About me

Co-recipient, along with ASP co-founder Jeff Smith, of the 2017 Jarchow Conservation Award for “our commitment and creativity in studying snake behaviors and tireless and continuous efforts to use our scientific knowledge to advocate for snake conservation through outreach and social activism.”

Thank you, Tucson Herpetological Society and Jarchow Conservation Award Nominating Committee.

I use my passion for wildlife and background in conservation biology to connect others with nature. My superpower is engendering empathy for maligned and misunderstood creatures – if I can get people excited about them, and I do, imagine what I can do for charismatic ones!

 

Experience

Advocates for Snake PreservationCo-founder, Director of Education (2014-present), Advocates for Snake Preservation, Tucson, AZ
Coordinated environmental education. Managed finances, including budgets and fundraising. Worked long, physically-demanding days in the field studying snake natural history. Develop relationships with diverse partners to build coalitions and address conservation issues.

Read more about my research on rattlesnake social behavior and parental care, and my article for National Geographic Voices on our campaign to reform rattlesnake roundups.
SnakeBook: the Arizona black rattlesnake social network.
Wildlife Slaughter Persists at Rattlesnake Roundups Despite Conservation Efforts
Family Values: Rattlesnake parental care is more than just attendance.

Communications Associate, (2014-present), Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson, AZ
Interpreted technical information into engaging text and graphics for our websites. Reviewed and shared conservation news for our social media accounts. Worked with a team of diverse partners to develop and launch a campaign. Designed new Endangered Species Condoms website.

Communications Support, (2014), Arizona Wilderness Coalition, Tucson, AZ
Assisted with e-newsletter and social media.
Check out my article for the Arizona Wilderness Coalition eNews, Wild Fish and Wilderness.
desert pupfish

Guest Services and Outreach Assistant (2013), The Nature Conservancy, Willcox, AZ
Co-managed the preserve for 4 months during the preserve manager’s absence. Supervised 2-3 volunteers seasonally.
 

Volunteer Naturalist (2013), The Nature Conservancy, Willcox, AZ
Coordinated educational events and daily environmental education. Prepared housing, visitor center, and surrounding areas for the public.

smith_amarello_2012

Co-founder, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator (2010-2014), Social Snakes, Tucson, AZ
Founded Social Snakes to promote snake conservation by dispelling myths with facts and using stories and videos to paint a more positive and accurate picture of snakes. Designed and managed socialsnakes.org, educated the public about snake natural history in presentations, exhibits, and online with Facebook and Twitter.
We discuss why we founded Social Snakes with Tony Paniagua on Arizona Illustrated Nature:


 

Graduate Research Assistant (2009-2012), Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Balanced independent and collaborative research, teaching, coursework, mentoring student volunteers, and outreach. Designed, managed, and completed thesis research on snake social behavior.

Staff Biologist (2008-2009), Allterra Environmental, Inc., Santa Cruz, CA
Served as GIS specialist on western pond turtle project: analyzed spatial data and presented them graphically in final report.

Biological Science Technician (2006-2008), US Geological Survey, Dixon, CA
Worked with two ESA listed species: giant gartersnakes and San Francisco gartersnakes, including applying for state and federal permits. Designed, conducted, and managed a project to investigate effects of fire on San Francisco gartersnakes, maintained large relational databases, and assisted in report and manuscript writing.

Research Technician (2002-2006), University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Supervised other employees and volunteers on projects investigating urban ecology and the effects of fire on reptiles and amphibians. Managed state and federal permits. Developed field protocols, analyzed data using statistical software and GIS, and prepared reports, manuscripts, and presentations.

Independent Undergraduate Research (2003), University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Designed and conducted an independent project on snake foraging ecology.

Forestry Technician (2002), US Forest Service, Tonto National Forest, AZ
Built new and maintained existing trails, primarily in wilderness areas.

Field Biologist (1999), The Peregrine Fund, Marble Canyon, AZ
Monitored California condors using radio telemetry.

