Viral video of python that swallowed gator opens doors for scientist-slash-freedive model

DELRAY BEACH — Rosie Moore's day job is packed watching crocodile nests hatch, mapping South Florida's wildlife and examining creatures in her lab that have once roamed the Everglades. Her side gig also takes her outdoors — she's a model specializing in underwater or "freedive" shoots.

This month, when an 18-foot-python that had swallowed a 5-foot gator arrived in her lab, world-wide attention became focused on both of Moore's worlds, giving the 26-year-old an opportunity to further crack stereotypes of the women who work in science.

Moore jokes her dueling personas sometimes make her feel like a real-life Hannah Montana.

“For field work and going out, you are in khaki pants and muddy boots, sweating with no makeup on,” she said. “It’s gross, dirty work, and then you have to come back home, change, shower. The next day, you’re at this crazy fancy event.”

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Moore is no stranger to pythons. She's seen them in the wild and caught her share of them in addition to examining their remains in the lab (Florida law demands pythons be euthanized upon capture).

“The biggest one I've personally ever caught was 12 feet,” she said. “So seeing the 18-foot python in person was insane. It's just such a large animal, you can't even imagine.”

The reptile wasn't just extraordinarily long, it was hefty. Moore and her colleagues were eager to see what it had been dining on. For years, pythons have been the invasive bane of the Everglades decimating treasured wildlife populations from birds to deer. This one had clearly eaten something pretty big.

But once in the lab, where the python stretched the entire span of the room, they had a good idea of what was inside — they could see the alligator’s shape.

Moore and her colleagues performed the necropsy that revealed a mostly intact gator. The reveal gave Moore an opportunity to highlight the dangers these creatures present.

"Due to the the subtropical environment of South Florida, paired with the Burmese python's long life span and rapid reproduction, these snakes have successfully invaded ecologically sensitive areas such as Everglades National Park," Moore wrote in her post. "This poses a threat to a variety of wildlife, due to the python's wide dietary preferences."

After python swallows gator, necropsy video goes viral on Instagram

Moore didn't expect much when she posted the video to her Instagram account that more typically highlights her extreme freediving or findings from the field. But the video now has more than 400,000 likes.

What surprised her wasn't just the attention, but how swiftly the spotlight turned from the the unexpected gator in a python to her dual professions as both scientist and model.

But therein, Moore also finds opportunity.

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The 18-foot-python that swallowed a 5-foot gator stretched across the room, as Moore and her colleagues performed a necropsy.
The 18-foot-python that swallowed a 5-foot gator stretched across the room, as Moore and her colleagues performed a necropsy.

Moore's love of nature began with four-wheel excursions out to the creek with her brother in their hometown of Jefferson County, Missouri. Her fascination with sharks drew her to South Florida about six years ago.

“I’ve always been kind of enthralled by apex predators,” she said. “Or anything that's vilified by the media, or that you don't really understand.”

This fear-to-fascination pipeline carried her through her undergraduate and post-graduate studies at Florida Atlantic University.

Rosie Moore is a scientist, model and role model

“When you're kind of scared of something, or it has that reputation, you want to find out more about it,” she said.

Moore holds a graduate degree in geoscience, and specializes in using satellite imagery and mapping technology to monitor, visualize and understand natural resources.

She'd like to see more women to pursue the technology side of science, as she did. The skills in the currently male-dominated field are in high demand.

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Before the python video went viral, Moore was not used to strangers asking her about her work. Her online following grew from about 8,000 to nearly 50,000 people. She's had other scientists, women and girls from around the world reach out to her.

Her favorite message came from a little girl who spoke mainly Arabic. She sent Moore several voice messages, first apologizing for her English, then explaining how she’s always wanted to pursue a career in science. It’s not too common where she’s from, the girl said. The girl's message stuck with Moore.

"That was really cool," Moore said.

Jasmine Fernández is a journalist covering Delray Beach and Boca Raton at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at jfernandez@pbpost.com and follow her on Twitter at @jasminefernandz. Help support our work. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Florida scientist posts Instagram video of alligator in python stomach