Grad student discusses how her research inadvertently yielded results with significant implications for invasive Burmese pythons in south Florida

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Kelly Crandall holding raccoon with tracking collar. (photo: courtesy SIU)

Kelly Crandall–a graduate student at Southern Illinois University (SIU) discusses on “Talking Animals” how her research focusing on raccoons and opossums inadvertently yielded results with significant implications about the Burmese python, a rampant invasive species in South Florida.

Providing a bit of history, Crandall recalls growing up in western New York, with a penchant for animals and nature.

The passion for animals continued through her formative years and into college at Cornell, thinking she wanted to be a veterinarian, an idea she decided against, but still majored in animal science.

Her ongoing interest in animals notwithstanding, Crandall says she came to realize that flora was every bit as important as fauna—each playing a crucial role in the existence of the other.

Currently working toward a master’s degree in forestry at SIU, Crandall outlines the types of course work and other fields of study this degree can encompass.

And, she explains, she entered the forestry program in what some might view as an unusual way: she saw the study she’s participating in now advertised in a wildlife job board.

Based on her experiences and her keenest interests at that time, Crandall felt this research opportunity was an ideal fit, applied, was selected—and, in the process, sort of backed into the graduate program.

This study, funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, was primarily designed to examine how human activities influence the movements of raccoons and opossums, by placing tracking collars on the animals.

Crandall recounts the surprising circumstances around a collar winding up inside a python—that collar having belonged to one of the study’s opossums—the implications of this development, and how she and her colleagues are seeking to expand the study.

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