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Davidson College Professor of Biology Mike Dorcas.

Davidson prof an expert on python problem

By John Syme

Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

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John Syme

John Syme graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor of arts degree in French in 1985. He worked as a general-assignment reporter at The Winston-Salem Journal, where he later wrote freelance travel stories during his first solo cross-country road trip in the summer of 1989. He worked as a copywriter at a Charlotte advertising agency, as a research translator at a French nutrition center outside Paris, and as a politics and education newspaper reporter in Charlotte. He returned in 2001 to Davidson, where he is senior writer, alumni editor and instigator of the "Road Trip 2009" blog, which evolved into his current blog, "Daybook Davidson."

On my way to work this morning, I was listening to a compelling NPR iteration of the big snake story out of South Florida, “Invasive Pythons Put Squeeze on Everglades’ Animals.” Then I heard a familiar voice: It was Mike Dorcas, our very own Davidson College professor of biology and international herpetology expert extraordinaire.

I rushed to my desk and called his number.

He said, “If you had told me 15 or 20 years ago that snakes would be established in South Florida, that I would be studying them, and that they would be having a devastating effect on animals, I would have said you were crazy. But crazy happens.”

Crazy is still happening for Mike: Reporters were already calling him last week, even before the media embargo was lifted yesterday on the release of his co-authored study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Then, the story shot into the Googlesphere like a rocket, and the calls are still coming. The story’s had nearly 600 national hits as of this writing, not to mention international.

Here’s the BBC story, “Pythons linked to Florida Everglades mammal decline.”

And here’s a link Mike sent that includes a video he did last year for the Tampa Bay Times’ “When pythons take over Everglades, raccoons, rabbits and other small mammals vanish.” In which, I note, at the very end, this Dorcas quote:

“I don’t want to sound too pessimistic. I guess my hope is that we will learn enough about what has happened here with the Burmese Pythons to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.”

So, could this kind of crazy happen around Lake Norman? I had to ask.

"Some of the climate models indicate that Davidson is smack in the middle of the pythons' suitable climate match,” Mike said. “It's possible that they could survive the weather here. But there are a lot more factors besides just climate that might affect whether or not a reproducing population could become established.”

Eek. Thanks, Mike.

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