On 7 October 2020, the SSAR Board of Directors unanimously voted to postpone the stand-alone meeting in Ann Arbor planned for August 2021. The uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic have made ongoing planning for the meeting untenable. The organizers for the meeting, Alison and Dan Rabosky, as well as the SSAR officers, editors, and Board members, are deeply disappointed at the postponement, but our utmost concern is for the safety and welfare of prospective meeting participants. We are postponing the Ann Arbor meeting to the summer of 2024, and we hope to see everyone there. The SSAR Long-Range Planning Committee members are working on alternate plans for our 2021 meeting, which we will announce in time. Thank you one and all for your understanding.
Herpetological Review September 2020, Volume 51, Number 3. Our cover features an especially colorful example of a Palestine Saw-scaled Viper (Echis coloratus), photographed in southern Israel by Matthieu Berroneau. Matthieu is a French herpetologist and wildlife photographer. Congratulations to Matthieu for his outstanding cover photo!
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.
We do not yet have a mail date for the print journals due to delays with the Journal of Herpetology.
In this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee Chair Jessica Tingle interviewed a current SSAR Director, Dr. Jenn Deitloff to better understand the activities of SSAR Directors. Note that a Director is not the same as the Board of Directors; the Board of Directors consists of several elected officers, including the officers known as Directors.
The Directors are eight elected officers who serve on the Board of Directors along with the President, President-elect, Immediate Past President, Treasurer, Secretary, Trustee, and Publications Secretary. One Director position is reserved for someone whose work relates to conservation, and another is reserved for someone from outside the United States. The Board of Directors is responsible for managing SSAR’s affairs, including publications (journals, books, and more). An individual Director’s term lasts for four years, and half of the Directors are replaced every other year. A person may serve multiple terms as a Director, and consecutive terms are allowed.
Activities throughout the year, including at the annual meeting
Throughout the year, items arise that require the Directors’ attention, which normally involves discussion and sometimes a vote (via email). For example, when SSAR began considering whether the Journal of Herpetology should move to online-only, the Board of Directors discussed options and voted on how to proceed. Similarly, when the COVID-19 pandemic jeopardized the 2020 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH), the Board of Directors had to determine whether to cancel JMIH, when to cancel, and what options might be available to offset the financial repercussions.
Members of the Board of Directors normally gather together in person at the annual conference (JMIH or SSAR stand-alone meetings), where they attend the Board of Directors meeting and the SSAR Business Meeting. At the Board of Directors meeting—usually held on the first day of the conference—elected officers, editors, and committee chairs discuss the Society’s activities over the previous year, plans for the coming year, and the annual budget. Approval of the annual budget as well as any amendments of the SSAR constitution and bylaws require a vote by a quorum of the Board of Directors.
In addition to their duties on the Board of Directors, the Directors are expected to participate in SSAR committees. The President may sometimes ask or assign Directors to be on specific committees, as the need arises.
Interactions with other SSAR officers and committees
Directors maintain frequent email contact with the President and Secretary in order to carry out their duties throughout the year. They also tend to interact frequently with each other as they generate new ideas for SSAR. Additionally, because Directors often participate in committees or other Society activities, they may interact with various other individuals involved in SSAR.
Path to becoming a Director
Like other elected officers, the Directors must be nominated. When Tiffany Doan, current Chair of the Nominations Committee, first notified Deitloff that she had been nominated, Deitloff wasn’t sure she would be available for the job, and turned down the nomination. Deitloff had often volunteered to judge posters and oral presentations at the annual conference, but she had never been involved in a larger role, such as on a committee. Sometime later, Doan and Deitloff met to discuss ways Deitloff could get more involved in SSAR. That conversation, and conversations with people who had held the Director position, convinced Deitloff that a Director position would be manageable, so the next time she was nominated, she accepted and was voted into office.