Education

Master of Science in Biology (National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow)
Arizona State University, December 2012
Thesis: Social Snakes? Non-random association patterns detected in a population of Arizona black rattlesnakes
Committee: Dale F. DeNardo (chair), Gordon Schuett, and Brian Sullivan

Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources – Wildlife, Watershed, and Rangeland Resources (cum laude)
University of Arizona, May 2005
Honors Thesis: Antipredator behavior of Mexican lance-headed rattlesnakes
Thesis Advisor: Kevin E. Bonine

Publications

Journal Articles (peer-reviewed)

C.F. Smith, G.W. Schuett, and M. Amarello. 2015. Male mating success in a North American pitviper: influence of body size, testosterone, and spatial metrics. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 115: 185–194.

R. Clark, G.W. Schuett, R.A. Repp, M. Amarello, C.F. Smith, and H-W. Herrmann. 2014. Mating systems, reproductive success, and sexual selection in secretive species: a case study of the rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox. PLoS ONE 9:e90616+.

M.E. Thompson, B.J. Halstead, G.D. Wylie, M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, M.L. Casazza, and E.J. Routman. 2013. Effects of prescribed fire on Coluber constrictor mormon in coastal San Mateo County, California. Herpetological Conservation & Biology 8: 602-615.

G.W. Schuett, R.A. Repp, M. Amarello, and C.F. Smith. 2013. Unlike most vipers, female rattlesnakes continue to hunt and feed throughout pregnancy. Journal of Zoology 289: 101-110.

B.J. Halstead, G.D. Wylie, M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, M.E. Thompson, E.J. Routman, and M.L. Casazza. 2011. Demography of the San Francisco Gartersnake in Coastal San Mateo County, California. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 2: 41-48.

G.D. Wylie, J.J. Smith, M. Amarello, and M.L. Casazza. 2011. A taping method for external transmitter attachment on aquatic snakes. Herpetological Review 42: 187-191.

M. Amarello, E.M. Nowak, E.N. Taylor, G.W. Schuett, R.A. Repp, P.C. Rosen, and D.L. Hardy. 2010. Potential environmental influences on variation in body size and sexual size dimorphism among Arizona populations of the western diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). Journal of Arid Environments 74: 1443-1449.

J.J Smith, M. Amarello, and M. Goode. 2010. Seasonal growth of free-ranging Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum) in a southern Arizona population. Journal of Herpetology 44: 484-488.

M. Amarello and M. Goode. 2003. Crotalus tigris (Tiger Rattlesnake) diet. Herpetological Review 35(2): 177.

M. Amarello and M. Goode. 2003. Trimorphodon biscutatus (Western Lyresnake) predation. Herpetological Review 35(2): 182.

M. Amarello, K. Setser, and M. Goode. Masticophis flagellum (Coachwhip) diet. Herpetological Review 35(2): 178.

Book Chapters (peer-reviewed)

G.W. Schuett, R.W. Clark, R.A. Repp, M. Amarello, C.F. Smith, and H.W. Greene. 2017. Social behavior of rattlesnakes: a shifting paradigm. G.W. Schuett, M.J. Feldner, C.F. Smith, and R.S. Reiserer (eds), The Rattlesnakes of Arizona. Eco Publishing, Rodeo, NM.

M. Amarello, K. Bonine, and D. Lazcano. 2008. Factors influencing the antipredator behavior of Mexican lance-headed rattlesnakes (Crotalus polystictus) toward humans. Pp. 229-234 in W.K. Hayes, K.R.Beaman, M.D. Cardwell, and S.P. Bush (eds.), The Biology of Rattlesnakes. Loma Linda University Press, Loma Linda, CA.

M. Goode, J.J. Smith, and M. Amarello. 2008. Seasonal and annual variation in home range and movements of tiger rattlesnakes (Crotalus tigris) in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. Pp. 327-334 in W.K. Hayes, K.R. Beaman, M.D. Cardwell, and S.P. Bush (eds.), The Biology of Rattlesnakes. Loma Linda University Press, Loma Linda, CA.

