Skip to main content

GV Now

Professor to participate in first #SnakeTownHall on Twitter

Posted on September 06, 2016

Beheaded, run over by a car or shot. These are some of the most common fates that snakes face because of people who are culturally conditioned to fear these slithering creatures.

Jennifer Moore, assistant professor of natural resource management, is hoping to change these fears and prejudices against snakes by participating in the inaugural #SnakeTownHall event on Twitter.

During the global digital forum taking place September 7 from 7-9 p.m., Moore will join a handful of like-minded scientists from across the U.S., who work with snakes, to advocate for the species by answering questions from the general public. The awareness conversation will be led by Auburn University wildlife ecologist David Steen, who has been dubbed the "Best Biologist on Twitter" by Slate Magazine because he regularly engages with the public to advocate on behalf of snakes on the social media platform.

"Snakes get a bad rap," said Moore, whose Twitter handle is @DrReptilia. "Lack of knowledge about them, or appreciation for them, contributes to the fear. If we can improve people's understanding and appreciation of these amazing species, they may be less likely to fear them and kill them needlessly. Snakes need love too."

But why should people set aside their distaste for snakes? Moore said ultimately, healthy ecosystems are essential for maintaining healthy people, and snakes, like so many other animals, are crucial to that formula.

"I hope this event will help people appreciate the role that snakes play," Moore said. "I don't expect everyone to want to snuggle up with a snake, but if I can convince people that it is better to keep them around than chop them in half, I will have done my job."

Since 2013, Moore has been working with students to research how snake fungal disease is endangering the eastern massasauga rattlesnake population in Michigan. The species, which is the only venomous native snake in the state, was proposed for federal listing on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015. The results of the proposal are expected this fall.

When it comes to saving the eastern massasaugas, and other species of snakes, research is only half the battle. Moore explained that public education about the benefits of snakes needs to be a central focus. That's where the #SnakeTownHall event comes in.

"In my experience, social media platforms like Twitter can be a great way for scientists to connect with the public," Moore said. "These platforms provide us with a way to share our science with the public in a relatable way. We get excited about the work that we do, and this is a great way to share that excitement more broadly, beyond just our science colleagues."

While Moore explained that snakes are a source of curiosity and fascination for many people, especially children, abolishing fear may be the key to saving more snakes.

"I've studied snakes for many years, and I routinely have people tell me that they, or a family member, have killed one in their yard, or that they run for the shovel every time they see one," said Moore. "I want to try and change that mentality and help people realize that most snakes, especially around Michigan, are totally harmless. If you leave them alone, they'll just go on their merry way and you'll probably never see them again."

To participate in the conversation, visit Twitter and search for the hashtag, #SnakeTownHall.

For more information, contact Moore at moorejen@gvsu.edu or (616) 331-8764.