Although Deitloff worried about the Director workload prior to her election, she discovered that her fears were unfounded. During her time as a Director, she’s never felt overwhelmed with the workload, and the work has always felt in line with her professional goals and goals for the field. The position holds a lot of intrinsic value, since Directors have the power to help shape SSAR. Not only has Deitloff found the position inherently valuable, but she has also discovered a side benefit in that it has caused her to branch out in the Society, leading to a much richer experience at the annual meetings.
Future of the Director position
Because the Board of Directors has so much power to shape the present and future of SSAR, Directors’ activities evolve along with the Society’s priorities. Individual Directors also have the power to pursue their own goals. For example, Deitloff joined the Board after an incident at JMIH 2018 in Rochester that provided a wake-up call for the herpetological societies to do more work for inclusion. Noticing that graduate students and other young members provided some of the loudest voices calling for change, Deitloff decided that it was time for her to stop taking a back seat in SSAR business. Therefore, she has devoted much of her work on the Board of Directors to making SSAR more inclusive, work that will continue indefinitely.
In January 2021, half of the current Directors will step down, to be replaced by four newly-elected Directors. These new Directors will work with the rest of the Board to bring new ideas and perspectives to SSAR.
In this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, we provide a summary of the Board of Directors and its members. We have written (or are currently working on) separate profiles for each Board of Directors position; please click the links associated with each position to learn more.
The Board of Directors consists of 15 members (click links to read profiles on each position):
- Immediate Past President
- Publications Secretary
- eight Directors
According to the SSAR Bylaws, the Board of Directors holds the following responsibilities:
- The Board shall be empowered to manage the affairs of the Society and to designate all appointive officers for terms of two years.
- The Board shall fill any vacancy occurring among the officers, except that of President, by an appointment for the unexpired term.
- The Board shall be specifically responsible for the publications of the Society and shall set such policy as is needed to coordinate the contents of the various media so as to further the stated objectives of the Society and to insure the availability and distribution of the several items.
All members of the Board of Directors are elected officers. During election years, the Nominations Committee prepares a ballot, which then goes out to the general membership for a vote. Newly elected persons take office on January 1 following the election.
Faculty who are recruiting students for the 2021-2022 academic year (or postdocs to begin any time) can fill out this form:
The form populates a view-only spreadsheet that prospective applicants can use to find labs that match their interests.
We plan to release a new form + spreadsheet for the 2022-2023 academic year in early 2021.
Prospective applicants to master’s, PhD, and postdoctoral positions can check out this spreadsheet of faculty who are currently recruiting:
The spreadsheet has five separate tabs to help you navigate:
- All advertised positions
- Master’s positions
- PhD positions
- Postdoctoral positions where the PI already has funding
- PIs who don’t currently have funding for postdocs but who are happy to help with postdoctoral fellowship applications
Check back periodically for new entries, which are added to the bottom of the spreadsheet.
Advice for students navigating the application process:
Many programs will cover your tuition, and many will even pay you a stipend. Funding situations vary wildly by department, though, so you should reach out to people whose labs interest you to ask for details.
Sending the first email to a prospective advisor can be intimidating. If you have a mentor who can help you, it’s wise to get their help. If you need to figure out how to write the email on your own, this blog post has some useful tips: https://contemplativemammoth.com/2013/04/08/so-you-want-to-go-to-grad-school-nail-the-inquiry-email/
You will want to choose a lab that not only does research you find interesting, but that will also provide a supportive environment where you can thrive. Many factors go into a good graduate school experience. Bobby Espinoza, a professor at Cal State Northridge, has prepared a list of sample questions that you might want to ask of prospective advisors, their current students (very important!), and other people in the department to collect the information you will need to make an informed graduate school decision: Questions for Prospective Advisors & Programs.