J.J. Smith, M. Goode, and M. Amarello. 2008. Changes in structure and composition of Sonoran Desert reptile communities associated with golf courses. Pp. 311-320 in J.C. Mitchell, R.E. Jung Brown, and B. Bartholomew (eds.), Urban Herpetology. Herpetological Conservation Vol. 3, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Salt Lake City, UT.

Popular Science

M. Amarello. 2016. Wildlife Slaughter Persists at Rattlesnake Roundups Despite Conservation Efforts. National Geographic Voices. www.snakes.ngo/NatGeo2016

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2010-present. SocialSnakesBlog. www.snakes.ngo/news

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2011-2013. Muleshoe Ranch Preserve (unofficial) Blog. www.snakes.ngo/category/muleshoe

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2012. Social Snakes? The role of kin selection in rattlesnake aggregations. Sonoran Herpetologist 25: 129-130.

J.J. Smith and M. Amarello. 2012. The story of Chris, the Arizona black rattlesnake. The Nature Conservancy’s Field Notes Fall 2012: 10-12.

M. Amarello. 2005. Antipredator behavior in the Mexican lance-headed rattlesnake. Sonoran Herpetologist 18:32.

M. Amarello. 2004. Tracking Trimorphodon. News From the Mews 7: 3.

M. Amarello. 2003. Banded rock rattlesnake study at Chiricahua National Monument. Renew, News and Happenings at the School of Renewable Natural Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona 4: 10.

Works in Preparation

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. Social snakes: non-random association patterns in a rattlesnake social network.

Presentations

Invited Conference Presentations

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2016. The secret social lives of snakes and why they matter. Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. New Orleans, LA.

M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, and M. Goode. 2006. Can golf courses sustain populations of Sonoran desert reptiles and amphibians? Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. New Orleans, LA.

M. Goode, M. Amarello, and J.J. Smith. 2006. Oasis or mirage: use of a golf course and surrounding desert areas by tiger rattlesnakes. Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. New Orleans, LA.

J.J. Smith, M. Goode, and M. Amarello. 2006. Changes in desert lizard ecology before and after golf course construction. Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. New Orleans, LA.

M. Amarello. 1999. California Condors: natural history and the Arizona recovery project. International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council Annual Conference. Tucson, AZ.

Conference Presentations

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2016. The secret social lives of snakes and why they matter. Southwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Alpine, TX.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2015. How (and why) we’re changing how people view and treat snakes. Compassionate Conservation 2015. Vancouver, Canada.

M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, and M.G. Starkey. 2014. Advocates for Snake Preservation: the future of snake conservation. Biology of the Pitvipers 2. Tulsa, OK.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2012. Social snakes? Arizona black rattlesnake aggregations exhibit hallmarks of sociality. World Congress of Herpetology. Vancouver, Canada. Won the Herpetologists’ League Graduate Research Award for best student presentation.

M. Amarello and D.F. DeNardo. 2011. SnakeBook: An Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus) social network. Current Research on Herpetofauna of the Sonoran Desert V. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, and J. Slone. 2011. Family Values: Rattlesnake parental care is more than just attendance. Biology of the Rattlesnakes Symposium. Tucson, AZ. Press coverage: No need to be rattled; like you, this fella’s not looking for a fight (Arizona Daily Star)

M. Amarello, E.M. Nowak, E.N. Taylor, G.W. Schuett, R.A. Repp, P.C. Rosen, and D.L. Hardy. 2009. Body size variation among Arizona populations of the western diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) is predicted by GIS-based estimates of isothermality and precipitation. Society 96for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Boston, MA.

M. Amarello, E.M. Nowak, and E.N. Taylor. 2005. Variation among populations of Crotalus atrox (western diamond-backed rattlesnakes). Current Research on Herpetofauna of the Sonoran Desert III. Phoenix, AZ.

