Kristin Stanford

Respect the Snake Logo

photo of Kristin StanfordAKA "The Island Snakelady"
Research Associate, Ph.D Student
The Ohio State University
F.T. Stone Laboratory
P.O. Box 119
Put-in-Bay, OH 43456


Photo of Kristin with snakesAlthough my official job title is "Research Associate", I consider myself the Recovery Plan Coordinator for the Lake Erie Water Snake. I am involved in all aspects of the Recovery Plan Criterion including Research, Management and Outreach. It is difficult to describe all of the projects that we are doing at any one time, so instead I direct you to the newly constructed website: to find out more. Assume that I am involved in everything you see on the website because I probably am! A significant amount of my time is spent on outreach activities for the LEWS. I frequently give presentations about the Lake Erie Water Snake Federal Recovery Plan for many groups and organizations and discuss how these three subjects (Research, Management and Outreach) are contributing to the current recovery of the Lake Erie Water Snake. However, I also like to point out that it is these three things that also encompass conservation as whole and can be applied to any species. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be so involved in all of these aspects for the Lake Erie Water Snake.

Photo of Kristin with SnakesDissertation Research: The truth of the matter is, I plan to finish all of the following things regardless of whether I get the letters or not! For me, the fact that I get to DO all of the aspects that involve conservation means more to me than the degree. Basically, I'm already living my dream. Anything on top of just more icing. If I ever get around to actually completing the requirements for a Ph.D, my dissertation will likely revolve around comparative demographic changes in the Lake Erie Water Snake populations pre- and post- federal listing. I plan to look at how the recent shift in diet (from native fishes to round gobies) has potentially impacted the populations of snakes as well as look at some non-traditional causes of potential population increases (outreach campaigns, management recommendations). In addition to examining overall population growth changes, which typically involves demographic estimates of adult animals, I am also interested in obtaining better estimates of neonate and juvenile survival. Typically, when viability analyses are conducted on snakes with similar life histroy characters as the LEWS, the most influential factors controlling the population growth rate are neonate and juvenile survival. Unfortunately however, these two age classes of snakes are typically the least studied. Beginning in 2003, I undertook a fairly intensive strategey to obtain better estimates of neonate and juvenile survival at one of our study sites on South Bass Island. Since then over 1600 neonate and juvenile snakes have been marked at this one site! Exhausting to say the least!! Curious as to how things are progressing? Check the respectthesnake website for updates. Follow the Research link and click on 'Reproduction'.

photo of Kristin with SnakesOther Projects: I am also involved in lots of other "snakey" projects. One of which is: Status and Distribution of the Eastern Fox Snake in Ohio with a friend/collegue Kent Bekker from the Toledo Zoo. The Fox Snake is currently listed as a Species of Concern in Ohio which means that the Ohio Division of Wildlife does not have enough information about the status of the species within the state to determine whether it is a healthy population or should be listed as Threatened or Endangered. Kent and I are currently re-assing the distribution of Fox Snakes within the state by compiling both old and new museum records. This will help us determine whether the distribution of the snake has expanded or contracted within the last 20 years or so. Additionally we are using a combination of radio-telemetry and mark-recapture to examine other aspects of Fox Snake biology.

I am a member of the Recovery Team for the Eastern Plains Garter Snake in Ohio. In 2002, I completed my M.S. degree on a population of the Plains Garter Snake on the NIU campus (Demography and Life History of an Urban Population of Plains Garter Snakes). When I moved to Ohio, the Ohio Division of Wildlife invited me to participate in the recovery of this species at the snake's last remaining loction in Ohio, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. Since then, I have conducted a comparative population viability analysis between the Killdeer and NIU populations and found that neonate and juvenile survival are the two most influential parameters controlling the overall population growth rate. The study showed that a headstarting program that releases 1-year old snakes would be the most beneficial in the growth of the Ohio population. To date, we have released 60 1-year old snakes that were a product of the captive colonies established at the Columbus and Cleveland Zoos, and are optimistic that this management strategy will help increase the population at Killdeer.

Finally, I am also very involved in Stone Laboratory, my base of operation for pretty much everything I do! I teach a one-week Field Herpetology course every year at the lab that is usually scheduled during mid-June. The class utilizes hands-on participation in local research projects with the actual investigators on site to help students learn about the techniques used in conducting research in the field of herpetology. The range of field trips has included: Massasauga Venom Collection, Fox Snake Radio Telemetry, Lake Erie Water Snake Mark-Recapture Surveys, Tissue Collection of Hybrid Salamanders for Genetic Analysis, Blanding's Turtle Hoop Netting, Behind the Scenes Toledo Zoo Tour,etc!! In the process, we catch a lot of really cool reptiles and amphibians and learn about their biology.

I also supervise several students in Stone Lab's REU Program (Research Experience for Undergraduates). To date, I have supervised 11 students from 6 different universities and am extremely proud of the work they have accomplished through this program. Several have gone on to graduate school and are on their way to becoming great biologists!

All of these things make me a very busy, but very lucky snakelady!

Somewhere in between I think I have a personal life in which I do things like plan my wedding (March 2007), work on my house (Sandusky OH) and wash my underwear. However, it does frequently get lost in the menacing black hole that is my desk! Go figure.