Tuesday, August 11, 2015

SSAR 2015:Overview

Conference summaries are always popular. This one, however, might not be as interesting due to the fact that the social interactions and such are less notable due to this not being my first conference of its type, as JMIH and THS in 2014 were.

Thursday, the day on which the conference began, was a good start. The Presidential Travelogue was very interesting, describing two decades of herpetology in Madagascar, a very interesting place to begin with, containing species such as frogs that can be smooth or spiky and leaf-nosed snakes. And it was also the home of Beelzebufo, a prehistoric toad that was large enough to eat a small dinosaur. And of course, absolutely adorable mini-frogs and mini-chameleons.

Friday's plenary session was not quite as interesting. Phylogeny seemed rather hard to follow, considering it's how animals are genetically similar to other animals and samples, genomes and such confused me as I tried to take notes that made sense. But...the egg came before the chicken by more than 300 million years. Creatures laid eggs long before chickens or chicken-like animals evolved. However, the session on social patterns in gopher tortoises on that same day was very interesting! Basically, their social patterns are an average high school. The female tortoises have certain other females they like and females they don't, and there's lots of competition, often for mates. Sometimes that competition turns aggressive but the tortoises don't have a principal or parent to complain to, so they have to tough it out. Another Friday event was the SSAR Herpetological Quiz, intended for college students. The questions...the snake questions I was pretty sure about, the frogs I was decently sure about, and the lizards, salamanders, and such I completely guessed on.

Saturday's plenary was decently interesting. It was mostly surrounding Henry Fitch and his work even though I sort of wished that I'd get more about the actual snake ecology in 70 Years of Snake Ecology. At the same time, Saturday's snake fungal disease session was rather depressing. Even though the results surrounding mortality and such were much better than the SFD sessions at THS, I'd still rather hear about healthy, living, thriving populations. A much happier session on Saturday was surrounding using cameras to look at the social lives of river turtles. It was a session with lots of inspiring videos. If they managed to capture a mother and baby on film/digital data and found some good song to use as a soundtrack, they could sell it as one of those heartwarming animal movies.

Sunday had sessions surrounding history and social media. Not really that many about actual animals! One of the more interesting animal sessions on Sunday was surrounding burrow use by Burmese Pythons in Florida. Apparently the snakes would use burrows dug by rodents, gopher tortoises, and potentially humans. Subjects found included several male and female pythons and one disgusted gopher tortoise. The history sessions were very interesting, but I often ended up drawing things. I can now draw much better frog feet and snake charmers. And for some reason, preserved collections are interesting. I don't know why because normally my favorite sessions involve living animals, not historic dead ones on display.

Monday did not have sessions but did have a tour of Allen Press, a publisher of journals and more.  I got to see how they made books and journals. Plus, I even took home a souvenir. A test cover from Herpetologica, featuring some absolutely beautiful frogs.

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