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).
Thematic symposia at the SSAR Annual Meeting allow researchers to come together to present the latest research in an important or emerging line of research. Often, symposia result in proceedings and books. Symposia benefit SSAR by fostering interactions with the symposium participants, highlighting areas for further study, and informing us of the history and current state of the field.
With the special upcoming SSAR Annual Meeting in 2021 to be held at the University of Michigan with the participation of PARC, we invite the submission of symposium proposals for this landmark meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We anticipate several symposia and mini-symposia (1/2 day) will be held at these meetings, and SSAR will monetarily sponsor two of these up to a cost of $2000 per symposium. We also invite symposium proposals that do not require funds from SSAR. PARC will be soliciting for symposia separately through their organization and will coordinate with SSAR to ensure that symposium topics are complementary. We encourage organizers to consider publication of their symposium as an edited volume. Proposers who anticipate publication of their symposium proceedings should highlight this in the proposal and encourage presenters to prepare draft manuscripts prior to the meetings. The following guidelines are to be followed for a symposium or mini-symposium proposal.
Proposals due to the SSAR coordinator and the local committee representative by 1 December 2019 (PDF, Word, or RTF format): Dr. Richard D. Durtsche (SSAR; e-mail: email@example.com) AND Dr. Alison Davis Rabosky (Local Committee Rep.; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Three-page limit.
- Symposium Title (or Topic).
- Names and affiliations of the symposium organizers (phone number and e-mail address).
- Description of the symposium, emphasizing scientific merit and novelty.
- How will hosting this symposium benefit SSAR?
- List of identified and potential speakers and titles of their presentation. Documented speaker commitments in the proposal are encouraged.
- Type and Length of symposium: Symposium (e.g., full day or half-day mini-symposium).
- Anticipated outcomes: For example, news releases, outreach products, NSF proposals, publication in edited volumes. What arrangements have been made to realize these outcomes?
- Budget: SSAR funding requested (max. $2000); a detailed budget with justification (preferentially to support students, post-docs, international researchers); other funding sources and in-kind support if available. Inclusive, workrelated, social events that support the symposium can be proposed.
SSAR Symposium Proposal Review Process:
- Proposals received by the SSAR symposium committee will be sent for external review, and comments forwarded to the Local Committee and SSAR Board by February 1, 2020.
- The two top-rated proposals seeking SSAR funding will be determined by the SSAR Board, and symposium organizers will be informed of the decision by the Symposium Committee or the SSAR Chair by 15 February 2020.
- Additional symposia proposals (SSAR funding sought or not) will be ranked, and decisions made jointly by the SSAR Board and/or the Local Committee for inclusion in the 2021 meetings. Final decisions will be conveyed to symposium organizers by 15 February 2020.
*Symposium organizers and participants for the SSAR monetarily sponsored symposia will be reimbursed for allowable expenses based on receipts submitted to the SSAR Treasurer that match the proposal budget. Requests for changes to the budget must be submitted 10 business days before the date of the symposium.
October 8, 2019
This narrative summarizes an incident that occurred at a poster session at the 2019 JMIH meeting in Snowbird, Utah. This statement serves as the final public communication about the event.
There are two core issues/charges that are central to this complaint. First, that there was bullying involved. As has been reported, it has been determined definitively that there was no bullying. Rather the crux of the problem stems from a naive poster presenter and a preexisting taxonomic disagreement. With that stated, we are grateful to the poster presenter for his honesty and complete cooperation as we reconstructed the events of that day.
A previous public statement, intended to absolve Dr. David Hillis of any wrongdoing, was posted on the web page as a testimonial that he could point to should any additional rumors or comments come to light. We underscore that sentiment here, Dr. Hillis did nothing wrong at the 2019 JMIH poster session, his behavior in this incident was appropriate and benign. We regret he was subjected to false rumors and accusations.
Second – that there was ill intent or malfeasance by either Dr. David Hillis or Dr. Brian Crother. After reading through all of the accounts of this incident and subsequent phone calls and email communications, it seems that the following outline describes the incident.
As the poster session began Hillis had a discussion with the poster presenter about the chosen taxonomic name (genus) used on his poster – the exchange was friendly and encouraging of using whatever name the poster presenter preferred. He (the poster presenter) decided to change the name on his poster and did so with a marker. This name change was not caused by any goading or bullying by Hillis, as confirmed by the poster presenter. In fact, the presenter has stated to us in writing “that no one ever defaced or vandalized my poster. I made the vast majority of the changes, and gave full permission to anyone else who wanted to add their two cents.”
