Species Diversity, Health, and Thermal Physiology of Semi-Aquatic Snakes from Reserves in Santa Cruz to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta

Mentor & Lab: Elsie Carrillo – Mehta Lab

Positions: 2 interns

Tentative dates: June – August

Project Location: Field work will take place on the Coastal Campus and Younger Lagoon Reserve three times a week and day trips to Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta three times a week.

Project Background: Snakes have strong ecological linkages to apex predators and primary consumers. Semi-aquatic snakes, such as widely-distributed garter snakes bridge terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This project focuses on surveying snakes of the Younger Lagoon Reserve in Santa Cruz and Staten Island Reserve, a wildlife-friendly farm in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The 15 species of snakes that inhabit Younger Lagoon and 14 species of snakes that inhabit the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are dependent on aquatic food resources and dynamic habitats such as ephemeral ponds and irrigation canals that act as critical thermal refugia.

Intern duties: For this project, we will mentor an intern to assist with fieldwork to survey snakes using cover boards, minnow traps, and camera traps at Younger Lagoon and Staten Island Reserve. Our objectives are to 1) document species diversity and health, 2) foraging ecology, and 3) thermal physiology. The results of this study will provide much-needed mechanistic information on the distribution and resources (thermal habitat and prey) necessary for snakes to inhabit these reserves and can inform their protection and management in analogous areas.

Intern qualifications: We are looking for an enthusiastic and motivated intern who is excited to get out in the field for potentially early and long field days in Santa Cruz as well as the hot, dry climate of Sacramento. Our intern will be respectful and willing to work in a team environment, have good communication skills, and handle snakes with care.

Do you recommend the intern(s) volunteer in your lab during Spring quarter?
Yes, we recommend our intern to perform husbandry duties of the captive-bred, juvenile garter snakes we have in the lab to prepare to handle wild, adult snakes in the field.

UC Santa Cruz Land Acknowledgement

The land from which we base our work is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.