As you have probably read on the My Little Python Facebook and Twitter pages, you know that for the last week or so, I've been engaged with the salamander hole that is the Tennessee Herpetological Society meeting. The reason for calling it a salamander hole...I think you'll figure that out soon enough.
Day 1. The main thing here: I PRESENTED. "If You Build It, They Will Come:Use of Temporary Microbiota as an Ecologically Sound Alternative to Traditional Frog Metamorphosis Projects in Home Education Settings" (wow, that's a mouthful) was the first session after the plenary and in a string of amphibian talks. It was probably the happiest amphibian talk that day because rather than the disease projects that followed it, it didn't involve exposing innocent frogs to disease and then euthanizing all survivors. That evening was the auction in which I purchased several items including several of the garden decorations that depict cute little frogs carrying "Welcome" signs, an adorable stuffed animal of a blue rattlesnake wearing a bow tie (either he's a Doctor Who fan or he's presenting), several books, and this quite nice rusty metal frog who's a quite nice piece of folk art, just a bit dangerous. My mom aptly nicknamed him Tetanus. After the auction came the field trip. Tons of cool salamanders, centipedes that glow under blacklight, and a water snake that musked me. In short, it was awesome until we started backtracking. I was with my mom and acted as her light source but without the other people within sight range, we didn't know where it was safe to step. Let's just say there were lots of incidents with fallen trees, water, and sinkholes that I don't want to discuss here. What we learned is that we should have brought boots and that next year, both myself and my mom will have headlamps.
Day 2. Typical sessions, mostly turtles and salamanders with a large focus on disease. But my favorite session that day actually wasn't exactly a herpetology session but instead involved the positive bacteria found on salamanders and was presented by a microbiologist. It was very well-explained due to the presenter being in a different field than the audience and was very positive, with minimal harm done to the animals and the result that the probiotics found naturally can fight off chytrid and ranavirus. I also got an award for my presentation, inventing the category of "Astounding Youth Presentation" because I think I was their first presenter ever who wasn't at least in college. That day's field trip had lots of amphibians and a few lizards, but no snakes. The best find that day was an Eastern Box Turtle, both a beautiful species (plus one of conservational concern) and not very common in the site we were herping. I also got to witness the traditional boxing up of the box turtle to the point of asking: "Are you sure there's a turtle in there?"
In short, it was pretty typical for a conference of its type, but I learned a lot of it and proved that despite my age, I could present and do it well.