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Blog & News

February 1st, 2024

National Serpent Day: An Overview of Our Expertise

Author: Dr. Rex Bergamini, Brittany Dell, and Connor Shea
Today, February 1st, is National Serpent Day which means it is a perfect time to reflect on the important role serpents play in our ecosystem! Many of Great Ecology’s projects involve protecting and understanding the habitats of these slithery creatures. In fact, some of our staff are specially trained and licensed in a variety of surveys and handling protocols pertaining to venomous and innocuous snakes. Great Ecology’s own Dr. Bergamini, Senior Managing Ecologist, and Brittany Dell, Ecologist, both share a unique background as wildlife biologists and a strong love for snakes. We caught up with them to learn more about their expertise!
When asked about his research experience with snakes, Dr. Bergamini replied:
“I work with the entire diversity of venomous and non-venomous snakes in the [American] southwest; however, my research is primarily with two federally listed as threatened gartersnake species (i.e., Narrow-headed gartersnake, Thamnophis rufipunctatus; and Northern Mexican gartersnake, Thamnophis eques megalops); and two rattlesnake species, the federally-listed as threatened New Mexico ridge-nosed rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi obscurus) and the state-listed as sensitive Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus). The focus of my research with these species is population monitoring (particularly post-catastrophic wildfire), detecting novel population distributions, identifying denning sites and brumation behavior, and identifying species’ range, habitat use, trophic positioning and diet.”
In addition to his extensive research background, Dr. Bergamini is a nationally recognized wildlife biologist who specializes in conducting wildlife surveys and compliance monitoring for projects, especially those involving threatened and endangered species.
When asked about how her love of snakes influenced her career path, Brittany replied: 
“My love for snakes started as a child. I often would catch non-venomous species for fun since I spent most of my time outside when not in school. In college, I landed an internship tracking the movements of timber rattlesnakes in Western New York for the NYS DEC using radiotelemetry. This helped locate unknown den locations in an area where this species was heavily persecuted historically and the population was low. After that, I was hired for a seasonal position with the NYS DEC performing visual surveys for timber rattlesnakes to confirm the status of historical den sites in the Hudson Valley to help estimate population size. Before I began at Great Ecology, I was living in Bali, Indonesia for 1.5 years where I helped the Bali Reptile Rescue capture and relocate venomous snakes that were discovered in people's homes or businesses.”
Now at Great Ecology, Britt continues to take part in habitat surveys for snakes and other creatures at project sites and creates management plans to protect them. Some of Britt’s work has involved monitoring sites to prevent incidental take during maintenance activities and avoiding negative impacts to endangered species.
We are truly grateful for the snake expertise Dr. Bergamini and Brittany bring to our team and are impressed by their commitment to preserving the habitats these creatures call home!
All photos shown here were taken by Dr. Bergamini and Brittany at various project sites.