As the poster session wore on, the poster presenter was questioned by others about the generic name change made on the poster with a marker. It was during these interactions with others that the story regarding the changed taxonomy took on a new life. The presenter began to insinuate to those around him that Hillis encouraged him to make the change. These insinuations, heard and overhead by numerous individuals, including Crother, eventually served as the basis for the Safety Officer contacting Hillis about bullying.
After an hour or so into the session, Crother had a discussion with the poster presenter at which time the presenter stated to Crother “that if he disagreed with Hillis he was more than welcome to add his two cents.” Crother then scribbled out the changed name, added some negative color commentary, and included his initials. This response by Crother was inappropriate, writing a derogatory comment aimed at Hillis on the poster was not professional. Later, after further discussion with others about the back and forth concerning the name, additional text was added to the poster by unidentified individuals. It seems that the interactions at this poster were intended to be lively and carefree if not ill conceived. Nevertheless, writing anything on the poster of another scientist has no place at a scientific meeting. There can be no justification for such behavior.
In sum, the poster presenter told a story that was intended to be a hoax, but as the rumor mill churned, the story became contorted into something else; that Hillis had bullied or forced the presenter to change his poster and that Crother had taken offense and had forced his comments on the poster. As established above, the contorted story was not accurate. Hillis did not bully the presenter and Crother did not force his comments on the poster. In all fairness to the presenter, he was unaware of the existing controversy underpinning the scientific argument about the generic name applied to the species in question. Clearly, Crother and Hillis disagree on the genus.
Rumors, once begun, went viral at the meeting and resulted in a report to the Safety Officer of bullying (without specifics) on the day following the poster session. Once the report had been forwarded to Hillis, Hillis reached out to the poster presenter, who was still in the dark about how far this incident had gone. The poster presenter apologized to Hillis about the incident. The Safety Officer failed to contact the poster presenter to verify that no bullying had occurred. While the intent of the email to Hillis was to solicit information and to learn more about the incident, the email did not clearly convey that intention. We have modified the initial contact with anyone accused of wrong doing to be sure that our message is neutral and expresses clearly that we are essentially fact finding and seeking clarification about the reported incident. While this entire incident is regrettable, and some actions were, we believe, unintentionally harmful; we have no evidence to suggest any malicious intent by any of the involved individuals.
We regret that not every incident reported can have an outcome that is satisfactory to everyone involved. But, the reality in this case is that events, much of which should not have occurred, spun out of control. It is our hope that the previous web posting along with this statement will clarify how things came to the current situation and will end any rumors of bullying by Hillis. Hopefully, we can all transition back to the scientific discussions which are the core reason for the JMIH meetings.
Brett Burk, President Burk and Associates
Henry Mushinsky, Chair, JMIH Meeting Planning and Management Committee
For this installment of the SSAR leadership profiles, Student Participation Committee member Jessica Tingle interviewed Dr. Brad Shaffer, the current chair of the Herpetology Education Committee. Several other individuals also provided information on their involvement with the Herpetology Education Committee and its Herpetology Hotline project: Dr. Alex Krohn, outgoing student member of the Herpetology Education Committee, who recently defended his dissertation; Dr. Michelle Koo, co-chair of the Web Oversight Committee; Gregory Watkins-Colwell, who ran the Herpetology Hotline for several years; and Jessica Tingle, former Herpetology Hotline responder.
The Herpetology Education Committee exists as a joint venture between the SSAR and two other major herpetological societies, the Herpetologists’ League (HL), and the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH). This committee promotes society interaction with the public to answer herpetological questions. It also bestows the Meritorious Teaching Award in Herpetology.
Activities throughout the year, including at the annual meeting
The committee established the Meritorious Teaching Award in Herpetology to honor society members for a body of accomplishment in herpetological education (information on the SSAR, HL, and ASIH webpages). The award takes a broad view of education, including current best practices for teaching, advising, and mentoring both undergraduates and graduate students. The Herpetology Education Committee solicits nominations each year, due in the spring. Nominations remain active for three years. After the deadline for nominations, the committee meets to discuss all active nominees and decide who will receive that year’s award. Although the award’s guidelines do not explicitly state how many people will receive the award each year, the committee generally aims to narrow it down to a single recipient. The committee chair announces the winner of the Meritorious Teaching Award at the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (JMIH), presenting the winner with a plaque to recognize their contributions to herpetological education and a $500 check.
To fulfill the goal of educating the public, the Herpetology Education Committee created the Herpetology Hotline several years ago. The Herp Hotline allows members of the public to fill out a form on the SSAR website with their herpetology-related questions, which are then answered by the hotline’s response team. Made up primarily of graduate student volunteers, the response team typically answers several questions each week on a variety of herpetological topics. The team aims to respond to every question within two weeks. Hotline responders have had particularly gratifying conversations with K-12 students who want to know how to become herpetologists, parents of very young children who want to foster their kids’ love of nature, and members of the public who want to know how to coexist with rattlesnakes in their yard or tadpoles on their pool covers. The Herp Hotline gives responders the opportunity to represent the field of herpetology while educating the general public.
