Marked declines in herpetological biodiversity are being documented worldwide. SSAR exists to advance research, conservation, and education concerning these species. Therefore, after working out complex logistics with our investment manager, SSAR is pleased to announce that it has divested from oil and gas investments to develop an eco-friendly investment portfolio in line with our mission. When you support SSAR, we want you to know that we are doing our best to spend and invest those funds wisely to support the causes that you value.
Dear SSAR Members,
The JMIH 2020 has been cancelled. All registrations will be refunded at 100%. Refunds can be requested using the refund request form posted on the meeting website. Alternatively, you may donate your registration funds to offset the costs of cancellation.
This has been a difficult decision, involving both public health and financial considerations. Ultimately, the four Presidents of the JMIH societies (Susan Walls, HL; Dave Ebert, AES; Chris Beachy ASIH; and myself, SSAR), in consultation with our respective Boards/Executive Committees, unanimously decided that the right thing to do for the sake of public health was to cancel at the present time.
Some may wonder why we did not cancel several weeks ago. Cancellation of the 2020 JMIH was going to cost approximately $240,000 to $300,000, due to contracts with the hotels and vendors. We believed that if we could lower this extraordinary expense, negotiation between our meeting planning group Burk and Associates and our conference partners in Norfolk was worthwhile. We have ultimately agreed to a “cancellation with postponement” and will hold the JMIH 2023 in Norfolk. As a consequence, our financial penalty has been greatly reduced.
I know it is a great disappointment to all who intended to present their research and interact with colleagues during the 2020 JMIH in Norfolk this summer, but we feel that cancellation was the responsible decision–both to our members and to public health overall. The 2021 JMIH will be in Phoenix in July, but SSAR will have its stand-alone meeting in Ann Arbor, 5-9 August 2021. I hope to see you all in Ann Arbor. I wish you all safety and good health.
SSAR is pleased to announce receipt of a major donation from Dr. William S. Parker, member of the society for more than 50 years. The funds are split 80% for the Conant Grants-in-Herpetology program and 20% for the Dean Metter Memorial Award. Both of these programs provide grants to support graduate student research. The Conant Grants-in-Herpetology program supports student research in seven categories—conservation, field research, laboratory research, travel, international, herpetological education, and undergraduate research in herpetology. The Dean Metter Memorial Award supports field research anywhere in the world, but with preference for work in his home state of Missouri. Bill’s generous donation will help to further the careers of many future professional herpetologists. When asked why he chose to donate to these two particular funds, Bill said, “Receipt of similar grant monies greatly enhanced my graduate research experiences.”
Bill Parker received his BA degree from Wabash College in Indiana in 1964. He received his MS degree from Arizona State University in 1966, working with Martin J. (“Jack”) Fouquette and Wendell L. Minckley. From 1966 to 1967 he was a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Kansas, working with Henry S. Fitch, and from 1967 to 1970 he served as an Artillery/Air Defense Officer in the U.S. Army. Bill returned to graduate school and earned his PhD from the University of Utah in 1974 under the direction of Harold F. Hirth. He served as Professor of Biology at Mississippi University for Women from 1974 until 2007 and is currently Emeritus Professor of Biology at that university. Bill’s research interests have focused broadly on reptile ecology. Throughout his long career he has published dozens of journal articles, symposium contributions, and book chapters on the ecology of lizards, snakes, and turtles. His subjects have included horned lizards, desert spiny lizards, leopard lizards, fence lizards, desert iguanas, banded geckos, box turtles, slider turtles, whipsnakes, rattlesnakes, and more. Many of his publications were co-authored with William S. Brown on snakes and Eric R. Pianka on lizards.
From January 1991 through March 2006, Bill served as Managing Editor of Journal of Herpetology. He saw the journal through 61 issues during those years, a record-long period spanning the terms of four consecutive editors. Bill retains a certain amount of pride in having helped so many authors, including those from over 50 different countries, complete their publication experience.