M. Amarello, K.E. Bonine, and D.Lazcano. 2005. Defensive behavior of Crotalus polystictus (Mexican lance-headed rattlesnake). Biology of the Rattlesnakes Symposium. Loma Linda, CA.

S. Ehret, M. Goode, D. Prival, and M. Amarello. 2005. Ecology and conservation ecology of banded rock rattlesnakes (Crotalus lepidus klauberi) in the Chiricahua mountains of southeastern Arizona. Biology of the Rattlesnakes Symposium. Loma Linda, CA.

M. Amarello, M. Goode, A. Holycross, D. Prival, H.K. McCrystal, and D.F. Retes. 2004. Geographic variation in Crotalus lepidus klauberi (banded rock rattlesnakes). Joint Meetings of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Norman, OK.

Posters

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2014. SnakeBook: the Arizona black rattlesnake social network. Biology of the Pitvipers 2. Tulsa, OK.

M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, and J. Slone. 2011. Family Values: Rattlesnake parental care is more than just attendance. Behavior 2011. Bloomington, Indiana. (poster) Press coverage: Good Mother Rattlesnake (in Meeting Notes, Science News)

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2009. A snake of a different color: physiological color change in Arizona black rattlesnakes. Snake Ecology Group. Donnelly, ID.

B.J. Halstead, G.D. Wylie, M. Amarello, J.J. Smith, and M.L. Casazza. 2009. Population ecology of the endangered San Francisco Gartersnake in California coastal scrub habitat. Snake Ecology Group. Donnelly, ID.

A. Bockoven, M. Amarello, and M.W. Sears. 2009. Implications of tradeoffs between crypsis and thermoregulation for the evolution of animal coloration. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Boston, MA.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2008. Patterns of growth and activity in young Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum). Current Research on Herpetofauna of the Sonoran Desert IV. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello, D. Lazcano, and K.E. Bonine. 2006. Conducta defensiva de la cascabel hocico de puerco (Crotalus polystictus). Ninth Reunion Nacional de Herpetologia Mexico. Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

M. Amarello and M. Goode. 2004. Variation in spatial ecology within a population of tiger rattlesnakes (Crotalus tigris) living on and away from a golf course. Snake Ecology Group. Carbondale, IL.

M. Amarello and M. Goode. 2004. Banded rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus) foraging ecology. Undergraduate Research Forum, The Honors College, University of Arizona. Tucson, AZ.

Public Presentations

2016. Living with snakes. Presented 3 times to Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Pima Animal Care Center, and Southwest Wings Festival.

2014-2015. Rattlesnake family life. Presented 4 times to REI Outdoor School, The Sierra Club, Tucson Bird Wildlife Festival, and Southwest Wings Festival.

2014-2015. Rattlesnake social life. Presented 7 times to Sky Island High School, The Sierra Club, Southern Arizona Hiking Club, Southwest Wings Festival, and others.

