Meet the guy who wants you to love snakes – #RUGGEDSTORIES

MEET THE GUY WHO WANTS YOU TO LOVE SNAKES – #RUGGEDSTORIES

Bartosz Nadolski is a serious scientist. His area of expertise? Those venomous reptilian slitherers most of us would do anything to avoid. He’s working in remote Thailand to change attitudes to much feared Cobras. At the heart of his work, is his Cat® S40.

Job title: Research Scientist and herpetologist

Age: 30

Working Locations: Remote villages, fields and jungles of Thailand

Hazards of the job: Humidity, heat – and snake bites.

Favourite app: Open Data Kit

Why do you love snakes?

I’ve always been passionate about snakes since school and have kept many different species. After university I decided to travel and sold them, but when an opportunity came to do a PhD in Thailand, I took it.

Tell us about what you’re doing

I’m doing research on two species of cobras in Thailand, the Monocled Cobra and the Indochinese Spitting Cobra which are responsible for most snake related mortalities in Asia. This is the project for my PhD but I work as part of the Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team.

“For generations they’ve learned that a good snake is a dead snake.”

What does the job entail?

It involves a lot of outreach to the locals and kids. Our goal is conservation but not the way that you protect the species and forget about the people. Obviously snake bites are a serious problem in the tropics. What we try to do is collect as much knowledge as we can. So we equip snakes with radio transmitters and follow them in the field to learn where they go, when they go, how far they go, how close they live to people.

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How is your message received?

In the beginning they’re not so happy – for generations they’ve learned that a good snake is a dead snake. But we’ve had some success with changing perceptions. Snakes control rodents so if you’re a farmer, that’s important. One rat can store 3kg of grain so if you’ve got a lot of rats you’re going to be financially worse off. Rats also cause serious disease. Thirdly, many new medicines are created from snake venom – and I tell them that that medicine could one day save their daughters’s life.

How do you use the phone?

We’re using Open Data Kit [an open-source set of tools for collecting data]. I use it for tracking the cobras. So when I track a snake, I take my Cat S40, simply open the form and upload the data to the server so it’s ready to work with right away. This way I exclude all the paperwork from my work. It’s also more efficient, reducing chances of making mistakes when copying data manually.

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And it works ok?

The S40 is the best device I’ve had. Previously I’ve had many problems with phones which I’ve destroyed in the field. It’s hot and humid in the tropics and most devices can’t handle it. Obviously you’re making long walks in a not very pleasant environment. You sweat a lot. That was another big problem because when you try to type something and you have sweaty hands, it’s not possible.

In the past, what would happen is that instead of concentrating on the data collection and doing everything correctly, we’d just be getting frustrated trying to type into our devices. But the S40 doesn’t have any problems working in light rain or humidity – it’s just perfect.

“I’ve been bitten by many snakes but nothing too exciting.”

What else do you like about the phone?

I like the fact the buttons are physical. I’m right handed so my fingers are intuitively in the right place.

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What do you use the yellow button for?

The torch.

Have you ever been bitten yourself?

Bitten by a venomous snake? No, and I hope it stays that way. I’ve been bitten by many other snakes but nothing too exciting.

Do you see a use for thermal imaging?

Definitely. I see a great potential for science and what we do. We know that snakes are cold blooded and we think that thermal regulation is very important; their metabolism and energy depends on the temperature of their body which is different from the temperature of their surroundings. Using the S60 it would be easy to conduct a thermal regulation study on vipers for example (which don’t move much) which would be really interesting. As a tool for gaining scientific knowledge, we’re quite excited by this one.

Bartosz currently uses a Cat S40. Its weatherproof features, including wet-finger tracking, make it ideal for operating in humid conditions. But clearly the thermal imaging properties of the Cat S60 could open up huge possibilities for snake research.

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