Bill has long been actively involved in volunteer work, including a local crisis phoneline, local animal shelters, local arts councils, and local photography contests. His current interests include photography, travel, classical music by women, reading, and philanthropy. SSAR thanks Bill for his long-time dedication to the society, which now includes his generous support of student research.
For this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee member Amanda Hewes interviewed Dr. Roberto Brenes, the current chair of the Roger Conant Grants-in-Herpetology committee.
The Roger Conant Grants-in-Herpetology are $500 grants primarily awarded to student members of SSAR (exceptions listed on the grant web page under “who can apply?”). Grants are awarded in the fields of Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles, Field Research, Laboratory Research, Travel, International, Herpetological Education, and Undergraduate Research in Herpetology. The chair of the Roger Conant Grants-in-Herpetology committee is responsible for receiving grant applications, finding reviewers, organizing the review process, reporting the award winners, and submitting an annual report to the board.
Grant applications are due in December of each year. The application submission period begins in September, at which point the committee chair has several concurrent responsibilities. The first is to field incoming applications submitted via email. Additionally, the chair must actively seek out reviewers to assess the applications. Reviewers are chosen based on their expertise, and many are from within SSAR. After the application window closes, the chair verifies that the applications meet the content requirements before sending them to reviewers. Each category has specific requirements for the grant application, which are detailed on the Roger Conant Grants-in-Herpetology page on the SSAR website. Each category has one to two reviewers, depending on reviewer availability and number of applications. For categories with one reviewer, the reviewer fills out a rubric for each proposal and either the highest scoring or the two highest scoring proposals are funded, depending on the number of applicants. For categories with two reviewers, the applications are split between them, and the highest scoring application from each reviewer is funded. Awardees are usually announced in May or June. The SSAR president sends letters of congratulations to the successful applicants, and checks are sent by the treasurer.
Interactions with other SSAR committees and leaders
The chair of the Grants-in-Herpetology committee is responsible for attending the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH) and actively communicating with the SSAR board. For record-keeping purposes, the chair must submit a report to the board detailing how many people applied for awards, who received an award, and how much money was awarded.
Path to joining the Grants-in-Herpetology committee
Dr. Brenes first joined SSAR as a graduate student in 2002 and presented at JMIH annually during his first several years of membership. During that time, Brenes received a Grants-in-Herpetology award. Even though he started off actively participating in SSAR, Brenes began to drift from the society as the focus of his research shifted. With advancements in his academic career, his work started to focus more on infectious disease in tropical amphibians, which steered him toward epidemiology meetings and conferences. Brenes made his way back to SSAR several years later, when he was asked to review Grants-in-Herpetology applications, which he did for three years. Once the previous long-term committee chair stepped down, Brenes was asked by Dr. Marty Crump —whom Brenes had known for years due to their shared interest in tropical amphibians— if he would like to take on the position. Brenes points to his field work, as well as previous roles as both a grant recipient and reviewer, as experiences that aid him in the role of the committee chair.
Future of the committee
A short-term goal currently underway is to make the application submission process more streamlined by implementing a Dropbox system. With a Dropbox system, all grants will be submitted to one portal, and it will be possible to automate checking for completeness to some degree. In addition, changes will be made to the Roger Conant Grants-in-Herpetology page on the SSAR website to accommodate the new submission system and to direct applicants to the submission portal. These changes will be implemented for the 2020 application cycle.
A long-term goal of the committee is to increase its presence at the annual meeting. The committee is committed to this goal for two key reasons. (1) Soliciting reviewers in-person at the annual meeting will likely make the reviewer search much easier. (2) Putting a face to the committee chair position will help to increase student involvement. A strong presence at the annual meeting will better acquaint students with the committee chair, hopefully making them more comfortable reaching out about possible volunteer opportunities. As a related activity, the committee hopes to create specific roles for students, a plan still in the works.
