MCC Biology professor coauthors authoritative book: Snakes of Arizona

Snakes of Arizona book coverMESA, Arizona -- Dec. 9, 2020 -- Mesa Community College Life Science professor Dr. Andrew Holycross and his colleague, the late Dr. Joseph Mitchell, co-edited and recently published Snakes of Arizona (ECO Publishing). Written for naturalists and professional biologists, resource managers, teachers and students, the book examines all aspects of the biology of Arizona’s snakes, and is supported by a complete review of the scientific literature plus a trove of previously unpublished data and observations.

Introductory chapters feature Arizona’s biotic communities, snake conservation and species of possible occurrence. The 59 peer-reviewed species accounts, authored by leading authorities, comprise the heart of Snakes of Arizona. Each account describes one snake species and discusses its taxonomy, distribution and abundance, habitat, diet and foraging biology, predators and parasites, behavior, and reproduction. This essential reference includes over 3,170 unique citations to scientific literature, inviting the reader to further explore the captivating world of the snakes of Arizona.

Dot distribution maps showing where each species have been found in our state are gathered in a concluding chapter co-authored by MCC geography Professor Karen Blevins and former MCC student Kristin Kabat. The logistically challenging mapping project involved plotting over 17,000 records using ArcGIS software. Blevins and Holycross incorporated the mapping project into an advanced MCC Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course (GPH273) offered in the spring of 2015. Ten students, including Kabat, took the class and participated in the real-world project as they learned advanced techniques in GIS. Kabat is now working on her master’s degree focused on herpetology in Texas.

Holycross’ snake expertise began in the late 1980s as he studied prairie rattlesnakes in the Sandhills of Nebraska. By the early 1990’s he was studying rare rattlesnake species in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. He is an author of A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona (Arizona Game and Fish Department), numerous short scientific notes, and more than 25 peer-reviewed scientific publications.

“Our book celebrates the diversity of Arizona’s snakes, which includes long and delicate Vine Snakes, little bull-dozing Hognose Snakes, earthworm-like Threadsnakes and aquatic specialists like the Narrowheaded Gartersnakes,” said Holycross. “Not to mention the 13 glorious species of rattlesnake, the highest diversity of rattlesnakes in any of the United States! All worthy of wonder and conservation.”

A copy of Snakes of Arizona will be available in both MCC libraries and ECO Wear & Publishing after Dec. 14, 2020.


Media contact: Dawn Zimmer, MCC,, 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 150 community colleges in the United States and is known for service learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to education. The college serves as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs online and at its two campuses and additional locations. Through the implementation of Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services, MCC is transforming ways it champions student success; college completion, university transfer and career attainment for all students. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution with a diverse student body, including more than 400 international students representing over 60 countries, who enrich campus learning experiences. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training to empower MCC students to compete locally and globally. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, MCC is one of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Learn more at

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Publication Date: 
Wednesday, December 9, 2020