Monday, 13 January 2014

With blog carnival, Utah State snake buff hopes to repair reptiles’ rep--#SnakesAtYourService » Eight bloggers from around the world explain why snakes make the world a better place. - via Herp Digest

By Mathew Piper, Salt Lake Tribune, Dec 09 2013 

While they coil up in dark winter lairs, barely alive by most measures, Andrew Durso works to ensure snakes get a fair shake.

The Utah State University graduate student and seven other herpetology buffs are teaming up Monday for a daylong "blog carnival," #SnakesAtYourService, to give the reviled reptiles a much-needed infusion of good pub. They aim to show that snakes provide a bunch of essential services for Earth’s ecosystems, and unlike the snakes in government, they do it for free.

Durso has felt serpent sympathy since he volunteered at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in middle school, drawn by their beauty and ability to do all the life-supporting activities that most breathing things need limbs for.

"I realized how frightened people were of them and how baseless some of those fears are," he says. "Like with anything, the more knowledge you have about it, the less reason you have to be afraid of it."

He’s since devoted his life to furthering our understanding of snakes, including putting radios in them to find out what they do all day (conclusion: a whole lot of sitting around, waiting for prey) and analyzing chemical signatures to find out what’s on their menu (surprisingly tricky, since some females dine just a few times every other year.)

He was doing field work in Florida last year when he was struck by the way a former high school teacher was using social media to engage with layfolk back home. Remarkably, he thought, they actually seemed to care. At the ex-teacher’s urging, he started his own blog, "Life is Short but Snakes are Long," to share daily observations.

It really took off when he wrote about trying to identify a shed snake skin/snake shed in Florida. Turns out, lots of people on Google wanted to know how to do that. So Durso followed the post up with a broader how-to on identifying snake sheds throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Grand total, he says he can conservatively estimate 50,000 visitors to his blog. A woman in Virginia asked him for help identifying a shed skin that turned out to be from somebody’s pet anaconda. A Canadian woman sought Durso’s help vetting a murder mystery novel in which a snake was the murder weapon. And a Spanish doctor working in Ghana offered to translate his posts to Spanish at no cost, just to practice his English with material he enjoyed.

Now, inspired by Partner in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s Year of the Snake, Durso is putting the PR back in reptile. Five #SnakesatYourService bloggers live in America, one in Germany, one in Australia and one in Madagascar. All eight will link to each others’ posts, so if you’re interested, simply check out Durso’s blog.

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