Josh Rich, Coleman Teel attend Research Day at the capitol

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Josh Rich, Coleman Teel attend Research Day at the capitol

April 12, 2010

 Josh Rich and Coleman Teel
Northwestern biology majors Josh Rich (left) and Coleman Teel submitted their research project “Predator Odors as a Potential Repellant for Snakes,” and were accepted to attend Research Day at the Capitol.

Josh Rich, Fairview sophomore, and Coleman Teel, Harper (Kan.) senior, represented Northwestern Oklahoma State University during Research Day at the State Capitol and presented their research project titled “Predator Odors as a Potential Repellant for Snakes.” The purpose of the project was to test the efficacy of the odor of a known snake predator as a repellent.

This is the second year in a row that Northwestern students from the Laboratory of Comparative Animal Behavior have attended Research Day at the Capitol.

Rich and Teel worked with Dr. Aaron Place, assistant professor of biology, on the project. Twenty-one student-researchers from 15 Oklahoma colleges and universities participated in this event.

“This is a great experience for the students,” Place said. “It is a culmination of the scientific process. They must research a topic, provide analytical findings and present the research to the public.”

Many Oklahomans, like many people of the world, hold a general dislike or even an overt fear of snakes. Many snakes are killed, intentionally or accidentally, when they are attracted to areas developed and inhabited by humans. Snakes serve an important role in nature, both controlling pest species and serving as food for species many humans deem as “good” animals.

Rich and Teel carried out two experiments to measure the response of neonate garter snakes to the odor of fox urine. The first experiment was a shuttle box experiment where the two ends of a box housed the predator scent or a control, and they measured the amount of time spent in each half of the box.

The second experiment assessed sensory and avoidance behaviors to cotton swabs saturated in the predator odor relative to a control. The first experiment indicated no avoidance of the predator odor. In the second experiment there were no differences in the number of tongue flicks to the urine or the control, but there were more reversals away from the urine than from the control. This clearly indicates an innate avoidance to the odor of fox urine.

From their research, they determined there is potential in this research to create a safe, viable snake repellent to ensure that both humans and snakes can coexist.

Research Day at the Capitol is a celebration of the excellent undergraduate student research. It is an annual event sponsored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the National Science Foundation.