Hi everyone, my name is Adia Sovie, and I am a PhD candidate at the University of Florida.

My MS research was on the impact of Burmese pythons on mammals in the Everglades.

The focus of my PhD research at UF is the ecology and distribution of grey and fox squirrels.

I have worked around the world, and my interests include invasion ecology, predator conservation, human-wildlife conflict, and the Red Sox!

I also like to curl up and read with my cat, Kidiri (Swahili for squirrel!).

I am doing this as part of an AMA series with the University of Florida/IFAS Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

Proof linked here!

I will also be on the Wildlife Department podcast tomorrow to talk about my experiences, which you can find at this link and the Facebook page.

I have to go now. This was fun! Thanks for all the thoughtful questions!

Comments: 438 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

BabylonBash568 karma

I couldn't help but notice you're a biologist with a JOB.

How does one acquire these?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs473 karma

Yes, getting paid to do what I love has been a long journey. I studied Environmental science in undergrad at the University of Massachusetts, while there I had the opportunity to study abroad in Africa. That opportunity really changed my life and made me want to do field biology. My first few jobs were internships, where I was given a small stipend and housing. I worked hard at those and built from there to paid technician work until I got into graduate school.

Somethings that really helped me be able to do this were: 1) I had 0$ student debt (between going to a state school, my parents, scholarships, and grants)
2) not having a car 3) being on my parent's insurance until I was 26 4) being willing to move every 3-6 months for 6 years

jackster_172 karma

Have supportive parents, who are not poor, willing to drive you around, pay for college and be completely supportive of the education endevors that you choose. Too late for me, but I will try to do better for my kids.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs239 karma

Yes, I am incredibly aware and grateful of my privileged and the opportunities that I have. In my lab, we are currently trying to research how to remove these barriers to entry to the field.

As for the car-less thing - my parents didn't drive me around, I worked in the middle of nowhere and stayed there

jackster_59 karma

That sounds amazing, I hope you find a way. Sorry if I came across as salty. My parents were running from the tax man in my, and my sibling's college years. They could neither pay for college nor could I receive financial aid without showing their previous tax return/information. The whole "massive debt" thing is frightening to me for when my child goes to college. I am willing to take in the debt, but I don't want my children to have to live like that. I did return to school, but not for what I wanted to do.

I hope one day my daughter can do an AMA like this and mentions her parents. Give your parents a hug for doing what they could.

cantremeberstuff58 karma

Not that it will help much, but there is more conversation now around privilege and (lack of) diversity in science than there used to be. Science requires extensive schooling, and unfortunately, the leaky pipeline (people leaving the trajectory that leads to a job in science) begins early, high school or earlier, and correlates with the predicted socioeconomic factors around education (especially university and post-graduate). Lots of people in science got their start by being able to work for little or no pay in research assistant positions, which is made possible by support from mom and dad. There has been some writing about how this reinforces the lack of diversity in science. Unfortunately, these students represent very cheap labour for professors with tight research budgets, so it is an issue with many inherent challenges.

Interestingly, there also seem to be some cultural differences that can contribute to a lack of diversity in fields like ecology. Ecology often requires working outside in rough conditions down in the 'muck' (think muddy, dirty, sweaty, and covered in animal poo). There can be some (justifiable) cultural perspectives that think this type of work is just another way to exploit a 'peasant' class, and why would you waste a university education doing this kind of work, especially when you consider that most jobs in ecology don't lead to the high high pay in other professions (lawyer, finance, medicine, etc.). You can make a damn good living as a professor in ecology, but those positions are crazy competitive, and (given the amount of schooling) don't pay that incredibly well (especially compared to something like finance).

Anyways, all that just to say the lack of diversity is a problem, and who knows when we'll fix it. But, it is a more prominent conversation now then it used to be.

Signed, another privileged PhD ecologist.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs22 karma

Thank you for this very insightful response. I fully agree!

BabylonBash69 karma

Thank you so much for replying! Any advice on how to get involved in internships?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs126 karma

An indispensable resource for jobs: https://wfscjobs.tamu.edu/job-board/

Also, most parks have internship opportunities - reach out and ask how you can help.

anotherMiguel98 karma

I read a research (cited in theguardian's recent biodiversity longform piece) that said climate change had eight times more media presence than biodiversity issues. What are your thoughts on this?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs174 karma

Climate change has the potential to threaten human well being globally.

