Two grad students from Dr. Bruce Kingsbury’s lab, Sasha Tetzlaff and Mike Ravesi, are closing in on finishing their first season of research of the Eastern Massasauga at Camp Grayling in northern Michigan. The massasauga is a candidate for federal listing as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We have learned a great deal about their ecology over the last 10-20 years, but we still have a long way to go in terms of understanding their response to land management.
Mike and Sasha are exploring responses of the species to two habitat alterations: timber harvesting and a large-scale burn. Trees were cut in 2006 with hopes that opening canopy would provide the snakes with basking habitat. The fire burned through the study site in May of 2010. Snake movements are monitored using radio telemetry. Spatial analyses will show which habitats the snakes are choosing, and thermal work will help describe why snakes are picking those habitats.
Soon the snakes will go underground for the winter. That will give Sasha and Mike time to analyze their data from this season before the snakes come out in the spring and everything starts over again!