MCCC Faculty Member to Shed Light
On World of Rattlesnakes in Dec. 4 Lecture


The mysterious world of the timber rattlesnake (crotalus horridus) will receive close scrutiny as MCCC Assistant Professor of Biology Ron Smith presents "Rattlesnakes and Military Operations: Friends or Foes?" This free lecture about one of New Jersey's precious endangered species takes place on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 12 noon on MCCC's West Windsor campus in the Communications Building, Room 109. Free and open to the public, it is presented as part of Mercer's Distinguished Lecture Series.

Growing up in north-central Pennsylvania, Smith was drawn to his region's natural environs, often catching reptiles and amphibians for fun. Over the past five years, he has conducted research on rattlesnakes at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range in the heart of the Pine Barrens in Burlington County.

MCCC faculty member Ron Smith
with New Jersey rattlesnake

According to Smith, human disturbance and encroachment into natural habitat are affecting wildlife throughout New Jersey. In his study, he examined the impact of human disturbance on rattlesnakes' movement patterns and their habitat life. To reduce negative impacts on the snake population, he has established guidelines for the military when it carries out operations in the Pine Barrens. Smith's research has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming book, The Biology of Rattlesnakes, due out in 2009.

"These snakes play a critical role in the ecosystem and there are steps that need to be taken to prevent them from becoming extinct," Smith said. "They have a long history of persecution because they are venomous and believed to be aggressive, but typically they only strike as a last resort when they are harassed. Their bad reputation is unjustified."

These rattlesnakes offer us a special opportunity, Smith adds. "I want people to know that they have a chance to explore a globally rare ecosystem right in their back yard. The New Jersey Pine Barrens is the perfect place."

To learn more about upcoming lectures at Mercer County Community College, click here or call 609-570-3324.

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