A todos los colegas trabajando en enfermedades de anfibios:
Como ustedes saben, laboratorios de investigación y diagnóstico alrededor del mundo corren pruebas de PCR para detectar la presencia de microorganismos patógenos causantes de enfermedades en anfibios. Entre ellos están los patógenos de reporte obligatorio a la OIE: las dos especies de quitridio y las múltiples sepas de ranaviruses que causan mortalidades en anfibios, tanto de vida libre como en cautiverio. Los métodos usados en cada laboratorio varían, lo cual dificulta comparar resultados obtenidos en distintos laboratorios. Pocos son los laboratorios que cuentan con una certificación de organismos nacionales o internacionales, como los de la Organización Internacional de Normalización (ISO). Con el fin de proporcionar acceso a un control de calidad que sea práctico y accesible a todos los laboratorios trabajando con patógenos de anfibios, el equipo enfocado al diagnóstico del grupo de trabajo Bsal de Norteamérica, con el apoyo de Environment and Climate Change Canada, ha organizado una prueba de anillo (round robin, en inglés) para los laboratorios que corren pruebas PCR para patógenos emergentes que afectan a los anfibios. La prueba de anillo ayudará a los laboratorios participantes, ya sean de investigación o diagnóstico, a evaluar sus métodos y la calidad de sus resultados de forma voluntaria y confidencial.
En breve, 16 muestras serán enviadas de manera gratuita a cada laboratorio participante, para que corran las pruebas de PCR para detectar Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, B. salamandrivorans y Ranavirus sp. Las muestras consistirán en hisopos de algodón con esporas de una o ambas especies de quitridio y/o partículas de FV3 (especie tipo del género Ranavirus). Tanto las esporas como las partículas de FV3 estarán inactivadas, y presentes en varias concentraciones o completamente ausentes (muestras en blanco). Un juego de muestras será envida a la persona que funja como contacto para el laboratorio participante y quien se encargará de corren las pruebas y reportar los resultados. Cada laboratorio participante se comprometerá a cubrir el costo interno de correr las pruebas y a reportar sus resultados 3-5 semanas después de recibir las muestras. Los laboratorios participantes correrán las pruebas de PCR e interpretarán los resultados en base a sus propios procedimientos, los que ocupan rutinariamente en el cumplimiento de sus labores. Las pruebas pueden correrse una o varias veces, dependiendo del procedimiento de cada laboratorio, aunque se recomienda sean corridas en triplicado. Los participantes reportarán sus resultados como “positivo” or “negativo” y, si usan el qPCR, incluirán los respectivos valores de Cq (Ct), y lo que estiman es la concentración de patógeno(s) en cada muestra. Un pequeño grupo de participantes recibirá un juego de estándares para correrlo en paralelo con sus estándares habituales. Una vez que se cierre la prueba de anillo, los resultados de todos los participantes serán analizados, comparando cada laboratorio con todos los demás, y con la composición y concentración original de cada muestra. Cada laboratorio recibirá un reporte comparando sus resultados con los resultados de los demás participantes en forma anónima, de manera que los resultados de otros laboratorios se mantendrán completamente confidenciales. Una vez que todos los participantes hayan tenido tiempo de revisar sus resultados, un resumen general, presentado de manera que impida la identificación individual de los laboratorios, será divulgado por medio de la página de internet del equipo de diagnóstico del grupo de trabajo Bsal de Norteamérica.
Aun cuando este no es un momento muy propicio para organizar pruebas de anillo, al estar en mundo en medio de una pandemia, esperamos contar con la participación de laboratorios que hayan podido mantener sus funciones durante este momento tan difícil. Planeamos enviar las muestras a principios de noviembre, 2020, y contamos con que los participantes reporten sus resultados a principios de diciembre.
Por favor comuníquense con María Forzán (email@example.com O firstname.lastname@example.org) si están interesados en participar, o si tienen alguna pregunta o sugerencia sobre la forma en que hemos organizado la prueba de anillo. Es VITAL QUE RESPONDAN a esta llamada ANTES del 30 de septiembre, 2020, cuando finalizaremos la lista de participantes y empezaremos a prepar la cantidad de muestras necesarias.