Floods, fires, and hurricanes are very salient threats to human security. The loss of over half of the worlds species in the next century is a more abstract idea.

The biodiversity crisis is also largely tied to climate change in that the drivers of climate change (fossil fuel use, forest destruction, and population increase) also contribute to species loss.

lablizard78 karma

which do you think has a bigger negative impact on the everglades: Wild pigs, cats, or burms?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs142 karma

All of these are HUGE problems. Outdoor cats are a global conservation problem and wild pigs impact natural areas throughout the Southeast.

However current research suggests that pythons are rearranging food webs in the Everglades. These ecosystem wide effects are on a larger scale than the effects of cats or pigs.

bananasvetlana23 karma

Would you agree that cats probably present a bigger issue as they’re a problem that covers more areas of the world (e.g. various small islands, Australia, Phillipenes, Bahamas)? Whereas burms have an intense impact on a smaller area? Don’t know a lot about American ecology so please correct if I’m wrong!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs85 karma

Can I re-phrase your question as "if you could eradicate pythons in the Everglades or feral cats world wide what would you do?"

That is such a difficult question! Ultimately if I had to chose I would solve feral cats - they have caused hundreds of extinctions and kill nearly a billion birds a year!

pubeINyourSOUP30 karma

Holy christ a billion?

JeffTrav74 karma

Do the “bounty” programs for pythons have any real effect of the total numbers, and is there any hope of actual eradication of this particular invasive species or of restoring the ecosystem to its former state?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs123 karma

Currently, there is no "bounty" program for pythons.

There have been a few "Python Round-Ups" that have removed ~100 snakes each. Bounty programs can be complicated to run and often have unintended consequences, including the perverse incentive to release more snakes into the wild.

Also, pythons are very hard to find! Unfortunately, I do not think we can remove every one of them by hand. The round-ups do have a few positive benefits; they raise money for Everglades conservation and raise public awareness to keep non-native pets inside!!!!

Oddbadger69 karma

To add to the OP's response, you might be interested in reading about the Cobra effect:

The term cobra effect originated in an anecdote set at the time of British rule of colonial India. The British government was concerned about the number of venomous cobra snakes in Delhi.[3] The government therefore offered bounty for every dead cobra. Initially this was a successful strategy as large numbers of snakes were killed for the reward. Eventually, however, enterprising people began to breed cobras for the income. When the government became aware of this, the reward program was scrapped, causing the cobra breeders to set the now-worthless snakes free. As a result, the wild cobra population further increased. The apparent solution for the problem made the situation even worse.[2][4] *

WiscoCheeses74 karma

Are you the same Everglade python and rabbit researcher that wrote a letter to the My Favorite Murder podcast about almost getting murdered/wandering into a crime scene????? If not, what are the odds and you should listen to that episode!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs66 karma

SSDGM -A

xtlou73 karma

I don’t have a question but a small story to let you know your research is making an impact on younger generations.

While babysitting a friend’s nearly 4 year old son, he piped up and asked me and my husband “Do you want to be on my team?” “What sort of team?” “We will work in the Everglades and return lost pets to their owners. We will be rescuers.” “Oh yeah? Tell us more.” “Well, we’re going to rescue Burmese pythons that got lost by their owners because they’re not supposed to be there.”

See, he’s addicted to watching National Geographic. He saw a show ep regarding the Everglades where they talked about dumping of snakes and the impact on the ecosystem. He understood the snakes are a problem and they’re there because of people but in his mind, the snakes were lost and not abandonded. He just turned five and he still wants to be part of an Everglade rescue team.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs33 karma

That is so sweet, thanks for sharing!

makorringa55 karma

Is there anything I can do while living in the city to help any of those animals?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs105 karma

Thank you so much for your interest in helping wildlife!

You may not realize it, but lots of wildlife live in cities! Urban parks are important places for birds to nest or stop in while they migrate and peregrine falcons even nest on sky scrapers!

So you can do things right in your neighborhood to help wildlife- make sure your trash is secure (its bad for raccoons to get at trash), keep your pets inside (dogs and cats scare wildlife), and even plant or put out potted plants that can provide food and cover for animals living in the city.

As for the animals in the Everglades, donating to The Everglades Foundation is a great way to help out. Also, share what you know about invasive species (like the pythons) so that other people won't introduce more.

Did I give you enough home work? :)

makingsquares53 karma

I heard that there are nile crocodiles in the everglades now, is that true?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs153 karma

Occasionally the stray Nile crocodile shows up, but these are isolated incidents and they are captured as soon as possible.