2012-2015. The secret lives of Arizona snakes (for kids). Presented 9 times to Campo Urbano, Elsie S. Hogan Community Library’s Summer Program, Pima Public Library’s Summer Program, Western National Parks Association, and others.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2016. How (and why) we’re changing how people view and treat snakes. Tucson Herpetological Society. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2014. Social networking by and for rattlesnakes. Tucson Herpetological Society. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2014. Real world rattlesnakes. Wings Over Willcox. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2013. Parental care, helping, and other things snakes aren’t supposed to do. Wings Over Willcox. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Social Snakes? Remote photography reveals parental care, social bonding, and other things snakes aren’t supposed to do. Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch Potlucks and Presentations Educational Series. Elgin, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Social Snakes? Remote photography reveals parental care, social bonding, and other things snakes aren’t supposed to do. The Sierra Club Muleshoe Ranch Service Trip. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Rattlesnake Parental Care. Muleshoe Ranch. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Parental care, helping, and other things snakes aren’t supposed to do. The Sierra Club Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch Service Trip. Elgin, AZ.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2012. Being Big Brother: Remote photography reveals parental care, social bonding, and other things snakes aren’t supposed to do. Tucson Herpetological Society. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Rattlesnake research at Muleshoe Ranch. The Sierra Club Muleshoe Ranch Service Trip. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Rattlesnake research at Muleshoe Ranch. Wings Over Willcox. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2012. Rattlesnake research at Muleshoe Ranch. Cedar Crest College “Ecology and Natural History of the American Southwest” course. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2011. Rattlesnake research at Muleshoe Ranch. Verde Valley School. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2011. The secret lives of Arizona snakes. The Sierra Club Muleshoe Ranch Service Trip. Willcox, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2011. The secret lives of Arizona snakes. National Geographic Society / National Park Service Saguaro BioBlitz Biodiversity Festival. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2011. Snake behavior. Camp Audubon at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. Phoenix, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2010. Snakes of Arizona. Camp Audubon at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. Phoenix, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2009. Rattlesnake: The colorful natural history of Arizona’s most famous natives. Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch Potlucks and Presentations Educational Series. Elgin, AZ.

M. Amarello and J.J. Smith. 2008. Reptile research at Cloverdale Coastal Ranch. Peninsula Open Space Trust Lunch Lecture Series. Palo Alto, CA.

M. Amarello. 2007. Reptile research on the San Mateo Coast. Pescadero Conservation Alliance Saturday Afternoon Lecture Series. Pescadero, CA.

M. Amarello. 2005. Living with reptiles. Stone Canyon Golf Club. Oro Valley, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2005. Banded rock rattlesnakes. Arizona Senior Academy. Tucson, AZ.

M. Amarello. 2005. Banded rock rattlesnakes: the exception to the rule. Tucson Herpetological Society. Tucson, AZ.

Media Coverage of Work

E. Thompson. 2016. Rattlesnake ally joins charge for Quabbin Reservoir habitat. Telegram & Gazette. June 14.

M. Serreze. 2016. Scientists ask Beacon Hill to reject Sen. Lesser’s ‘Rattlesnake Island’ moratorium. MassLive Media. June 14.

B. Keim. 2016. Even snakes have friends—one more reason not to slaughter them. National Geographic. March 10.

K. Brulliard. 2016. How to kill thousands of rattlesnakes in just four days. The Washington Post. March 12.

S. Hinckley. 2016. Texas rattlesnake roundup: Why some people kill snakes for sport. The Christian Science Monitor. March 13.

Arizona Illustrated Nature. 2015. Living with Rattlesnakes.

Wild Ideas…The Podcast. 2014. Melissa Amarello on Advocates for Snake Preservation and Arizona black rattlesnake social behavior.

Arizona Illustrated Nature. 2014. Group spreads appreciation, support for snakes.

Center for Snake Conservation. 2013. Women and Snakes – February 4, 2013. Snake Talk [blog].

J. Riutta. 2012. Timelapse Rattlesnake. Wingscapes [blog]: 6 December.

Wingscapes Team. 2012. Surveilling the Society of Snakes with Time Lapse Cameras. Wingscapes Tips & Articles. 14 May.

J. Taylor. 2012. Melissa Amarello: Rattlesnake Social Behavior. The Reptile Living Room’s Interview with an Expert Series. 29 February.

B. Rulon-Miller. 2011. Social interactions between mothers and young: do rattlesnakes exhibit care for their offspring? Rattlesnake Education and Awareness [blog]. 14 December.

B. Hirshon. 2011. Welcome to the BioBlitz! National Geographic Daily News. 21 October.

S. Milius. 2011. Good mother rattlesnake. Science News: Meeting Notes. 27 August.

T. Beal. 2011. No need to be rattled; like you, this fella’s not looking for a fight. Arizona Daily Star. 23 July.

D. Yetman. 2010. Desert Venom. The Desert Speaks, Season 19, Episode 1905. Arizona Public Media, Tucson, AZ.