Javan Bauder

Javan Bauder joined The Orianne Society in 2009.

Position: I work for The Orianne Society as an
Assistant Conservation Scientist.

Education: After a wonderful homeschool education, I
attended the University of Idaho where I earned my B.S. in Wildlife Resources,
with a minor in Biology to add a little variety to the mix. I then moved across
the state to Idaho State University where I earned my M.S. in Biology.

Background: While working on my Masters, I studied
prairie rattlesnake movement and habitat selection in the Frank Church
Wilderness of central Idaho. The cool twist on this project was that I was
working in one of the most mountainous and rugged landscapes I had ever seen,
and I was interested in how the rattlesnakes responded to that landscape. Turns
out, below a certain elevational limit, the rattlesnakes didn’t much care about
topography and would move over ridges as well as along valley bottoms. As a
result of this project, I have developed an interest in understanding where
reptiles and amphibians move across the landscape and why they make those
movements. My work with The Orianne Society then brought me from the mountains
of Idaho to the Coastal Plain of Georgia and Florida. My research with the
Orianne Society has focused on answering questions about eastern indigo snake ecology
that we need to understand to help better conserve them. I have studied the
thermal ecology of eastern indigo snakes, which has consisted of measuring the
temperatures they experience in the wild and determining if these temperatures
restrict when or where the snakes can be active and how those restrictions
influence their ability to survive and reproduce. My primary focus now is on
studying the effects of non-natural landscapes, like cattle ranches, citrus
groves, agricultural fields, rural and urban development, on the population
viability of eastern indigo snakes in Florida. I also work with our indigo
snake monitoring programs in southern Georgia.

Why herpetology?: Honestly, that’s just the way God
made me. I have always had an interest in reptiles and amphibians going back to
my earliest childhood memories, which include catching garter snakes and
salamanders on my grandparent’s property in Oregon or insisting that our family
hikes go through wild and scenic sagebrush to maximize our chances of finding
lizards. I think I always knew I would be working with these animals in some
way for the rest of my life. There was just something about snakes, lizards,
turtles, frogs, and salamanders that I found irresistible. As I grew older, I
became interested in learning more about these animals in a more formal manner
and that’s when I started to learn about studying reptiles and amphibians as a
research scientist. I have always retained that interest in scientific
research, from the project design to the field work to the data analyses (the
best part!) to the preparation of a completed manuscript. But even through all
the grant proposals and statistics, the most important part for me is the fact
that I am learning more about reptiles and amphibians.

Why snakes?: Snakes are just plain cool. Need I say
more? Out of all the major groups of reptiles and amphibians snakes have held
the most interest for me. I think there is something fascinating about an
animal with no legs that moves effortlessly through its environment. Even with
that very simple body plan, snakes are a very diverse group with small
burrowing species, large constrictors, highly venomous species, even species
that are completely aquatic.

Most memorable snake experience?:  My most memorable
snake experience occurred during the third summer of my Masters field work. I
was radio tracking one of my prairie rattlesnakes and walking down the side of
the valley. All of a sudden, I slipped, and flailed my arms in just the right
way so that one of the elements of my radio telemetry antenna (about the
diameter of a pencil) came underneath my sunglasses, slipped underneath my
eyelid and poked through the bone in the back of my eye socket and into my
brain. Long story short, I got a night in the Intensive Care Unit at the Boise
Hospital and three weeks of “vacation” time while I healed up. Praise God,
there have been no lasting side effects!

Best snake story you ever heard?:  I know this is bad, but I can’t think of a specific snake
story that qualifies as a “best” snake story. I have heard so many, they all run
together.

Favorite snake species?:  Prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus
viridis
). Not the largest or most charismatic rattlesnake but they are my
favorite. Probably comes from studying them for three years!

Favorite place to herp: I have had the pleasure to
herp in many areas across the country. But I would have to give the prize to
the Sky Island mountains of southeast Arizona. They have a great diversity of
desert species plus several montane species whose range barely makes it into
the U.S. from Mexico. The landscape is beautiful and the birding is great too.

Why The Orianne Society?:  As much as I love studying
reptiles and amphibians, I like my research to have some practical application
that can benefit these amazing species. However, most conservation
organizations do not have a strong research component built into their
programs. The Orianne Society is one of the few organizations that directly
combines scientific research with on-the-ground conservation, and is unique among
conservation organizations in that we focus this approach entirely on snakes.
As a result, I know that my research will help directly conserve species in the
wild.

What’s next?  I plan to continue working with The
Orianne Society, studying and helping to conserve the eastern indigo snake. To
help both myself and The Orianne Society do this, I will be starting my Ph.D.
this fall at the University of Massachusetts. My dissertation research will
involve studying the effects of non-natural landscapes on eastern indigo snake
population connectivity and viability in southern Florida. Indigo snakes in
southern Florida are facing many threats from landscape conversion and it is
important that we understand how these changes impact the long-term
survivability of the species. I hope to use this project as a foundation for
expanding our conservation efforts for indigo snakes in Florida.

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