Dr. Neil Ford, professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, is working with Iowa State University on a collaborative research project involving snake development, Dr. Alisa White, UT Tyler interim chair of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, announced.
Ford’s study will form an integral part of ISU’s project, “Collaborative Research: Evolution and Ecology of Aging in Natural Populations of Long-Lived Vertebrates.”
He obtained a contract through ISU, which provides $21,914 in funding from the National Science Foundation toward an experimental study of the effects of energy availability on the development rate and cellular markers indicating the rate of aging in African house snakes, Lamprophis fuliginosis.
Ford will examine how diet is involved in age at first reproduction.
“Snakes show variation with regards to food intake and development, in other words, more food results in faster growth and earlier maturation. However, early reproduction in animals is often associated with early senescence or the decline in physiological functions, and therefore a shorter life-span,” said Ford.
His laboratory study will involve raising young African house snakes on high and low diets until they reach reproductive age. High diet animals should breed earlier, according to Ford.
His research will then involve testing for negative traits of lifespan and development such as mitochondrial free radical production, DNA damage and DNA repair efficiency in the high and low treatments groups. Damage would indicate this species may be an excellent model organism to study the physiology of aging.
Ford has been a member of the UT Tyler faculty since 1979. He holds a Ph.D. from Miami University in Ohio.
A UT Tyler Mary John and Ralph Spence Distinguished Professor 2000 – 2003, he was honored with the university’s first President’s Scholarly Achievement Award in 2003.
Ford is a fellow of the Texas Academy of Science and has been studying the effect of energy intake on reproduction for a number of years, having published nearly 50 scientific papers on his research.
One of the 15 campuses of the UT Tyler System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service.
More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of nearly 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.