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Cal Poly Biological Sciences professor and herpetology expert publishes "California snakes and how to find them" - EurekAlert

<p>SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA &mdash; Renowned Cal Poly biological sciences Professor Emily Taylor has published her first nature/field guide book that shares insights into nearly 50 California snakes, with fascinating, easy-to-read descriptions of physical characteristics, habitats, behaviors, and diets.</p> <p>Taylor&rsquo;s 194-page Heyday Books publication, &ldquo;California Snakes and How to Find Them,&rdquo; is illustrated with more than 100 dazzling photographs of slithery creatures from the brilliant mountain kingsnake to the rubber boa and the greenish-toned Mojave rattlesnake. Taylor also addresses topics including how to search for snakes, handle them and myths.</p> <p>&ldquo;Each of the snakes that I profile are native to California, and a few are non-native ones that have been introduced,&rdquo; Taylor said. &ldquo;The book is intended to be highly accessible. It&rsquo;s not a children&#39;s book, but teenagers and adults will be able to enjoy it.&rdquo;</p> <p>Taylor has authored textbooks previously, but &ldquo;California Snakes&rdquo; is her first publication intended for a mass audience, featuring a back cover blurb from Amy Tan, author of &ldquo;The Joy Luck Club.&quot;</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve loved snakes since childhood and am thrilled to now have this gorgeous book as my companion to finding snakes wherever a walk on the wild side takes me,&rdquo; Tan wrote.</p> <p>Taylor, who serves as interim associate dean of the Bailey College of Science and Mathematics, has long held a passion for snake study and appreciation, finding her initial inspiration in an undergraduate science class at UC Berkeley, where she earned her bachelor&#39;s in English before moving on to a career in science.</p> <p>&ldquo;My professor handed me a kingsnake on a field trip, and it was so cool,&rdquo; Taylor said. &ldquo;I was primed to like snakes because we were learning about how cool they were already. So much of people&rsquo;s attitudes towards snakes are culturally passed on.&rdquo;</p> <p>Taylor added: &ldquo;People fear or hate snakes because of what they learn from their family and see on TV. But they are fascinating, amazing creatures that are critical to ecosystems and worthy of admiration.&rdquo;</p> <p>Taylor has long advocated for respectful treatment of snakes, lobbying against harmful treatment of rattlesnakes (her favorite type) in particular. In doing so, she cites positive attributes such as how rattlers reduce spread of disease carried by rodents and how venom has inspired novel drug development to prevent blood clots.</p> <p>In &quot;California Snakes,&quot; Taylor also shares first-hand experiences observing a foul-smelling watersnake and a biting coachwhip (non-venomous) that bloodied her arms on a roadside encounter. She highlights species that are elusive and difficult to spot, such as the California Ratsnake or the coveted Rosy Boa.</p> <p>&ldquo;I tell a lot of stories about herpetology classes,&rdquo; Taylor said. &ldquo;I talk about observations that I&#39;ve made with Cal Poly students, and much of what I learned is a big overlap with my herpetology class that I teach.&rdquo;</p> <p>Because snake experts are careful about tipping off the general public to hotspots, fearful of habitat destruction and other harmful behaviors, often herpetologists don&rsquo;t give away search tips.</p> <p>&quot;People are constantly posting in social media groups, asking where to find snakes, and there&#39;s a perception in the herping community that giving away sites might lead to harm or disturbance of habitat,&quot; Taylor said. &quot;This book offers tips on how to find snakes without telling people exact locations. I give guidance on how to figure it out for themselves, which is very much needed, while observing responsibly.&quot;</p> <p>Taylor plans to publish forthcoming field guide books on lizards and amphibians as part of a three-book series, of which &quot;California Snakes&quot; is the first.</p> <p>Taylor will give a presentation entitled &ldquo;The Secret Lives of Snakes&rdquo; on May 7 at Oak and Otter Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo, with books available for purchase and signing. Additional upcoming events in California can be found at</p> <p><strong>About Cal Poly Bailey College of Science and Mathematics</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>The college of about 2,800 undergraduate, and roughly 280 graduate students, offers degrees in biology, chemistry, kinesiology and public health, physics, mathematics, statistics, marine science, microbiology and biochemistry. The college is also home to the university&rsquo;s undergraduate liberal studies program for future teachers, and Cal Poly&rsquo;s post-baccalaureate School of Education. The college, which embraces Cal Poly&rsquo;s Learn by Doing mission, is an esteemed institution, noted for outstanding undergraduate research and significant student co-authorship participation on scientific journal publications. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>About Heyday Books </strong></p> <p>Heyday is an independent, nonprofit publisher founded in 1974 in Berkeley, California.&nbsp; Heyday promotes civic engagement and social justice, celebrates nature&rsquo;s beauty, supports California Native American culture, and explores the state&rsquo;s rich history, culture, and influence.</p>


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