Senior Thesis Projects resulting from student/ faculty research

Class of 2009


Andrew Knox '09

"Ecological and phylogenetic influences on maxillary dentition in snakes"

Andrew Knox

(Andrew made the poster advertising the 2009 Whitman Undergraduate Research Conference)

Andrew collected his thesis data in his junior year, working with me to photograph my collection of snake maxillary bones. While the other students were in Belgium, Andrew was spending his summer searching the primary literature for information on the diet of the species he'd photographed, and thinking about how the relationship between the snakes' diet and maxillary dentition fitted into the bigger question of whether morphology in animals is more stongly influenced by environmental adaptation or phylogenetic constraint. Andrew published his findings in the journal Phyllomedusa. Find it on the publications page.


Willie Kunkel '09

"Cobras, colubrids and stiletto snakes: A relational database for the identification of non-viperid colubroid snakes of Central and Western Africa"

Willie's thesis

Frustrated by traditional dichotomous keys, which never seemed to work, Willie developed a computer program, a relational database, as an alternative way of identifying snakes to genus. In addition to a CD, his thesis consisted of a substantal and magnificently-illustrated instruction manual, intended to explain the intricacies of scale counting so that even a complete beginner could understand. Both database and instruction manual involve innovative approaches to snake identification that will be used in Snakes of Western and Central Africa.


Kevin Moore '09

"A quantitative analysis of two scale characters in snakes"

Kevin's thesis

Kevin looked at two traditional scale characters which have been used to describe and identify snake since before the advent of Darwinian Theory. Despite their long history, nobody, before Kevin, had ever evaluated these characters quantitatively. His findings are likely to have an impact on how these characters are used by future researchers. Kevin's findings were published in the journal Amphibia-Reptilia. Find it on the publications page.


Katie Moyer '09

"Phylogenetic relationships among the stiletto snakes (genus Atractaspis) based on morphological characters"

Katie thesis

Katie investigated a poorly-known and rather sinister group, the Stiletto snakes (Atractaspis sp.). Her goal was to be the first to figure out how snakes in this genus evolved. In the course of her study, Katie examined every Stiletto snake in the collection of the Royal Museum of Central Africa, identified similarities and differences that would help reconstruct their history, and analysed her findings using PAUP, a computer program she had to teach herself, learning how to program in Nexus code. Katie's discovery was published in the African Journal of Herpetology. Find it on the publications page.

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