For my Hist*4170 capstone project, my aim is to create an all encompassing website on the Gray Ratsnake and its history (both past and more present) within the boundaries of Murphys Point Provincial Park. In turn, the project will take the form of an online exhibit or even museum if you wish, as the site itself is divided into separate portions. The site opens to a home page where you can then decide where you wish to begin. Most who are new to the site and the species will commence with the identification portion, then look into the history of the park that has been linked to the Gray Ratsnake, this is followed by a section on the park’s current standings with the Gray Ratsnake and then the last core exhibit of the site will be based on research that took place over the past year or so. The site will also include easy to navigate subcategories for each core section as to provide both ease of navigation and to split the information up. Additional subheadings will be present that offer information on what the site is, where people can find resources on the Gray Ratsnake and so forth. The website will be full of visuals, and be written to appeal to an audience of teenagers and older, that being said I do believe anyone could use this site if they so pleased, as it will serve as a great source for a wide range of Gray Ratsnake information.
It is understandable that since the project has such a heavy focus on the Gray Ratsnake there may be a concern on how this relates to the digital humanities and the teachings of the course. It is true, that some portions, such as the identification section of the site, will not feature a heavy dosage of “humanities” related information; however this section is essential as it provides critical information on the species that is required to better understand the snake and to better understand human interactions with the species. Where it ties in with the humanities is in the potions of the site that deal with human interactions and the park’s history. These potions of the site look at how people have shaped not only the habitat of the Gray Ratsnake but also its population numbers. The snake after all, is a species at risk and by no means is it at risk because of climate change or over predation. We have directly impacted their population through the destruction of critical habitat, interference in their movement, and a general hatred towards snakes. This just goes to show that talking about natural history proves almost impossible without involving human/cultural history.
The website will be made using the website creation site known as Weebly. The source comes at no cost and allows for a wide range of website features to be completed. I will be working heavily with programs such as Photoshop to create display images very similar to what you would come across in a museum. Images will all be obtained either from my personal collection or the Murphys Point Provincial Park photograph archive. Some sections will feature aerial images as well as maps to help demonstrate a scope of information (from snake movement to the impact of humans on a region and so forth). Data from a range of research project that have taken place within the park will also be used, to help demonstrate a number of things, but mostly to show snake movement patterns as well as flocculation in the snake’s population within the park. It is at this point I should also mention two important things. When using this data I will be not only be using it to prove a point but I will also most likely be critically evaluating it as, like with most data, it does have its flaws. The second thing to be mentioned is what I have discussed in my blog and in class a couple of times. Due to the fact that this information is regarding a Species at Risk and was not obtained by myself, but through the not for profit organization The Friends of Murphys Point Park, I have to go through the proper channels in order to maintain a professional relationship with both the Ontario Parks organisation as well as with the Friends. I have of course done so and the Friends have graciously allowed me to use all of their information and the Park Biologist at Murphys Point has agreed to help me gather any photographs etc. that I may need (as there is four and a half hours distance between us). I have also checked with the biologist to ensure that me creating this site, as a third party would be alright, and not a violation of any policies as I do wish to continue working for the Friends and or Ontario Parks in the future. In reality the only “sensitive” part of this project comes in terms of the Gray Ratsnake and GPSed locations of critical habitat and movements, which simply means that when it comes to information on the snakes location the areas that they have been in will be far more generalised.
When it comes to pre-existing information/literature available on the Gray Ratsnake, we do see a wide range of facts, from identification to habitat and behaviour. However this is no more than you would expect to see when you open your standard field guide. Most of the online information that can be found on this species is comprised of online fact sheets, many not as detailed as they should be in order to provide a proper identification. This website becomes more so unique when you combine the snake with Murphys Point Provincial Park. At this point in time the only other source of information that runs in that direction is the Blog on Gray Ratsnake conservation that the Friends of Murphys Point Park run. This site encompasses a range of sources from field guides to pamphlets and interviews, all combined with my personal experiences with the park and the Gray Ratsnake to provide an in depth looks at the snake. At the moment there are no ongoing digital humanities projects that focus on either the Gray Ratsnake or Murphys Point that I am aware of or have come across, which is yet another reason why I feel this project provides a great opportunity.
Overall I feel it could be said this project takes on the feeling of an environmental history project, the emphasis will be placed on humans and how we interact with the species of snake, however there will still be great emphasis placed on the Gray Ratsnake, for you cannot look at the history of human interaction with a species without also looking at the species itself. It should also be said that a relatively decent sized fraction of this site will look at the Gray Ratsnake in a more recent history, as thorough documentation of the species within the part is a more recent occurrence. This means that while there are parts of the exhibit that look at say a hundred years ago, a lot of the history will be placed within the past decade, and the telemetry section will all be within the past year. This may not lend to our traditional views of history, but it is still essential to look at to better understand the species and their history.
All in allthe site will take a thorough look at the Gray Ratsnake and its history with Murphys Point Provincial Park, however it will also have a secondary objective, that being that, with a better understanding and knowledge of the species, people will be more accepting of the snake. We know there are a number of people who are not the biggest fans of snakes, yet it is my hope that with this new information, people may will be more respectful of the snake and maybe even take an interest, even if they still remain less than comfortable around the Gray Ratsnake. After all, knowing is half the battle.