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Lizards and snakes squirm on campus

The lizard lady was in Kreischer Compton-Darrow last night to talk about the lizards from the University’s herpetarium. Eileen Underwood, an associate professor in the biological sciences department, was on hand to talk about the eight different species of reptiles and snakes that she and her volunteers brought along to show students. During the exhibition the students got the chance to touch, pet and hold some of the animals that live on campus. “Don’t put a ball python around your neck,” said Underwood about one of the snakes being passed around. “If they think they are falling they tighten up, which will cut off blood flow and oxygen to the brain causing you to pass out. We don’t want that because you might fall and hurt the snake.” The students laughed. Underwood said that the animals were on loan to the University and were being used for research in the classroom. Senior Jerrod Shipman is a volunteer for the Herpetarium and helps put on the demonstrations. “[My favorite part is] coming out and doing the demos,” Shipman said. “Taking people who are completely afraid and by the end of the demo, they are holding them.” Shipman said the average volunteer spends between three to five hours per week in the Herpetarium and that he has done 10 demos so far this year. After being shown off to the crowd, the reptiles were allowed to run around in the center of the KCD activity room, allowing those in attendance a chance to play with them. The snakes had to be put back away because people in the room were still afraid of them. Underwood said even though there is a “no constrictor ordinance” in the city of Bowling Green, the University is allowed to have them because they are used for research and education. What the University does not have is a venomous snake. Even though the school is exempt from that city ban as well, most of the snake care is done by students and poisonous snakes bring too many risks, Underwood said. Because of the amount of work needed to care for the animals, such as feeding them and cleaning their cages, the department does most of the work through volunteers, she said. Underwood originally got into snakes and reptiles because her son has asthma and those were the only types of pets allowed around the house. She eventually got a corn snake and brought it to the University for research and class use. Before long, she bought three more corn snakes to demonstrate the genetic differences present in the snakes as evident from their different colors to the snakes. Now, the Herpetarium is home to more than 20 different species of both snakes and lizards. Freshman Nick Weissenberger, who attended the event, said he has always been interested in snakes and lizards. “I liked being able to interact with the animals and hold them,” Weissenberger said. Freshman Lauren Mickens also attended the Lizard Lady’s presentation. “My favorite thing was the biggest snake,” Mickens said. “Being able to hold a snake that was, like, half my weight.” The presentation last night was put on by KCD’s Believe It or Not series. The program is three years old, KCD resident adviser Tony Klever said, adding that all resident advisers are required to put on one event per semester. Although the events are held in the residence halls, they are open to everyone and more information can be found on the University’s calendar of events on the Web site. Underwood will repeat her presentation on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Rodgers Quadrangle.

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