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 (firstname.lastname@example.org); 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 (email@example.com).
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
The Meritorious Teaching Award in Herpetology (MTAH)
Presented by the Herpetology Education Committee
Sponsored by: American Society of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists (ASIH), The Herpetologists’ League (HL), and the Society for the Study of Amphibians & Reptiles (SSAR)
The Herpetology Education Committee (HEC) seeks nominations for the Meritorious Teaching Award in Herpetology to be presented at the 2020 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists & Herpetologists in Norfolk, Virginia. Nominees must be current members of at least one of the sponsoring societies. Current officers and committee chairs of ASIH, HL, or SSAR, and members of the HEC are not eligible for nomination.
This award recognizes superior teaching and mentoring of students in herpetology. Awardees will be active teachers and mentors, with classroom teaching within the last three years and a substantial history of teaching excellence. The award recipient will receive US $500, an official letter, and a plaque from the HEC.
Nominees should have a reputation among their peers and students for excellence in herpetological education, including, but not limited to:
- Demonstrated effective and innovative teaching in the classroom and/or other education settings (e.g., zoological parks, aquaria, museums, field stations, environmental centers).
- Superior mentoring of students in herpetology, as evidenced by student testimonials, student publications, and placement of students in professional positions in herpetological fields.
The nomination packet (submitted as a single electronic PDF) must include the following documents that are clearly numbered and labeled:
- NOMINATING LETTER: A nominating letter, from a current member of ASIH, HL, or SSAR, highlighting in detail the nominee’s experience and accomplishments (limit 2 single spaced pages)
- CURRICULUM VITAE: A current CV of the nominee, including teaching experience
- COURSEWORK TAUGHT: List of relevant coursework taught (including years taught)
- RECOMMENDATION FROM STUDENTS: Letters of recommendation (limit 2) from former or current students (graduate or undergraduate) addressing the teaching and mentoring skills of the nominee
- RECOMMENDATION FROM PEERS: Letters of recommendation (limit 2) from professional peers who are qualified to review the merits of the nominee with respect to teaching and mentoring
**Incomplete nomination packets (e.g., those that do not include each of the above 5 items) will not be considered.
Nominations must be received by the HEC Chair by 31 March 2020 for consideration. Nominations will remain active for three years. After that, the nominee must wait six years before being eligible again.
Send electronic nomination files, including all letters, as a single PDF with the subject line “MTAH2020 nomination” to:
Erin Muths, chair
Please share widely: the Jones-Lovich Grant in Southwestern Herpetology from the Herpetologists’ League is now accepting applications until Friday January 17, 2020 at 5 PM PST. This is $1000 grant awarded to one person per year, working on any aspect of amphibians and reptiles in the Southwestern US or Northwestern Mexico. See more information here: https://herpetologistsleague.org/awards-for-hl-students/
Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) is an organization whose mission is to forge proactive partnerships that facilitate conservation of amphibians, reptiles, and the places they live. In time for the 2020 PARC regional meetings, PARC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Team (DEITT) is happy to announce the PARC Increasing Participation Award (PIPA), a new award to support qualified individuals to attend a PARC regional meeting. PARC regional meetings consist of talks, workshops and networking opportunities for folks across all sectors and skill levels that are interested in amphibian and reptile conservation. Support at meetings for awardees will include travel support up to $500 and mentorship before and during the meeting. Award applications are open for Southeast PARC meeting (Feb 27 – Mar 1 in AL) and the Northwest PARC meeting (Apr 28 – May 1 in WA).
Eligible individuals include anyone interested in amphibians and reptiles AND who identifies as a member of a traditionally underrepresented group in conservation. At this time, we can only accept applications for United States citizens.
Southeast PARC meeting deadline is Jan 7, 2020 and Northwest PARC meeting deadline is Feb 15, 2020. For more details and to apply, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/
For this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee member John Bellah interviewed Dr. Richard Durtsche, the current Symposium Coordinator.
The Symposium Coordinator’s primary function is to solicit, receive, and review proposals for symposia at the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH) and independent SSAR meetings.
Activities throughout the year, including at the annual meeting
This process begins with a call for symposium proposals, which is advertised on the SSAR website, the SSAR newsletter, and in membership emails. Once symposium proposals are received they are reviewed for certain criteria, similar to the process for publishing a manuscript. These criteria are 1) what is the relevance of the symposium for SSAR, 2) which topics will the speakers focus on, 3) do the topics represent active science of good quality, and 4) would this symposium be of general interest and attract a broad audience. The term active science generally means any area of science that would attract a sizable audience. The Symposium Coordinator must identify potential reviewers (not on the list of proposed speakers) with the expertise necessary to determine whether the proposed symposium meets all of the criteria listed above. Once the reviews are finished, the Symposium Coordinator summarizes them in a report, along with a recommendation, which gets sent to the SSAR Board of Directors for a final vote on which symposia to sponsor. The approved symposium proposals then get sent to the JMIH Meeting Management and Planning Committee (MMPC), who begin working out the logistics of holding the symposia. Proposals are submitted and approved one year in advance of next years’ JMIH meeting. For example, the symposia for the 2020 JMIH in Norfolk, VA are already accepted and being organized.