Para información sobre el programa piloto que organizamos en el 2016, visiten nuestra página de internet: www.diagnostics.salamanderfungus.org
Dear colleagues in amphibian health,
As you know, researchers and diagnosticians around the world are running PCR tests looking for the presence of emerging amphibian pathogens, particularly those notifiable to the OIE. Standardization of methodologies is difficult, and it is even more difficult for laboratories to acquire a certification such as that granted by organizations like the American Association of Diagnostic Veterinary Laboratories or ISO committees. The Diagnostics Working Group of the North American Bsal Task Force, with funding support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, is following up on an effort to provide an accessible method for quality control/quality assurance (QC/QA) to laboratories working on amphibian pathogens. We will conduct a PCR ring test (round robin) for emerging amphibian pathogens that will allow participating laboratories to confidentially evaluate the quality of their results, be it for diagnostic or research purposes. Participation is voluntary and open to all laboratories currently running tests for the target pathogens.
Briefly, a set of 16 blinded randomized samples will be shipped to each participating laboratory, at no cost, to undergo testing for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, B. salamandrivorans and Ranavirus
We realize this may not be an ideal time to conduct this round robin, with the world in the midst of a pandemic, but we hope those laboratories who are able to continue testing will consider participating. We expect to ship the sets of blind samples in early November 2020, and expect laboratories to provide their results by early December, at the latest.
Please contact me (María Forzán, email@example.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in participating, or if you have any questions or comments regarding the way in which the ring test is to be conducted. It is CRUCIAL THAT YOU REPLY to this message BEFORE September 30th, 2020, so the total number of participating laboratories can be determined and the appropriate number of testing tubes prepared.
For information on a pilot round robin conducted in 2016, please go to our website: www.diagnostics.
The 2020 winner of the Victor Hutchison Graduate Poster Award is:
Danielle Bradke (University of Georgia), “Sensitivity of capture-recapture using seining to detect changes in Diamondback Terrapin survival in response to management”
The SSAR graduate student poster awards honor Victor Hutchison for his extensive contributions to herpetology and the development of future herpetologists. Because the coronavirus pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 JMIH, we held the 10th annual SSAR Victor Hutchison Student Poster competition in a novel virtual format (Zoom) on 24 July 2020. This year we gave one overall award rather than multiple awards in different categories, owing to the relatively small number of participants. The winner is receiving a check for US $250 and an SSAR book.
The 2020 winner of the George B. Rabb Undergraduate Poster Award is:
Calvin Vick (University of Central Arkansas), “Female lizards alter behavior but not climbing speed while gravid”
SSAR’s George B. Rabb Undergraduate Poster Award is sponsored by Zoo Atlanta and honors our colleague George Rabb (1930-2017), former Director of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, IL, and highly respected advocate and spokesman for wildlife conservation. 2020 marked the 2nd year of this competition, which was held in a novel virtual format owing to the coronavirus pandemic and cancellation of JMIH. The poster presentations were given via Zoom on 24 July 2020. The winner is receiving a check for US $250 and an SSAR book.
This year’s judges were:
Betsie Rothermel, Chair (Archbold Biological Station), Nicholas Caruso (Virginia Tech), Allyson Fenwick (University of Central Oklahoma), Jennifer Lamb (St. Cloud State University), Chris Thawley (Neumann University)
2020 SSAR Virtual Poster Competitions Committee: Neil Balchan, John Bellah, Jack Friend, Michelle Koo, Joe Mendelson, Calvin Vick, Greg Watkins-Colwell. With special thanks to Marty Crump (President), Jessica Tingle (Chair, Student Participation Committee), and Betsie Rothermel (Chair, Poster Awards Committee), for supporting the program.
SSAR has just released a new update on a bilingual Herpetological Circular:
Lips, K.R., J.K. Reaser, B.E. Young, and R. Ibáñez. 2020. Amphibian monitoring in Latin America: a protocol manual (Mintoreo de anfibios en América Latina). Herpetological Circulars No. 30. Vers. 2.
This and other Herp Circulars are available as free PDF downloads on the SSAR website: https://ssarherps.org/publications/books-pamphlets/herp-circulars-pdfs/