Ph.D. student works to establish snake center in Panama

Associated Press - November 17, 2007 2:15 PM ET

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A Ph.D. student at Old Dominion University is trying to establish a research center in jungle in Panama to study snakes.

Julie Ray started out studying insects, but turned to snakes when partial blindness made it hard to work on things that are very small.

Ray has spent 15 months during the last two years in Panama, living in a small house without running water in the village of El Cope.

She's now back in Panama for a couple weeks during her Thanksgiving holiday to conduct more field studies. She's also talking to an architect about her plans for a one million dollars research center in the mountains of Cocle Province -- about 125 miles from Panama City.

The center will include laboratories, cabins and a library for researchers. It will also include a cafeteria and store for researchers and residents, who now have to walk for hours to buy food. The center will hire primarily local people, with Ray serving as director.

She's seeking funding.