JMIH is hosted by a total of four societies: SSAR, Herpetologist’s League (HL), American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH), and the American Elasmobranch Society (AES). Each society funds two symposia; however, it is not uncommon for two or three societies to co-fund symposia that are of interest to the groups. Every year SSAR has a budget of $4,000 for symposia ($2,000 per symposium), which includes monies for things such as support of students, post-docs, and international researchers.
The majority of work for this position normally takes place from the time SSAR begins accepting symposium proposals to the final decision of which symposia to sponsor, which is typically several months. After proposals are accepted, the next phase of the process begins, which is handled by the JMIH MMPC. That means that the Symposium Coordinator typically spends their summers identifying appropriate reviewers and requesting their services, followed by making the official recommendation to guide the SSAR Board’s decision. Anything involving coordinating and setting up at JMIH is handled by the MMPC. However, while the symposia are in session often times Dr. Durtsche or a SSAR officer will get photos of the speakers for Herp Review.
An interesting result of these symposia has been several book publications. For example, some volumes of Herpetological Conservation resulted from symposia, including one titled Urban Herpetology (2008).
Interactions with other SSAR committees and leaders
The Symposium Coordinator primarily coordinates with researchers and subject matter experts during the review process of the proposal until all reviews have been received. They also interact with the SSAR Board of Directors for final symposium approval.
Path to becoming the Symposium Coordinator
Dr. Durtsche was asked to take over the Symposium Coordinator position in 2003. Since then he had done this role by himself, but Dr. Lee Fitzgerald recently joined as co-Coordinator. Because this is not a committee in the traditional sense, Dr. Durtsche points out that a great way to transition to this role would be to attend the SSAR Board Meeting at JMIH and find out which committees are looking for help. Someone with multiple years of experience would be ideal for this position, as the Coordinator needs to be aware of who to contact to review these proposals, which sometimes takes quite a bit of time. This experience can be gained by joining other committees, which will expose you to researchers and subject matter experts from a wide variety of fields. Knowing who is considered a subject matter expert in a particular field will go a long way in making the review process flow as smoothly as possible.
Future of the committee
One interesting result of making symposia as engaging as possible is the creation of JMIH workshops. The concept for JMIH workshops originated in 2015 when a symposium proposal was received that was more workshop-oriented. This is when Dr. Durtsche proposed the workshop concept to the JMIH Meeting Management and Planning Committee, which was implemented at the 2016 JMIH. The goals of these workshops vary by category, but the overall goal is to engage JMIH attendees in a more active and direct way than a traditional symposium. For example, the 2019 JMIH featured the “Workshop on Comparative Phylogenetic Relationships in R,” which was a programming-themed workshop, and was sold out. Due to the success of these workshops there is a strong probability that workshops will continue to have a strong presence at JMIH in future years.
Because SSAR wants to select the best and most engaging symposia from each year’s potential pool, the Symposium Coordinator, in conjunction with the SSAR Board of Directors, accepts proposals that address current topics likely to interest a broad swath of JMIH attendees. For example, the SSAR-sponsored symposia for the 2020 JMIH in Norfolk, VA will pertain to education and diversity. The education-themed symposium ‘Exemplary Practices in Herpetological Education” will host speakers who have all won the Meritorious Teaching Award. The goal of this symposium is to help create an SSAR-endorsed web-based module for creating herpetology courses for college professors. The second symposium, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Herpetology and Ichthyology” will explore current practices aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in herpetology.
SSAR is currently accepting symposia proposals for the SSAR stand-alone meeting to be held in Ann Arbor, MI in 2021 (more information here) . That meeting will also include symposia sponsored by Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), who are also receiving proposals at this time. For more information contact the PARC Executive Committee (http://email@example.com).
Students and postdocs are especially encouraged to submit symposium proposals as a way to get more actively involved in SSAR/JMIH. Crafting a symposium proposal offers a way to explore your scientific interests in a collaborative setting. By identifying and inviting speakers to your symposium, you get to interact with experts in your field (including budding experts, just like you!), which could lead to collaborations later in your career. By identifying the need for a particular symposium topic, you directly contribute to the advancement of herpetology. Over the course of preparing a proposal and planning a symposium, you will interact directly with SSAR leaders to make the symposium happen, which lets you glimpse some of the nuts and bolts of putting on a great conference. Finally, because symposia sometimes lead to book publications, you might have the opportunity to make the insights generated by your symposium accessible to people who couldn’t physically attend the symposium.
If you you would like more information about the symposium coordinator position or about submitting a symposium proposal, please contact Richard Durtsche (firstname.lastname@example.org).