, sent me images of a three-dimensional snake necklace and a pair of snake shed-skin embossed earrings she created. In her own unselfish fashion, she offered them as a fundraiser for the Suizo Study -- and this, in the wake of hearing that Art Jewelry Magazine will run a feature on the necklace in an upcoming issue!  (For those unfamiliar with Art Jewelry, it is a flagship publication in the world of creative jewelry design.)

The last two weeks have been quite exciting, with Susan and the magazine getting a photo shoot done so that the necklace and earrings can be offered for sale this Christmas. More information about the creation of the necklace and the bidding process will be sent shortly.

Susan has asked me to share more about the Schuett/Repp Suizo Study, since this announcement will go out to many who are not on the Suizo Report email list. As I was compiling information for Susan, I was amazed at how much has happened over the years with our Study:

In March of 2012, we will have completed year number 11 with our radio telemetry study involving 4 species of rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters. The ability to follow individual snakes and monsters around all year long is a dream come true to this herper.

Between Gordon and myself, we have over 300 herp-related publications. We complement each other in this regard, as Gordon mainly centers on peer review venues, whereas I focus on herp society newsletters. We both spread the word about herps via public speaking engagements.

As for the work coming from the Suizo Mountains, we currently have eight peer review publications, two more in review, and the almighty kinship paper is in the hopper. With the latter, for over ten years, we collected blood samples from over 200 Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). Many of these were from aggregate situations, that is, what we hypothesize are family units. (The Jones family over-winters here together, the Smith clan over there, etc.) But we have more than blood/DNA from these animals. The blood is backed by the behaviors of many of individuals that were followed for years. I expect that when the results are all in, we will see things like brothers and sisters keeping tabs on each other through the course of the year. We will know the mothers and fathers of many of the baby snakes that were nesting under our watch. We have noted that pregnant female atrox, who normally tend to avoid each other during the active season, visit each other just prior to giving birth. Are these females related? Time will tell! These things and perhaps many other surprises are on the horizon.

The educational benefits from the study are numerous. Ever since 2003, we have led students from the U of A herp class to our plot. We teach them radio-tracking techniques, which is a valuable skill to learn if one is to move on in the wildlife studies arena. In addition to the U of A, we have had classes from five other academic institutions out to our plot. In all, we have trained over 200 individuals on the fundamentals of radio tracking, as well as the science of collecting data. We have also shared the mysteries of our beloved Suizo Mountains with hundreds of visitors from all over the country, as well as internationally. We've never sought or accepted funding for doing this important educational work.

On top of all this are the Suizo Reports, sent out to a list-serv with heavy hitter professional herpers as well as people who have but a passing interest in herps. These reports are unique, in that herpers are by nature taciturn and secretive. It is for this reason that we hear so little about the natural history of the animals that we love. This in turn leads to ignorance about what these creatures have to do to survive, and this ignorance leads to minimal public education on animals that are greatly misunderstood.

To all of you who love these animals as much as Gordon and I do, thank you for your encouragement over the past many years. A special thanks to Susan, for offering this spectacular necklace and earrings in financial support of our research! ALL of the money generated by this necklace will go into transmitters and equipment upgrades needed to continue our study.
(Not gas money, not salary--equipment!).

Without further adieu, just to tantalize the snake lovers among us, I will attach two images of "Mr. Snake."
Lastly, for those who have never been there, I attach an image of the patch of ground that we love so.

Created exclusively for a fundraiser for private herpetology research this silver sheet-wire fusion fanged snake is designed by fabricating sterling silver sheet, embossed with snakeskin with a rolling mill, into a dimensional structure of a rattlesnake head.  The tongue is tube-set with a faceted garnet and is hinged to the internal mouth allowing movement.  The eyes are competition glass taxidermy eyes that have been bezel set. Each component was patinaed with liver of sulfur and buffed before assembly. 
Susan Barzacchini

In 24 hours, I will send an email that explains the bidding process, as well as more information from Susan about Mr. Snake.

My heartfelt thanks to all who have been with us through the years. Here is to hoping we can enjoy the ride together for years to come!
Cheers, roger

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