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News of EIU Research Project Hits International Radio Airwaves

Mar-13-2014

The plight of the Midland Brownsnake population at Fox Ridge State Park has gone international.

While usually keeping a low profile, the small and harmless brownsnakes begin preparing for the winter by migrating across a park road in search of suitable overwintering habitat. Sites in the park’s forested upland areas are much more suitable for hibernation than those where the snakes are active in the warmer months.

Unfortunately, because of their small size and coloring, these particular snakes often go unnoticed by motorists. Thus, a number of them never successfully complete their trip.

This week, the BBC radio program “Nature” (not to be confused with PBS’ televised “Nature” shows) featured a 28-minute episode focused on this phenomenon and the research being conducted on it through Eastern Illinois University.

EIU biology professor Stephen Mullin said he received “an email out of the blue” last year from the BBC, asking if he would be interested in having the research featured. Program host Howard Stableford visited Charleston and Fox Ridge State Park in October 2013, just in time to view some of the snakes on their perilous journey.

Mullin acknowledged that his research, which includes help from students in his lab group, “is not all that ground-breaking.” Actually, it is a rather common situation involving different animals throughout the world, he said.

That’s not to say Mullin doesn’t appreciate the coverage. “I’m flattered, of course,” he said, noting that he was especially pleased to see that the subject material captured the attention of the show’s audience.

“In fact, I’ve already received a request from a volunteer conservation group in Belgium for some advice on a similar situation involving toads crossing one of their roads near Brussels,” he said.

Interested listeners can catch the “Nature” episode here. Read more about the research project here.