I am never truly surprised of what shows up in the Everglades, Miami is the largest port for imported wildlife.

kometes34 karma

So what are some of the stranger things that have shown up?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs64 karma

I caught a few peacocks on my game cameras, and there are wild capybaras in some parts of Florida

Here is a great website that has all the invasive species detected in FL http://www.eddmaps.org/Species/

Thejohnnycheese52 karma

Any advice to a college student looking to work as a field biologist in the future?

TheOfficialMarley23 karma

This would be really appreciated.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs89 karma

My advice for early career scientists is to : 1) get work experience 2) publish a scientific paper

Volunteer in the labs of professors who do research you are interested in. Over the summers try to get research experience so that you can set yourself up to write a paper. Also, focus on making relationships with professors and TA's, grades are far less important than relationships.

I would write a stronger letter of recommendation for a student who had a 89% but showed up to class everyday, came to office hours and participated than a student with a 99 that I never saw.

DentedAnvil20 karma

Are you finding that the python population is the greatest threat to squirrels or is it merely an aggravating factor along with habitat loss and climate change issues?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs45 karma

My masters and PhD work are not related, my squirrel research is in southwest GA where fire suppression and habitat loss is the big problem.

However, I do have a few projects still going on in the Everglades and it seems that squirrels are one of the only mammal species still hanging on down there.

Potentially, being arboreal and diurnal (active during the day) helps keep them away from the snakes. As for the rest of the mammal populations, while habitat destruction, pollution, and water flow problems are certainly not making life easy - pythons are by far the biggest threat.

I did a study where I looked at the spacial distribution of mammals and how that lined up with habitat loss, water flow, pollution and other factors and found that pythons are the #1 problem for mammals.

bananasvetlana8 karma

What species of squirrel is it that is in the Everglades? We’ve got a serious issue with invasive American grey squirrels out competing our native reds in the UK. Culling has been proven not massively cost effective, and no species specific contraception is available yet. Have there ever been any trapping and relocating of squirrels to America that you know of? Seems trapping squirrels and transporting them to America may be beneficial for both and therefore cost effective? Species specificity wouldn’t be an issue as the reds could just be rereleased, and wouldn’t take a whole lot of man power if they were multi catch traps. Although, not sure if they’ve been here so long now that gene issues may come into play.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs22 karma

Eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and Fox squires (Sciurus niger) can both be found in the Everglades.

The Eastern grey is common in Florida and is invasive in many parts of the UK and Europe. Grey squirrels do great in human modified systems, here in the US I am studying how they are forcing out Fox squirrels from habitats that human alter.

Unfortunately, relocating squirrels is not very effective. The squirrels usually die shortly after release because they do not know where to hide from predators.

Pertelot16 karma

I had never heard of marsh rabbits until moving to Florida. Are they a separate species or a subspecies? Do they have traits that make them more successful in the marsh? Does interbreeding occur?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs34 karma

Marsh rabbits are their own species (Sylvilagus palustris) and do not interbreed with other types of rabbits. The genus Sylvilagus includes Eastern cottontails (S. floridanus), swamp rabbits (S. aquaticus), and about 17 other species of "cottontails". Marsh rabbits, swamp rabbits, and Eastern cottontails all occur in the Southeast.

Marsh rabbits have a few adaptations that make them great at life in the Everglades. They have fully furred and slightly webbed feet that aid in swimming. They also have short hair to help keep the water off. Compared to Eastern cottontails they have darker coloring and no white tail to help them blend in.

xynix_ie13 karma

I live on a preserve in Southwest FL (FM) and have been working with a couple local groups on ocean conservation as a normal citizen. Is there a way to get involved in helping everglades conservation as a volunteer? The invasive species killing our migratory birds is something I don't see being addressed.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

Reach out to the park! Everglades National Park has an active volunteer program.

The Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area is another great organization.

kcousck12 karma

Hey, I'm from the green swamp in Central Florida. Like... straight out of the swamp, girl. (gator catchin and frog giggin childhood) I am pregnant with my first girl (am living in Norway) and just wondering if you have any name ideas that could reflect the plants/ wildlife of our beautiful Florida swamps? Smiles!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs26 karma

That is a great idea! I am always on the lookout for good science words that can also be names. Lindenii is the species name for Ghost orchids, so Linden is an option I have considered. Also, Hyla is a genius of tree frog that I love.

