Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tennessee Herpetological Society 2016 #THS16 #herpetology #PokemonGO

Last weekend, I was in Knoxville for the 22nd annual meeting of the Tennessee Herpetological Society, a meeting filled with salamanders, Pokemon, wonder, and new experiences and heights for My Little Python.

The salamanders
After the last session on the last day, we went into the Great Smoky Mountains for a field trip. Many salamanders were found, including the Plethodon jordani mimics, black-bellied salamanders, dusky salamanders, and more. I never managed to catch any and mostly I confirmed which rocks didn't have salamanders underneath them and carried the highly scientific Ziploc bags that contained other people's finds to Lisa Powers. Until, near the end of the trip, I flipped over a rock. There was a salamander under it and I alerted another nearby member. With difficulty, she managed to catch it and I brought it down to Lisa Powers. I looked at its cheeks and assumed it was another one of the mimics. Until Lisa and Chris examined it. It was confirmed to be P. jordani or the red-cheeked salamander, the species we had sought on the trip and it was the first one of the trip. I never actually caught anything, but I had made a mark on that trip. That jordani fixed the trip for me and pleased the other members. But not nearly as much as it pleased me.

The Pokemon
Yes, I did play Pokemon Go during the conference. Obviously not during the tour of the zoo, the herping trip (there's no cell coverage in the Smokies anyway), or sessions, but there was some spinning, fighting, and catching going on in times when there weren't talks or special experiences. Anyway, so on the day we got to Knoxville, THS had not yet started so we decided to do a short walk of UT. I was inspired by a Dratini that was supposedly somewhere in the area and used an Incense. The Dratini never showed up, but a Tentacruel did. This attracted a college student who mentioned that he didn't have one. I managed to catch it after going through several Great and Ultra Balls. The conference hadn't even started, but I already had a new species. Then, on the first day, after we had registered, conference stuff didn't start for a while, so my mom and I walked around the zoo. There were several Clefairies and Nidorans, along with the Pidgeys and Rattatas that are everywhere. I owned a Gym for a short while. Anyway, when trying to get to that Gym, we ended up going the wrong way. There was a Snorlax. It wasn't in Nearby. It didn't show any signs of being there-until it showed up. This temporarily lured away a kid who was on a school field trip to the zoo and as far as I could tell, would be perfectly happy abandoning the school field trip altogether and just hunting Pokemon with me. Another new species. Anyway, I also managed to evolve several species we already had, meaning that during the trip, we gained a Rhydon, a Nidoqueen, and a Ninetales. We got really close to a Wigglytuff and Clefable but that last Clefairy or Jigglypuff didn't show up. Hopefully we'll catch some in Memphis fairly soon :)

The wonder
On the first day, we went on a tour of the zoo. I didn't play Pokemon Go during this, the aforementioned Snorlax and gym battle were after the tour. We got to look behind the scenes at Zoo Knoxville's turtle and tortoise breeding facilities. I got to pet an over 100-year-old Aldabaran Tortoise and see huge numbers of adorable, critically endangered turtles, especially bog turtles, as evidence of a highly successful and thriving head-starting and rehabilitation program. The snake facilities could have used some work, though. They were Plexiglass, and severely scratched and fogged up. The snakes seemed perfectly fine, but the facilities they were in could be better for human viewing. Although, those scratches and that fog are evidence of decades of those facilities educating kids about and introducing kids to snakes. It's like My Little Python before the Internet. 

The new experiences and heights for My Little Python
As typical for THS, almost all of the talks focused on disease, but they were more positive than 2015's, due to the fact that many of them involved taking skin swabs and not harming the animals involved, unlike some of last year'd disease sessions involving exposing animals to disease and then killing all survivors. Many talks about Bsal were present, and there were fewer about ranavirus and Bd, probably due to the meeting being in East Tennessee. This year, I reused the My Little Python talk from the Texas Rattlesnake Festival with some modifications, like a new outline and a slide on reptilian and amphibious Pokemon along with the other slide on the shockingly low number of positive reptiles and amphibians in the media targeted at children. The talk went over very well. Also, at the auction, My Little Python donated many items, including a proof copy of Stripie Snakie's Guide to Serpentville and a copy of What About Snakes?, two plastic frogs with homemade Pokemon cards of the species they were based on, some reptile and amphibian-themed jewelery, and a Tennessee Herpetological Society mini-pillow I made from a scrap of felt. These items went over very well, raising almost 100 dollars by themselves. Overall, THS was an incredibly good meeting (and good for Pokemon). Also, for trainers:If you need a Wigglytuff, Clefable, or any Nidoran evolutions, go to the Knoxville Zoo. Also, don't look for Onix in the Great Smokies. There's no cell coverage.