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Publication #WEC292

Introduced Reptile Early Detection and Documentation Training: Instructor Guide1

Steve Johnson and Monica McGarrity2

Introduction

The Introduced Reptile Early Detection and Documentation program (REDDy, Fig. 1) is a free, online educational tool designed to train observers to identify several large, non-native snakes and lizards that pose a threat to Florida's ecology, economy, and human well-being and to accurately report sightings of these species. This fact sheet is intended to familiarize you with the REDDy program and provide you with all of the necessary resources to enable you to present the course concept and basic instructions to potential trainees and answer their questions. Your trainees will need to complete the online training individually in order to certify as REDDy observers. With your help, we hope to extend this training program to a variety of audiences, including Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, outdoor enthusiasts, delivery drivers, agricultural and transportation workers, water management departments, and the interested general public.

Figure 1. 

REDDy Logo


Credit: Tracy Bryant, UF/IFAS Communications, 2010
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

The REDDy online course is a resource provided by the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (ECISMA; www.evergladescisma.org) and was created by the University of Florida in collaboration with the National Park Service (www.nps.gov) and The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org). Funding for this project was provided in part by the South Florida National Parks Trust, the Ferris Greeney Family Foundation, and the USDA Renewable Resources Extension Act.

Why do we need REDDy observers?

Invasive species pose a serious threat to our health, ecosystems, and economy. More than 50,000 non-native species, ranging from viruses to vertebrates, have been introduced in the United States. Costs associated with these invasive species have been estimated at an astounding $120 billion per year. Although the costs related to many invasive reptiles in Florida remain to be seen, efforts to control Black Spiny-tailed Iguanas on the southern two-thirds of Gasparilla Island cost Lee County nearly $125,000 during the 2009–2010 fiscal year alone.

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/), at least 50 of the more than 120 non-native reptile species that have been accidentally or intentionally introduced in Florida are now established and breeding. Introduced lizards well outnumber native lizard species, and the introduced reptile fauna now also includes large, carnivorous lizards and snakes. In southern Florida, these species could threaten the success of expensive efforts to restore the Everglades.

Several large, carnivorous invaders have increasingly become a concern to ecologists. Burmese pythons and Nile monitors are established and breeding in southern Florida and are likely to expand their range into other areas of the state. Recent information suggests that African pythons may also be established in Florida, although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission remains hopeful that they will be able to eradicate this species. Giant Argentine tegu lizards and common boas have become locally established at several sites across Florida and could possibly expand their ranges. There are even a few records of anacondas found dead on roads, likely the result of pet releases.

Early detection and rapid response (EDRR) networks play an important role in preventing and managing species invasions and are greatly needed in Florida. The REDDy training was created to assist in early detection efforts by teaching observers to recognize and report sightings of certain non-native, carnivorous reptiles. All REDDy-trained observers are an important part of a growing, statewide network of observers. Observers report sightings of live animals via a telephone hotline, and also document all sightings using the online Early Detection Distribution and Mapping System (EDDMapS; www.IveGot1.org), a nationwide invasive species reporting and mapping tool developed by the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. The rapid response portion of Florida's developing EDRR network is coordinated through a collaboration of federal, state and local government agencies, and nongovernment organizations.

What should trainees expect from the REDDy training?

Trainees should set aside approximately 45 minutes to complete the REDDy online course, which consists of a training module, quiz, and feedback survey. Trainees print a certificate of completion after all three of these sections are complete. To get the full experience, trainees should use computer speakers or headphones when taking the REDDy course. However, these are not required to complete the training—we have also included a narration transcript (Fig. 2). At the beginning of the course, we provide clear instructions on how to use the module controls and access the "How to Navigate," "Help/FAQ," and printable supplemental materials. We have divided the course into several main sections, which are described below.

Figure 2. 

If headphones or speakers are not available, trainees can read the narration transcript shown here boxed in red. Trainees also have the option to view the outline tab in this pane and follow their progress through the course.


Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Being Prepared

Being prepared is essential to being a good observer. We provide REDDy trainees with a list of items they will need to keep on hand to effectively document and report sightings.

Scanning Possible Habitats

We introduce trainees to the basics of scanning—where to look, and what to look for (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. 

Trainees learn basic scanning skills.


Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Spotting an Invader

Knowing exactly how to approach a large lizard or snake, what data to collect, and how to collect it is critical. Without these skills, the observer may spook the animal inadvertently so that it runs away before the observer can collect data. In this section, we introduce data collection skills.

Looking for Lizards, Searching for Snakes, and Native Snakes to Know

In these three sections, we introduce trainees to the basics of recognizing the non-native lizard and snake species that should be reported immediately. Although it is not necessary for observers to identify the exact species of every invasive reptile they encounter, we introduce trainees to each species of interest (Fig. 4) and use photographs to illustrate how to distinguish these species from similar native species or non-native species that should only be reported online (e.g., iguanas).

Figure 4. 

Trainees are introduced to each species of interest and its characteristic markings.


Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida, 2010
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Invader Photo Hunt

We have included an optional invader photo hunt to give trainees an interactive break from the course, as they try to spot and click on invasive lizards and snakes. The photo hunt provides trainees with a "sneak preview" of what to expect when searching for these large reptiles while reinforcing their newly learned skills.

Collecting Data

In the data collection section (Fig. 5), we walk trainees through the major points of data collection—who, what, when, and where—using a data collection sheet to show how to collect complete data. We have made this data sheet available to trainees for download and printing under the "Supplements" tab in the online course and on the REDDy webpage (http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml). Lastly, we use an ungraded quiz to reinforce data collection basics by allowing trainees to review and critique two sample reports.

Figure 5. 

Trainees are introduced to data collection using a data sheet that is available for download and printing.


Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida, 2010
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Submitting Data

In this section, we teach trainees how to submit reports and when to phone in reports to the hotline rather than waiting to submit them online (Fig. 6). We also provide background information on the reporting portal and explain what happens after reports are submitted.

Figure 6. 

Trainees are familiarized with the EDDMapS reporting portal.


Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida, 2010
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Supplemental Materials

We have created a variety of supplemental materials (Fig. 7) to help trainees become effective REDDy observers. These materials include a foldable pocket guide and quick reference sheets showing key identification characteristics, a copy of the data collection sheet shown in the REDDy course, and species profile sheets with additional information about each species of interest. We have made these materials available to trainees for download and printing under the "Supplements" tab in the online course and on the REDDy webpage (http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml).

Figure 7. 

Supplemental materials help to reinforce the knowledge gained in the training course, making REDDy observers more effective.


Credit: Monica E. McGarrity, University of Florida, 2010
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

FAQs

We have also created a guide to accessing and taking the online training, called "Navigating the REDDy training: a step by step guide" for each trainee. This guide can also be found on the REDDy webpage at http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/REDDy.pdf. At the beginning of the course, we give understandable instructions on how to navigate through the online training module. In addition, we have added two help sections called "How to Navigate" and "Help/FAQs" that are accessible during the training course to help answer questions and troubleshoot problems, and point out these resources at the beginning of the course.

Where is REDDy hosted on the web?

The REDDy course is hosted online by the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Continuing Education Solutions (ECES)—web hosting was graciously facilitated by Dr. Howard Beck and Li Tao. Trainees can access the course through our REDDy observer webpage at http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml. On this page, we provide a link to the ECES webpage where trainees will register (free of charge) and select the REDDy training course from the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation topic. We also offer a variety of printable and internet resources on our REDDy observer webpage. You (and your trainees) should bookmark this site for future reference—we will periodically post species alerts and other important information here.

How should I present REDDy to a group?

Now that you have a good understanding of the REDDy course, you are ready to present the concept to a group and facilitate training by answering some basic questions. You should complete the training before presenting it to a group in order to enhance your knowledge on the topic. We have created a PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes and screenshots, which you can use to present the training to a group. You can download the PowerPoint or view a narrated version on the REDDy observer webpage at http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/reddy.shtml. We also recommend that you print copies of "Navigating the REDDy training: a step by step guide" for each trainee—this guide can be found online at http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/REDDy.pdf.

Thank you for helping spread the word about the REDDy program! Are you REDDy?

Footnotes

1.

This document is WEC292, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2010; revised February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Steve A. Johnson, associate professor and Extension specialist, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation; and Monica McGarrity, extension program assistant, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.