Congratulations and good luck!

finalfunk11 karma

Slightly off-topic, but relevant since your papers are affected:

So many white paper publications are stuck behind paywalls, and I'm not about to fork up $39.95 USD for full access to your paper on invasive pythons, even though I'd be very interested in reading the full-text if the content were affordable.

As an engaged citizen (but not a student, nor employed by a scientific / academic employer), I hit these white paper paywalls once every week or two and was wondering if you have any advice. Specifically: What is the most affordable (and still ethical) means to access the wonderful world of full-text white papers?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs36 karma

My go to is google scholar, they often have links to PDFs. Authors have the right to share full-text papers personally, so try emailing the author. Most scientists will be ecstatic that you are interested in their very specific topic.

If you keep hitting pay walls try using the internet at a local library or university. Their IP addresses will usually let you get past paywalls.

feistyturdface11 karma

I have some bats on my land, What can I do/plant to help them thrive?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs21 karma

Thank you so much for thinking about how to help bats on your property!

If you live in Florida, most bats like to sleep under bark and in hollow trees. If at all possible, keep older trees and snags on your property. If you do need to remove these habitats try to replace them with bat boxes.

Avoid using pesticides on your property, bats can be your natural pesticide! Depending on what types of bats you have you can plant vegetation that will encourage their prey (i.e.moths). No matter what, before you do anything, make sure bats can't get into your home! Seal up any cracks, chimneys, or crawl spaces so the bats stay outside. The best way to help wildlife is to reduce any chance of conflict/interaction with people!

bows363310 karma

Have you found as a female in a STEM major that you've faced prejudice or sexism towards you?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs23 karma

Thank you for this very thoughtful question.

As a woman in STEM, especially in a discipline that has so much field work, I am usually aware that I am in a "man's field" but I have not felt direct prejudice or sexism. There have been times where I have to assert myself more and stand up for myself and interests because I am female.

Unfortunately, a lot of my female wildlife colleagues have experienced harassment and prejudice.

There are great groups like "Women of Wildlife" that we can turn to for support and the "Me too" movement is giving the women of STEM a platform to demand change in our field!

lillydo080810 karma

What is one thing you think everyone should know about squirrels?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs34 karma

Squirrels structure forests! Squirrels are important seed predators and disperses, they not only eat many acorns and pine cones but they also store them. Often, squirrels forget where the stash is or they die before they dig it back up - so the seed has a chance to sprout. Where the squirrels chose to stash the acorn or pine cone determines how the forest develops!

remotectrl6 karma

Have you recorded the Florida Bonneted Bat (Eumops floridanus) at all in the Everglades or anywhere else where you have surveyed? Either acoustically or by capture.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs8 karma

My collaborators detected Fl. bonneted bats acoustically in many habitats in South Florida. Here is a great write up of that research: https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/98/6/1586/4160385

ttthistttthat5 karma

As temperatures may change in the next hundred or so years, will the niches these animals live in change in any ways that will effect them? Will their regions expand northward/southward?

Also, since you're an active ecologist who studies animals, maybe you have a story or two I can add to this (since there's no book on these types of broad ecology relationships, I had to start a new page to collect them): http://tttthis.com/lessonsfromecology.php

IFAS_WEC_AMAs10 karma

Of all the effects of climate change, I predict that sea level rise will affect Florida's wildlife the most. A rise of 1m will inundate almost all of Everglades National Park. The ecosystem may be able to track sea level rise and climate change, but only if we protect land to the North of the park.

finallysigned5 karma

I hear you did exciting work at GRCA in 2012 as well ;) Veg crew (and animal people too, I suppose) represent!

Question: what has been more beneficial in enabling you to pursue higher education in the sciences, work experience and letters of recommendation, or grades and standardized testing scores?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs7 karma

I don't know how to Reddit enough to figure out which GRCA (Grand Canyon for the uninitiated) alum this is! But hey!

100% work experience and letters of recommendation. My current adviser was on the fence about me until they chatted with my GRCA supervisor. When he heard about all the crazy stuff I was willing to put up with to get at the owls, he knew I would be a good graduate student.

discountErasmus5 karma

Have you done any work with Burmese pythons in their native habitats? What are those populations like?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs15 karma

Unfortunately, many python species are endangered or threatened in their native habitats. In Southeast Asia python populations are limited by predators and disease. Unfortunately, none of these predators or diseases are present in Florida but researchers are trying to find possible bio control solutions!

