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Snake, Rattle, and Roll: Investigating the Snakes That Live in the Bosque Along the Middle Rio Grande

This article is from Issue Wildland Fire 2 - Vol. 13 No. 1.

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After an area has been changed by human or natural disturbances, forest managers often engage in restoration activities. In the Bosque, fire is both a human and a natural disturbance. This is because most fires in the Bosque are started by humans. Restoration activities have an impact on many different things like animals, plants, and soil. In this study, the scientists wanted to know how the restoration activities affected snake populations.

Welcome to the Wildland Fire 2 edition!

Note to Educators

Journal Lesson Plan 1

Journal Lesson Plan 2


Who or What Am I?

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Additional Resources for this Article:
Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
When scientists choose to conduct research on a certain topic, it is usually because the topic they want to research has not been completely studied. Scientists know this because they read to keep up with current research and information about the topic they are interested in studying. Because science often focuses on solving problems or answering questions, a research topic can be thought of as a puzzle. Think of the last time you completed a puzzle. There are many pieces to a puzzle to begin with. When you put all the pieces together you are able to see the whole picture. When scientists notice a piece of a research puzzle that is missing, they conduct a study to find out about that piece. When they find new information, they place it in the puzzle. The scientists in this study were interested in how snakes fit into the land restoration puzzle.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Scientific Topics

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
The riparian forest land along the Rio Grande is locally referred to as the Bosque (Spanish word for forest) (figure 1). Riparian habitat occurs along streams where the water meets the land. The Rio Grande is a river whose headwaters are in Colorado. It runs through New Mexico and forms the border between Texas and Mexico. Flooding is a natural disturbance to which the Bosque is well suited. Another natural disturbance of many areas is fire. However, the Bosque probably did not experience many fires in the past. Its ecosystem, therefore, is not well suited to fire. Today, most of the fires in the Bosque are started by humans. Because the Bosque is close to human communities who live near the Rio Grande, forest managers take action to discourage fires. After a fire occurs, they work to restore the Bosque to its natural condition. In this way, managers take action to reduce the chance for another wildfire to get started and spread in the Bosque and into nearby human communities. Managers take two main actions to discourage wildfires in the Bosque. One action is to remove plants that are not native. The other is to remove downed and dead trees from areas that have not decayed with the help of natural floods. One way to maintain the important Bosque habitat is to reduce fires, which can kill native cottonwood trees.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Riparian Forests

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)