Is the yellowbelly racer aptly named? What role do
garter snakes play in the ecosystem? How does the color of a snake affect its life in the wild?
Thanks to a grant of more than $21,000 from the Ronald McDonald Children's Charities of Oak Brook, Ill., visitors to the live-snake exhibits at the Kansas University Natural History Museum soon will find the answers to these and other questions more easily, and the snakes themselves will enjoy more comfortable and realistic habitats.
The grant, announced Friday by Philip Humphrey, museum director, provides most of the funding to renovate the museum's live-snake exhibits, which feature snakes native to Kansas. Additional funds come from a gift from Tom and Marilyn Dobski -- owners of McDonald's restaurants in Lawrence, Atchison, Bonner Springs, DeSoto and Leavenworth -- and several other smaller gifts.
"By offering support to organizations like the KU Natural History Museum, Ronald McDonald Children's Charities is making a difference in millions of children's lives -- here in Lawrence and around the world," Marilyn Dobski said.
Proceeds from Snakes Alive! the museum's first-annual five-kilometer run and one-mile fun walk, held last fall, also provided support for the project.
"The tens of thousands of children who visit the museum every year will benefit from the generosity of the Ronald McDonald Children's Charities and the other donors to this project," Humphrey said. "It is gratifying that, with this grant, RMCC has affirmed the museum's importance as an educational and cultural resource."
The snakes in the exhibit are healthy and well-cared-for, but the renovation will make them more comfortable and will make the exhibit more interesting for visitors. In addition to new molded fiberglass cases, the museum will install "environmental furniture," such as logs, plants and watering areas, that will make the cases as much like the snakes' natural habitats as possible. New exhibit labels will help visitors understand current scientific research on snakes and their contribution to the ecosystem.
Since its inception in 1984, RMCC and its affiliated chapters have given more than $100 million to thousands of organizations, benefiting millions of children and their families worldwide.