What I did at the Joint Meeting of Icthyologists and Herpetologists Day 1:Adventures in African Amphibian Biology Many pictures of frogs went across the slides. Taking notes was not a skill I had fully mastered, so I doodled to take notes. What I mostly remember is a slide of a frog being X-rayed and seeing that it ate an entire snail, shell and all. And what did I draw? A frog with a snail inside it! They showed a hairy frog that had claws. What did I draw? A hairy frog with claws. (that doodle sort of resembles a kiwi fruit with legs) They showed a picture of a frog with long fingers. What did I draw? A frog with long fingers. This was a way to take notes and understand the session that was nothing more than related doodling. Doodle notes. What I also did that night was meet the various mentors. I discovered that I had a lot in common with them in that there were common interests, blog services, and various other things.
What we didn't know in 1964:50 years of herpetology
I do not remember much from this session, but what I do remember is that herpetology did not know in 1964 that you did not have to cut the turtle open to see if she had eggs. X-rays are much better. Very much better.
One of the sessions I found particularly interesting was "Thanks Mom! Maternal Body Condition Influences Magnitude of Anti-predator Response in Tadpoles" and that tadpoles coming from healthier parents had more anti-predator responses such as larger tails and the idea that tadpoles via chemical signals when another gets eaten basically can say, "Woah, he's getting eaten so I should watch out." was interesting because previously I did not think that a tadpole or other baby animal would get the idea from their sibling getting eaten by a predator that the creature in question is something they should respond to. Another session I found interesting was Effects of Agriculture on Snake Diversity and Abundance in Northeastern Swaziland. The idea that in protected areas, you find the rock pythons and snakes that will do you no harm, but in the sugarcane fields you get the cobras and mambas and venomous species. My idea on that is that it would not be a good idea to get rid of protected areas and replace them with sugarcane fields unless you want the cobras and mambas rather than the largely harmless pythons. Another thing I did on that day was the student social, where I got signatures from some of the larger names in herpetology when it was less crowded, but I found it a bit overwhelming when it started having larger crowds. The reception at the Tennessee Aquarium was nice because the aquarium has the various exhibits you go down or up stairs to see all of, and when it was just a knowledgeable group of people, I had a lot more fun with it than I would if it was just a tourist destination for me.
There were many sessions on this day, but one of my favorites was When A Mysterious Natricine Snake Met An American Natricine Expert. The idea of poisonous snakes and no, I'm not saying venomous with the wrong term, and the idea that if this snake eats fish, it won't be toxic, but if it eats toads, then it will be. And the fact that its babies know that toads are poisonous and will eat them is just cool and really hints at their intelligence. Another interesting session was Are Eastern Gartersnakes attracted to alarm substances in fathead minnows?. The idea that a snake, a predator, can via alarm signals, sort of sense its prey's fear is cool because there are many people who think snakes can sense human fear, and they can sense fear, but in minnows. This implies that the people who think that are right, if they were minnows. The latest thing on that day I was particularly interested in was Snakes And Primates, an 80 million year dialog? Primates influenced snake evolution, and snakes influenced primate evolution. Primates evolved tool use, and snakes evolved long distance weaponry. So you can blame our ancestors for spitting cobras.
The main session I enjoyed on this day was Copperheads, Invasive Plants, and Ecological Traps. A park, by controlling invasive plants, is attracting copperheads to the campgrounds and the picnic area and the cabins, and everywhere else where people are, because the invasive plants are keeping the copperheads from getting enough heat by blocking it. My conclusion is that they might want to create reserved, exotic-plant-free areas for the copperheads as having them in the human areas is not good for people or snakes. I also particularly enjoyed the fact that translocation is NOT a good tule for Bamboo Pit Vipers. None of the translocated snakes would get gravid and therefore would die without creating new baby pit vipers.
I particularly enjoyed Sand Boa Jaws are Specialized for Snagging Prey on this final day of the sessions. The idea that these cute, harmless snakes who make great pets explode out of the ground using part of their jaws as a fang to hold prey is just cool because you would never expect cute little sand boas to do that but they do. I also enjoyed Non-vocal lizards in Madagascar eavesdrop on avian alarm calls. Lizards will listen in on birds' alarms because they have the same predators. By eavesdropping on birds, the lizards will do an anti-predator response like darken in color, show a dewlap, or run. This was interesting because I never thought that an animal would eavesdrop, let alone for the purpose of survival!
JMIH was very interesting and I learned skills like how to break the ice in a social situation, that lizards eavesdrop, that you can take notes by doodling, and how to be more professional. As well as everything else in sessions and that snails are easy to draw.
I would like to thank SSAR for inviting me and paying my entry fee, as this was a great experience I hope I can visit in following years.