Who are the advocates for snake preservation?
Melissa Amarello, Co-founder, Executive Director
Melissa’s lifelong fascination with snakes led her to work on a variety of projects on natural history and conservation of reptiles in Arizona, California, and Mexico. After witnessing how negative attitudes can stifle conservation efforts, she incorporated education and outreach into her research to foster appreciation for snakes by sharing stories and videos of their behavior in the field. In the spring of 2014 she co-founded Advocates for Snake Preservation (ASP) with Jeff Smith, to change how people view and treat snakes. In 2017 they received the Jarchow Conservation Award for commitment and creativity in studying snake behaviors and tireless and continuous efforts to use scientific knowledge to advocate for snake conservation through outreach and social activism. Melissa received her B.S. in wildlife, watershed, and rangeland resources at the University of Arizona and her M.S. in biology at Arizona State University, where she studied rattlesnake social behavior.
Jeff Smith, Co-founder, Director of Research
Jeff has an abiding curiosity about small creatures in their natural environments. Although the rules of survival seem straightforward, the ways to survive are fascinating and complex, and these ways are illustrated by organisms every day. He hopes that, by illuminating the secret lives of snakes, people will come to admire and appreciate them and their place in nature. In 2017 he received the Jarchow Conservation Award with Melissa Amarello for commitment and creativity in studying snake behaviors and tireless and continuous efforts to use scientific knowledge to advocate for snake conservation through outreach and social activism. Jeff earned his B.A. in Biology and Spanish from Rice University and an M.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona.
Steve Marlatt, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors
Steve’s passion for snakes began in college, when a wildlife professor happened to bring in a few animals and enlightened the class as to how unique, amazing, and misunderstood they truly are. He was instantly hooked! During his 26 years of teaching middle school science, snakes became an integral part of his curriculum. He has found that while many adults already have a fear and loathing of snakes, that is not an established perception in young people and they are fascinated and receptive to finding out more about them. Throughout the years, his students learned their traits, behaviors, diets, care, and how they were all individuals. Steve is also a founding board member of Gray Hawk Nature Center, which has introduced and educated thousands of students to the amazing world of snakes. He has a BS degree in Wildlife Management and a MA in Education from New Mexico State University.