Students in the Lab

University of Nebraska–Lincoln students can obtain hands-on experience with herpetofauna at the UNL Herp Lab. Students assist Professor Ferraro in housing, feeding, caring, and treating animals in the live animal laboratory. In addition, students can participate in various research projects associated with the animals as well as gain important experience in educational events with the animals.

The Effects of Road Salt Caused Salinity on Tadpole Mortality

Each winter, we use road salt to keep our roads from becoming an icy mess. But in the spring time, the melting snow and rain waters wash this salt off our roads and into our water ways where it could have an adverse effect or our local amphibian populations.


Prey Procurement and Strike Behavior in Selected Venomous Snakes of the Family: Crotalidae

We gathered data on the utilization of thermal and visual cues used by selected venomous snakes (Crotalus viridis, Crotalus horridus, Agkistrodon contortrix, and Sistrurus catenatus) in procuring prey items. The proposed hypothesis was that the snakes would strike at the site that radiated the most infrared radiation. Before proceeding with the strike observation of the snakes, we needed to determine the thermal cues of the prey. In rats (Rattus norvegicus) no significant difference was found in the changes between their body parts within 20 minutes of observation. However mice (Mus musculus) did show a significant difference, specifically their heads and torsos were always warmer than their rumps. A total of 38 strike observations on six individuals were analyzed. The observed snakes were found to use both visual and thermal cues from the prey to assist in targeting the procurement strike. Snakes were not observed utilizing solely thermal cues from the prey to direct their strike.


Trey Moore - Volunteer

My name is Trey Moore and I am an incoming Freshman at UNL, my major being Fisheries and Wildlife. I am a volunteer at the Herp Lab and have always loved studying snakes. I began when I was a mere 4 year old, watching shows about snakes with Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin. My interest has only grown from there. I plan on volunteering as much as possible and am really looking forward to this year.


Jeff Snowdon - Independent Research

Current Project: Surveying the Herpetofauna at the Timmas Farm Ecological Forest Reserve located to the south of Plattsmouth, NE for the Nebraska Forest Service.
Previous Project: Studying the Growth Rate of a Juvenile American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in Captivity. The purpose of the project was to record the growth rate of a juvenile female alligator and compare the results to those of other studies involving captive or wild alligators. Parameters studied included weight gain or loss, body size, food consumption, and ammonia concentration in the water.

Interest in Herps is new but growing, with a primary focus in snakes.

Holding pens for the snakes
Bins for keeping snakes in the herp lab
Dylan Tegtmeier's UCARE

Dylan Tegtmeier's research project funded by UCARE


Dylan Maag placing a rat in an enclosure to observe strike behavior.


Trey Moore giving a snake presentation to an audience of children.


Jeff Snowdon and his Western Hognose snake.