UC senior from Greenhills is among first to implant recording device in snakes | Environment
CINCINNATI (FOX19) – A 19-year-old U.C. triple major from Greenhills is part of a team that has planted an electronic device called the Lotek Archival Tags (LATs) in snakes, the first in the world to use tracking technology previously used on birds and fish.
The snake Lauren Flick are studying is the Lake Erie Water Snake, a subspecies of the Northern Water Snake. The snake, formerly endangered, is making a comeback in part because of an invasive species in Lake Erie that the snake loves to eat, the Round Goby.
Flick, a senior who is simultaneously working on degrees in biology, psychology and criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, will present the findings of the study, called “Comparing the Effectiveness of Lotek Archival Tags (LATs) in a Behavioral Study of the Lake Erie Water Snake,” at a conference next week, along with her partners, lead researcher Kristen Stanford, a doctoral student at Northern Illinois University and recovery plan coordinator for the Lake Erie water snake, and Lindsey Korfel, a student at Wittenberg University.
The LAT’s measure temperature and pressure of the water the snakes are swimming in and record the information. The team had the devices implanted in two female snakes and found they spent about a quarter of their time foraging, going to the bottom of the lake to get at the gobies. Previously the only method to track the snakes was with radio transmitters, which have a 50-meter range couldn’t tell how deep the snakes were going, only where they were on a map.
The snakes, which used to be killed indiscriminately, are gaining new importance because they eat the gobies, an invasive species from Eurasia which is estimated to number in the billions in Lake Erie, decimating the population of some native fish species while simultaneously adding to the stocks of larger fish that eat gobies. In fact, the snakes are now getting 90 per cent of their diet from gobies. The population of 8,000 Lake Erie Water Snakes may not put much of a dent in the goby population, but the snake’s numbers have more than quintupled in the last 15 years.
The study concludes that using the Lotek devices may be a good way to track these snakes.
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