Big Picture: White Sands Predator

Western diamondback rattlesnake

A western diamondback rattlesnake.

A western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) on the edge of the dune field in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Clay Noss, a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, researches the role that predators—which have profound impacts in many natural systems—may play in deserts like this one. Whereas three lizard species are found throughout White Sands and the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert, lizard predators are absent from the heart of the dune field. By comparing the ecologies of lizards that overlap with predators and those that have escaped predation, Noss hopes to clarify our understanding of desert predator-prey interactions.