HR March 2020, Volume 51, Number 1. Our cover features a beautiful example of a Painted Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima), photographed in Oaxaca, México by Aldo López Velázquez. López Velázquez is a PhD candidate in biological sciences at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where he studies chytridiomycosis dynamics in amphibians. This issue is scheduled to be mailed on 25 March, and full contents are now available online to SSAR members at https://ssarherps.org/herpetological-review-pdfs/. Natural History Notes, Geographic Distribution Notes, and Book Reviews are Open Access and are available for download at the same link. If you are not a member of SSAR, please consider joining the leading international herpetological society. Student and online-only rates available. Follow the “Join SSAR” link on the home page. Congratulations to Aldo for his outstanding cover photo!
Applications are now open for Student Travel Awards for JMIH 2020. The application deadline is May 4, 2020.
Award checks will be disbursed at the SSAR Business Meeting. Application materials are preferred in electronic form (either PDF or Microsoft Word) and should be sent to Ariana Rupp (email@example.com); however, if an electronic submission is not possible please contact Ariana Rupp to arrange the delivery of a hard copy. Hard copies sent via postal mail must be postmarked prior to 4 May 2020 to be considered; however the drawing will take place on May 7th to ensure students have an opportunity to register before the early bird deadline. Therefore, if you must send in your application via postal mail it is recommended that you send it earlier.
For more information: https://ssarherps.org/ssar-awards/student-travel-award/
UPDATE : THE CONFERENCE HAS BEEN CANCELLED FOR 2020, AND WILL BE RESCHEDULED FOR MAY 2021
Vincent Farallo and Shawn Kuchta would like to remind everyone that this year they will be hosting the 8th Conference on the Biology of Plethodontid Salamanders to be held May 22nd – 23rd in Athens, OH. Registration is now open with a soft closing date of May 1st (some services will be unavailable after this date). Abstract submission is also open through April 1st including both oral presentation and posters. Additional information can be found on the meeting website (https://plethodontidae.weebly.com/), including contact information in case you have additional questions. We look forward to seeing everyone there!
In this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee member Allison Bogisich details the activities of the Mentorship Committee, with information provided by current chair Dr. Rob Denton and former chair Dr. Joe Mendelson.
The program was originally borne out of various discussions in 2010–2011 between Kristine Kaiser, Andrew Durso, Marion Preest, and Joe Mendelson. The program launched in 2012 at the World Congress of Herpetology in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with Kris Kaiser as the Chair. At its inception, all of the basic elements of the program that persist today were in place, with the only real changes involved being refinements in logistics.
The primary purpose of the committee is to plan the mentorship program, ensuring that it happens every year at the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH) and that it engages students attending their first JMIH meeting or academic conference.
Activities throughout the year, including at the annual meeting
Everyone in the mentorship program meets as a group near the beginning of JMIH. This meeting gives all mentors and mentees the chance to get to know each other, as well as providing an opportunity for the program organizers to give suggestions for making the most out of each mentorship interaction. After the initial meeting, mentor-mentee pairs can meet up whenever and however they so choose. Interactions often include attending poster sessions together, checking in over coffee, and/or talking over a meal. Mentors can help their mentees meet other senior researchers in their field, and they may also introduce their mentee to the rest of their lab group so the mentee can get a feel for another lab’s culture. These pairings give new attendees a friendly face right away, and provide someone who can help them navigate the rest of the conference.
Since this committee runs a program at the annual JMIH conference, their work is highly seasonal, ramping up in the few months prior to the meeting. Advertising the program sufficiently across multiple online platforms and communicating with the meeting organizers so information about the program is included on the registration site is critical leading up to the application deadline, typically around the first week of May. The Mentorship Committee works hard to encourage students to sign up for the program as mentees and to rally potential mentors. As chair, Denton is in charge of establishing the mentor and mentee pairs for the JMIH meeting, using surveys that mentees complete as part of the application. He begins by listing the prospective mentees by interest/discipline (e.g. evolution, ecology), then by taxonomic interest (e.g. salamanders, snakes). Then he finds the most suitable mentor match for each mentee. Ideally, pairs are made by matching mentees to a mentor who is usually one career stage ahead of them, e.g. undergrads with graduate students. In preparation for the mentorship meeting, the committee must also work out a budget for any food and supplies needed at JMIH.
