FGCU researchers use new technology to track reptiles

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New technology is helping Florida Gulf Coast University researchers track down potentially dangerous reptiles around campus.

Researchers can track reptiles such as rattlesnakes, eastern indigo snakes, geckos and even frogs by using DNA or eDNA.

“I have been called snake whisperer quite a few times,” FGCU Wildlife Biologist John Herman said. “We caught one, put the tag in it, started tracking it, and she led us to other rattlesnakes.”

Another specific way for researchers to locate a specific species is by inspecting their feces. DNA testing can lead researchers directly to their target.

“What we’re looking for is their day-to-day behavior, how much they move between one day and the next, how they utilize the environment,” Herman said.

Anyone across the globe can be a citizens scientist by collecting samples, marking where they came from and sending them to FGCU for ENDA testing, according to Herman.

“One thing we’ve learned with the rattlesnakes, they have no problem swimming,” Herman said. “We wouldn’t have known that without the ability to go out and locate them every single day.”

WINK News reporter Melinda Lee went along for the hunt to find out how the snake-tracking technology works.

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