New NAU App for Tracking Garter Snakes

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Wandering Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans)

NAU has launched a new app to track garter snakes ( Noelle Fletcher, an NAU graduate student in Environmental Sciences, came up with the idea for a garter snake app to involve the public in gathering information about the Northern Mexican and Narrow-headed Garter Snakes, two declining species of snakes. Both of these snakes have been proposed for listing as “Threatened with Critical Habitat” by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Joe Caruso, web designer for NAU’s IDEA Lab, developed the app with Fletcher, and the Watershed Research and Education Program funded the project.

“The goal with this app is to get information from people working or recreating on the Verde River who might see these snakes during the course of their time there,” explains Fletcher. The app has been designed to work on most smartphones, tablets, and computers. It has an identification section with snake photos to help volunteers with garter snake identification.

App users can upload their snake photos and input data about the snakes they have seen. This includes the specific species as well as information about the sighting, such as size, latitude and longitude, elevation, time of day, the weather conditions, and whether the snake was on land or in water. “To make sure all of our information is correct, I'll be examining the information coming through and providing correct IDs if necessary,” says Fletcher. There is also a tab for users to keep track of their own sightings.

The goal of the app is to collect population and behavior information about the snakes. “We're hoping the app will help us and interested state and federal management agencies identify new locations for both species,” notes Erika Nowak, NAU associate research professor in biological sciences and herpetologist at the Colorado Plateau Research Station. “We're also working with nonprofit conservation partners in the Verde Valley to promote use of the app.”

You can read more about garter snakes at