By Andrew Snyder, Mississippi, USA: Of the states in the southeastern United States, Mississippi isn’t generally the first to come to mind as being a hotbed of biodiversity, and in comparison to the others, it isn’t. However, the Magnolia State does harbor a substantial variety of species, especially ones small enough to fit on a sheet of acrylic or in a light box.
I first arrived in Oxford, Mississippi in 2011, when I started graduate school at the University of Mississippi in the northern section of the state. When not conducting research in Guyana (where most of my Meet Your Neighbours images have been captured), I have made an effort to get out and explore the new territories and habitats around here, and have subsequently been capturing images for MYN since joining in 2013.
Mississippi boasts many different habitats, from forests, to swamps, to coastal estuaries. However, all of the images that accompany this post were made within an hour’s drive outside of Oxford in north-central Mississippi. In fact, I have three favorite locations (so far) for capturing MYN images in this state.
Within a fifteen minute drive outside of Oxford is a wildlife refuge that supports hardwood forest, swamps, creeks, and a sizeable lake. This location is chock full of cottonmouths and other snakes, tree frogs, and a variety of fish. While taking part in a herpetology course that was offered at the University, I spent a lot of time here and also made some subsequent images during later trips.
Tishomingo State Park in northeast Mississippi is a special place. This park contains arguably the most topographical complexity within the whole state and is home to a variety of salamanders that aren’t found anywhere else in the state. Fellow MYN photographer J.P. Lawrence and spent a few days one weekend this spring on a bit of a blitz here, knocking of some of the states Endangered species, and then some.
My third favorite location, and one that should relate to many of our photographers, is my own backyard. It should also be noted that I have only a few bushes out front and zero trees, but despite a dearth of quality habitat, I (or sometimes the dog) still routinely find new species to photograph. From mantids to beetles to moles, the point is, there are always cool creatures to be found as long as you start to look!
As a parting note to this short post, and as an eventual parting “gift” of our legacy at Ole Miss, J.P. Lawrence and I donated a variety of our MYN images to be used on a fancy new Biology Department tent. Hopefully these images, seen by the thousands of students and alums that flock to Oxford for every football tailgate, inspire the future generations of Ole Miss students to study biology here.