The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

PhD Student Brian Blais Publishes Article in Online Science Series

Friday, December 6, 2019

Brian Blais, an SNRE graduate student and UA Carson Scholar, recently published a science communication article on Terrain.org under their Life of Science series for new scientists. Brian is currently working on a PhD project that combines field biology with zoo conservation. Specifically, he works with The Phoenix Zoo on recovery efforts for the threatened narrow-headed gartersnake—a harmless, fish-eating snake native only to riparian stream areas in central Arizona and western New Mexico. Gaining more knowledge about this species can aid conservation management decisions; Brian collaborates with numerous stakeholders working towards recovery, including state and federal agencies. Brian works with Phoenix Zoo’s conservation team to learn about snakes at the zoo in ways that could be burdensome to do in the wild (e.g., detailed growth patterns, behavior monitoring) and applies that knowledge in the field. In turn, Brian shares ecological data from the field (e.g., movement patterns, behavior, habitat use) so that the zoo can improve their breeding program. This mutual data exchange is applicable to many other species of conservation need. Because gartersnakes make good models for understanding how animals respond to environmental change, especially in riparian areas, Brian’s research also includes Arizona’s common gartersnake species. Brian strives to use minimally-invasive (and creative) methods when conducting research and is invested in science communication and advocacy. The University of Arizona's Carson Scholarship Program has helped Brian communicate the importance of conservation to broader audiences via several outlets. Read his fascinating account of the research he is doing here