Denton remarked that he was most happy about the initiative this year to expand the program in order to reach a wider diversity of student members. Mentee feedback has always been supportive of continuing the program due to connections made that were kept for many years afterward. Denton wants to promote just how well the mentorship program is functioning, as it’s ensuring that junior members at JMIH meet a career stage cohort and gets them quickly involved in respective societies. This is especially important for introducing first time attendees to the full diversity of individuals who make up JMIH.
This year the program included a record 42 mentorship pairings, and Denton is grateful for all those who helped suggest mentors or volunteered themselves. Also new to the committee mentorship program this year is the partnership with the Herpetologists’ League Diversity and Inclusion Committee, made in an effort to widen the available network of mentee and mentor applicants to professional societies beyond SSAR. In this way, the committee’s pairings are becoming less based upon immediate network connections from within the Mentorship Committee, which was a limiting factor and challenge in the past.
Interactions with other SSAR committees and leaders
Denton works collaboratively with the Herpetologists’ League’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee to help better promote diverse and inclusive pairings that will foster stronger collaborations between mentees and mentors, to enable both aspiring and established herpetologists to feel respected, supported, and valued. Additionally, the graduate students of SSAR’s Student Participation Committee have worked with Denton to better promote student engagement with the mentorship program, making students feel welcome at SSAR. The Mentorship Committee works with the SSAR president, in order to secure sufficient funding to hold the JMIH mentorship meeting.
Path to joining the Mentorship Committee
In 2015, while Denton was in the latter stages of his PhD program, former president Dr. Aaron M. Bauer contacted him about taking over for Dr. Joe Mendelson, who was stepping down from the role of chair. Denton accepted the nomination and has remained chair of the committee to the present.
In addition to the Mentorship Committee, Denton served on the SSAR Resolutions Committee from around 2012 to 2017, a role that involved standing up and reading SSAR resolutions and acknowledgments at the annual business meeting. He remarked that the visibility it gave him likely helped in garnering an invitation to chair the Mentorship Committee. Additionally, Denton has been an active member of Herpetologists’ League’s Conservation Committee since 2014. He cites his involvement in these two committees as ways that led to his getting more deeply involved and eventually taking on more responsibility as chair of the Mentorship Committee.
Denton remarked that he personally could not recall an instance when a student had approached either a central SSAR committee or the Mentorship Committee with interest in getting involved, who had not immediately been found a way to contribute. There is a society-wide desire for more junior scientist members working on these committees, and it’s often as simple as asking to get involved. He
recommends finding out what aspect of SSAR you’re most curious about (e.g. how the society is run, how people are recruited, how the journal is run). He recommends attending the annual business meeting if possible to get a broad idea of what the society is currently up to. Aside from signing up to be a mentor/mentee at JMIH via the Mentorship Committee, Denton says the grad students on the committee are heavily relied upon for their opinions and perspectives, as they are more proximate to many of the first-time attendees. The connections that the grad students have are valuable for developing many of the mentor-mentee pairings, and they often make the best mentors for younger students.
Future of the committee
Ideally, Denton says he hopes to see the continued expansion and growth of the program. At this year’s JMIH conference there were student mentees who discovered that they had missed out on prior registration for the program and applicants who were unable to be paired with an appropriate match. In other words, the total number of first time JMIH attendees is always larger than the number of mentee applicants. Getting a larger budget to assist the growing number of mentorship pairings and establishing other standardized mentorship events at JMIH are the most immediate goals for the committee.
How to get involved
Anyone interested in the committee may contact the current chair, Rob Denton, for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you want to be part of the program, either as a mentor or mentee, make sure to sign up when you register for the annual meeting. There should be a check box on the registration form.
Tristan and Ella Weinkle, the major donors for the pre-college program that provides funds to help high school students attend our annual meeting, have requested a name change for the program. The change has been approved by the SSAR Board. The name of the endowment will continue to be The Weinkle Family Endowment for Pre-College Scholars. However, the new name for the fellowship will be the Founders Fellowship, and the title for awardees will be Founders Fellows. These name changes honor the founders of SSAR, who themselves were teenagers at the time they started the Ohio Herpetological Society. Once again, we thank Tristan and Ella Weinkle for their endowment in support of this fantastic program.