MadForStrawberries5 karma

How did the Burmese pythons got to the Everglades? Were they purposely put there for eradicating some other invasive species?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs25 karma

Pythons were introduced to the Everglades accidentally via the pet trade.

The most likely scenario is that in the 1980's a few owners released their pets when they got too large. These released pets found each other and started to breed in the wild. Another possibility is that breeding facilities in Florida were damaged by hurricanes and many baby snakes were released.

Empyrealist4 karma

How big of a Bruins fan are you?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs2 karma

If you follow the proof link you can see me proudly representing the B's on the rim of the Grand Canyon!

thewarmongeringgnome4 karma

Are the pythons expanding their territory north into the rest of the state? Is it even possible to eradicate them at this point, or are they here to stay?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs15 karma

Removals are tracking Northward. The exact extent of their potential range is heavily debated among ecologists. Winter low temperatures are likely the limiting factor for pythons. However, pythons may adapt by seeking refugia in caves and burrows.

The best way to eradicate invasive species is to intervene early in the invasion process. We may be able to keep pythons out of areas that they have not yet invaded like Texas or the Lower Keys. I like to be an optimist and believe that we can control pythons in FL and return our native mammal populations!

blaublaublue4 karma

Do you have any knowledge regarding the Western Rattlesnake? I'm going camping / hiking for 7 nights with my buddies in Zion National Park in Utah shortly, and I've read that these exist there.

Any advice or tips on how to behave should we come across one? https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/nature/rattlesnake.htm

IFAS_WEC_AMAs6 karma

Awesome!

I am jealous. I love Zion and 7 days camping there will be very fun. Rattlesnakes are present in Zion (and pretty much everywhere out West) but should not deter you from enjoying the park.

Rattlesnakes are rodent predators and have no interest in harming humans but will defend themselves. This makes avoiding snake bites easy - don't look or smell like a mouse and leave them alone.

Snakes are often seen warming up on roads and trails in the morning. When they are basking they tend to be a little sluggish and may not get out of the way fast. Give them space and time and they will move on. Also avoid nooks and crevasses where snakes might hide and never put your hands where you can't see. Finally, always check your boots before you put them on each morning. It is rare for snakes to crawl in shoes, but spiders and scorpions might hide in there over night.

blaublaublue5 karma

Thank you so much for your reply! These are all great tips to know, I appreciate it. Wishing you the best in with your PHD candidacy and future success in your field!

p.s. any favorite trails from Zion?!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

Angels landing - Don't be scared by the railing, its worth it!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs1 karma

Awesome!

I am jealous. I love Zion and 7 days camping there will be very fun. Rattlesnakes are present in Zion (and pretty much everywhere out West) but should not deter you from enjoying the park.

Rattlesnakes are rodent predators and have no interest in harming humans but will defend themselves. This makes avoiding snake bites easy - don't look or smell like a mouse and leave them alone.

Snakes are often seen warming up on roads and trails in the morning. When they are basking they tend to be a little sluggish and may not get out of the way fast. Give them space and time and they will move on. Also avoid nooks and crevasses where snakes might hide and never put your hands where you can't see. Finally, always check your boots before you put them on each morning. It is rare for snakes to crawl in shoes, but spiders and scorpions might hide in there over night.

GleepGloopGlop4 karma

Any interesting stories from your field work? Ever get spooked at night? Observe some undocumented behaviors in animals in the wild? Do you have any novel hypothesis about the creatures you study?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs20 karma

I get spooked all the time at night! I used to do solo owl call back surveys at night in Grand Canyon, at first I was scared to hoot - I didn't want the creepy crawly boogie men to find me. Eventually, I got over it.

im_actual_trash3 karma

What’s your favorite kind of soup?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

chicken

SWOLAGE2 karma

This is kind of a general question but what is your opinion on the sale of ball pythons and the like by big pet stores such as petco, petsmart, etc.? I want to buy one and I just want to know what an ecologist thinks of the idea.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs7 karma

Ball pythons are occasionally found in South Florida and I would not have one down there myself. For me, even as a responsible pet owner, the consequences of the animal escaping are just too high.

In my opinion, I would like to see large chain stores stop selling intact (i.e. capable of breeding) non-native animals. At a minimum I would like to see them provide more information about invasion potential when people buy these animals.

addscomma2 karma

What is your favorite ecology fun fact?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

Marsh rabbits run or walk rather than hop!

