Reptiles and amphibians have always fascinated Ruth Marcec.
After earning bachelor’s, veterinary, and PhD degrees in pursuit of this passion, she is applying her unique expertise as the director of the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation (OCIC).
OCIC, run by the Central Florida Zoo, focuses on reproduction and reintroduction methods for the eastern indigo snake. This species is the longest snake in America and has been listed as threatened for over 40 years. Staff at the OCIC are working hard to ensure that not only the indigo snake but other locally threatened reptiles and amphibians are able to reproduce and thrive once again in the wild.
“One of my main goals is branching out into having more amphibians in the facility, as well as bringing more collaborations into this project,” Dr. Marcec said of her new role.
Dr. Marcec’s educational pathway included a bachelor’s in biology from Florida State University, a veterinary degree from the University of Illinois in 2012, and a PhD in animal physiology from Mississippi State University. At Illinois, Dr. Marcec served as a representative for the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians as well as a team leader and PR coordinator in the Wildlife Medical Clinic.
Her Illinois experience played a critical role in her career path. She came into vet school wanting to pursue conservation, but became motivated to pursue research on exotic animals after working with former Illinois professor Dr. Mark Mitchell on a yearlong clinical trial with her favorite species, the amphibious Mexican axolotl.
While earning her PhD at Mississippi State, Dr. Marcec helped to develop protocols for assisted reproductive technology in amphibians. The protocols have been used at zoos around the world, and she has traveled often to train others to adapt her protocols for various species.
As OCIC director, Dr. Marcec is in charge of all research on local species. She will also develop new reproductive methods and assist in the relocation of the snakes throughout the Southeast.
“The OCIC is establishing a new relocation site for wildlife near Tallahassee,” said Dr. Marcec, “and I’m looking forward to getting involved there.”