For more information on the Founders Fellowship, including application instructions, please visit: https://ssarherps.org/ssar-awards/pre-college-award/.
For this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee member Tiffany Bougie interviewed Greg Watkins-Colwell, current chair of the Membership Committee, to better understand the committee’s activities.
The Membership Committee recruits new members and keeps track of the membership as a whole.
Activities throughout the year
The Membership Committee holds monthly online discussions about increasing membership numbers and diversity. These discussions are generally focused on tapping into new audiences, brainstorming different ways to reach such audiences, and working alongside the SSAR board to identify possible SSAR member-only activities, such as an SSAR member’s only reception at JMIH or other annual conferences in which the society participates.
The committee works to continually determine who makes up the SSAR membership (e.g. students, professional herpetologists, general public) in order to guide decisions on how to increase member numbers and who to target for new membership. Additionally, committee members investigate SSAR member renewals and attempt to understand why certain groups of members aren’t renewing so that they can identify strategies to prevent membership drop-off.
Recruiting efforts include working with the graphics department at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to design flyers for distribution at herp-related conferences. The SSAR Membership Committee has also set up a table at the North American Reptile Breeders Conference in Chicago where folks hand out flyers and SSAR publications, run book raffles, and work to increase exposure of herpetology as a scientific field, especially to kids who may not otherwise know the field exists.
Interactions with other SSAR committees and committees of other organizations
The Membership Committee has previously helped the Student Participation Committee design a survey to gather information about SSAR student members. Additionally, some members of the SSAR Membership Committee also serve on the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee for the Herpetologists’ League, as the two committees share a common goal of welcoming all herpetologists into our professional societies, regardless of identity.
Path to joining the Membership Committee
Watkins-Colwell became a member of SSAR in middle school, but lost track of the society during high school as he focused more on local herpetology groups. He rejoined as a member of SSAR during grad school in 1991 and served on the Membership Committee multiple times before becoming chair approximately 3 years ago. He joined the Membership Committee to learn more about the SSAR members as a whole and to get an idea of what the SSAR needs to do to meet the needs of those members.
Prior to chairing the Membership Committee, Watkins-Colwell helped run the SSAR Live Auction for almost 20 years, which he says taught him to work well with other people. Additionally, his career managing museum collections has honed his planning skills. Both of these attributes promote success as the chair of the Membership Committee. He emphasized that it really makes a difference when you can plot your next steps to get you where you want to be, and to have a diverse group of people helping reach that goal.
Future of the committee
The Membership Committee will continue to identify neglected audiences and determine how to best reach them. Watkins-Colwell suggests that many groups (e.g. pet traders, bird watchers, zoo patrons) aren’t currently targeted for membership, but could be interested in joining if they become aware of SSAR’s existence and the benefits membership offers.
Additionally, the future of the committee will likely involve more long-term joint activities with the Herpetologists’ League as well as a greater presence at the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH). Although JMIH already provides a great opportunity for people to meet face-to-face, increased Membership Committee presence could further promote interactions among SSAR members. Watkins-Colwell envisions a collaboration of the Membership Committee with the SSAR Mentorship Committee to help herpetologists earlier in their career better understand what SSAR is and how to be involved within the herpetological community.
How to get involved
The Membership Committee always welcomes folks with ideas and willingness to follow through. A diverse team can approach problems and initiatives from varying perspectives, which provides a large benefit to the Membership Committee and, by extension, to SSAR members as a whole. Therefore, we strive to include people from a variety of backgrounds and career stages (including students).
If you’re interested in joining the committee, send Greg Watkins-Colwell an email (email@example.com).
For more information about Watkins-Colwell’s career path check out the #ThisIsSSAR series where he published a piece about his interest in herps and how he got where he is today.