JavArc132 karma

How common are reticulated pythons in the Everglades?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

Reticulated pythons are uncommon in the Everglades, with fewer than 10 removed according to EDDMaps

SamBrainless2 karma

I don't know if you're still doing this, but if you are, in a few months I start my undergraduate degree in Zoology in the UK (I'm British). What advice would you give someone just starting out?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs4 karma

My advice for early career scientists is to : 1) get work experience 2) publish a scientific paper

Volunteer in the labs of professors who do research you are interested in. Over the summers try to get research experience so that you can set yourself up to write a paper. Also, focus on making relationships with professors and TA's, grades are far less important than relationships.

I would write a stronger letter of recommendation for a student who had a 89% but showed up to class everyday, came to office hours and participated than a student with a 99 that I never saw.

DinoDude232 karma

So - what is the effect of python introduction on mammal populations in the everglades? Do we see larger ecological effects akin to the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs5 karma

Pythons have reduced mammal diversity and numbers throughout the Everglades. This likely has profound effects on the ecosystem.

My collaborators are looking at possible links between pythons and disease outbreaks. When mosquitoes have fewer rabbits, deer, and opossums to bite they bite rodents instead. Rodents tend to harbor more viruses and other diseases that could harm humans!

lebusandlibus2 karma

Is a marsh rabbit and a swamp rabbit the same animal?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs2 karma

They are separate species! The swamp rabbit is found in swamp and bottom-land habitats further West in GA and up to Illinois

olmikeyy1 karma

Have you encountered any animals in the wild who you could compare to Brad Marchand?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

Fisher - stocky but not huge, aggressive and not flashy like the ermine (Crosby)

greenbluepurple951 karma

When animals shed rtheir winter coats is that triggered by photoperiod?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs2 karma

Generally, yes. However marsh rabbits do not shed their coats

jp_books1 karma

Question: What kind of bear is best?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs2 karma

Polar

jhetzz441 karma

Have they found any anacondas in the Everglades? I’ve heard of them finding other species of snakes that aren’t natural to the glades!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs2 karma

Yes, the whole rainbow of anacondas Green and Yellow

SpiffehCA1 karma

Do you name the rabbits you meet?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs6 karma

As a rule, no. They all get a letter signifying the location and then a number (A1, A3, B1, B2 ect).

Some might have earned nick names, like "Yoda" who lived in a hollowed stump way out in the swamp by himself, or "Haymitch" the rabbit who outlived all the other study animals.

LifeWin1 karma

In a fight, we all know a python beats a rabbit.

But - as an ecologist - how many rabbits do you think it would take to tip the scales? (pun intended)

TLDR: What is the scientific Bunny/Python ratio, for gambling purposes, mostly.

IFAS_WEC_AMAs13 karma

Marsh rabbits are lovers not fighters. I don't even use drugs to keep them calm while I handle them. Some of them even lick me gently during collaring! Sooo...I don't think any number of rabbits could take on a python.

Veda0071 karma

Thank you for this AMA. I have enjoyed all of your answers. In addition to being obviously well informed on your field of studies, you have great skill at simple informative explanations. I imagine that will serve to help inform the public throughout your career.

My question. Can you give an example of a time where your research provided information that was unexpected? I imagine a lot of time is spent proving things we already suspect so I’d be interested in a time where you were surprised at the results.

Thanks again!

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

Thank you for the kind words, this has been a lot of fun.

Yes, I was very surprised by some of my python research. I was a python = mammal decline skeptic. Rabbits are "r strategists" which means they breed very quickly and are generally not driven to extinction by their predators. I was doubtful that a single predator would cause the dramatic crashes seen in the literature.

I released a group of rabbits with transmitters to the Everglades in November. They were highly successful and actually had higher survival than the control areas. In fact the population was great for nearly 8 months, then May hit and BOOM. Pythons descended on my population and ate all of my rabbits in 6 weeks.

I was not expecting python activity to be so tied to weather and temperature or for them to be so voracious!

misspussy1 karma

Did you pick those animals or did your boss give them to you?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs3 karma

The python and rabbit research was conceived of before I joined the lab. However I chose to get involved with bat, owl, and squirrel work.

robynlovesu1 karma

What happened to Morla?

IFAS_WEC_AMAs2 karma

She got a liver infection and passed away a year and a half ago :( Kidiri is nice tho.