Lifelong Snake Lover Researches Venom Variations

By: Graduate Studies on

Jason StricklandWestern diamondback, rock, black-tailed, Mojave…these are just a few of the 11 possible species of rattlesnake that Jason Strickland hopes to find during his eight-week trip through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to collect rattlesnake venom and blood samples for his latest research. Strickland is working with his mentor Christopher L. Parkinson, PhD, a professor at UCF and Darin Rokyta, PhD, from Florida State University to conduct genetic analyses, gene sequencing and transcriptome analysis of rattlesnake venom glands. His primary focus is on determining the main evolutionary forces which drive variations in snake venom.

After obtaining all the required state permits as well as UCF IACUC approval, Strickland and his research partner Gregory Territo (Biology MS, 2013) left on June 24, to begin their search for rattlesnakes in the Southwest. There are many potential benefits to this research. “Currently, all snake bites are treated with the same anti-venom,” explains Strickland. “It’s not specific to any species. If we have a better understanding of the causes of variations in snake venom, we can create more effective anti-venom. Venom proteins also have anti-bacterial and disease treatment applications in drug research.”

Strickland has had a lifelong interest in snakes. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Angelo State University in Texas, he came to UCF for the PhD program in Conservation Biology specifically to work with Dr. Parkinson. This spring, he served as co-chair of the 2013 Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference hosted by UCF’s Biology department. After completing his doctorate, Strickland hopes to obtain a faculty teaching position at a university.

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