Interactions with other SSAR committees and leaders
Because the Herpetology Hotline is hosted on the SSAR website, the SSAR Web Oversight Committee manages the online form and recruits new volunteers for the response team. The Herp Hotline response team regularly interacts with the Web Oversight Committee to resolve technical and other issues that come up.
Both the Herpetology Education Committee and the Conservation Committee share a goal of interfacing with the public. They each have a different focus, so they do not formally work together, but the Herp Hotline response team occasionally puts people in touch with the Conservation Committee.
Path to joining the Herpetology Education Committee
Presidents of the three participating societies (SSAR, HL, and ASIH) take turns appointing members to the Herpetology Education Committee. One new member is appointed each year, terms last for three years, and each member becomes chair of the committee during their last year. In addition to the three members appointed by society presidents, the committee also has one student member at any given time.
Two of the current committee members received the Meritorious Teaching Award prior to serving on the committee. Having received the award made them good candidates because committee members should have clearly demonstrated skill and commitment with respect to herpetological education. In addition to a commitment to education, the three appointed committee members generally have a track record of active engagement in at least one of the societies. For example, Shaffer previously served as president of the ASIH, which gave him insight into how the societies and annual meetings work.
The student committee member joins by a less formal process. Generally, the three appointed members discuss students who might fit well with the position, and after consulting with the current society presidents, they invite the chosen student to join the committee. The current student member, Alex Krohn, joined when some of his colleagues suggested he attend one of the committee’s meetings to see if he might want to participate. As the only student to attend the meeting, he became the official student committee member. Krohn has enjoyed the opportunity to interact with senior herpetologists on equal footing, and he has also found it rewarding to offer a student voice in the committee’s decisions, as the student member is a full voting member of the committee. Now that Krohn has defended his dissertation and moved on to a postdoctoral position, the committee is searching for a new student member.
Students can also get involved in the Herpetology Education Committee by joining the Herp Hotline response team. The Herp Hotline provides a relatively low-stakes way for students to get a taste of professional service while also providing outreach to the general public. Interested students should check out the hotline webpage and get in touch with the SSAR Web Oversight Committee for more information!
Future of the committee
Right now, the committee mainly focuses on the Meritorious Teaching Award and the Herp Hotline. In the future, the committee’s role could expand to include more society organization of local education activities. Individual society members already do a lot of local educational outreach, for example by giving presentations in nearby schools. Expansion of the Herpetology Education Committee’s role could promote coordination of these efforts.
The committee would also love to get more students involved in the Herpetology Hotline. The Hotline has seen a big uptick in the number of questions recently, and it would help to recruit a few more students with a strong commitment to interacting with the general public.
Finally, the current committee plans to discuss some structural issues that they might alter in the future. Revamping the process for appointing the student committee member ranks high among these.
SSAR members, especially students, with an interest in getting involved should contact Brad Shaffer (email@example.com), current chair of the committee. Those with a specific interest in the Herp Hotline can contact Michelle Koo (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our members often join SSAR to learn more about the organisms that fascinate them. Each month, we are excited to profile the herpetological interests of one of our community members and to feature their focal amphibian or reptile species/system. This our seventh such post.
Featured SSAR member: Allyson Fenwick
What is your study species (or species group) and why is it interesting?
Recently I’ve been studying Mediterranean geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). They are interesting because they have spread around the world via hitchhiking with humans and can live outside of their expected climate envelope because outside of their native range in the Middle East (where they live on rocky cliffs) they are restricted to building walls. When they are introduced to a new area they expand very slowly and they do not seem to cause any harm to the natural community. I’m interested in them because I hope what they can tell us about invasion will translate to invasive species that spread quickly and cause a variety of negative effects.
What is it about this species that you study?
I study population genetics – I use DNA to evaluate how closely related individuals are within a site, across sites in a region, and across a north-south transect.
Who are you, how did you get where you are, and what’s your story?
I discovered my love of herps, particularly snakes, in high school when I was an education intern at my local zoo. I had wanted to be a zookeeper as long as I could remember. In college I focused on zoos and on herps. When I was a junior and spent a summer working full-time as an intern in the reptile house I realized I didn’t want to do 90% husbandry. After some deliberation in the year after I graduated with my B.S. in Zoology and B.A. in Theatre, I decided to get my M.S. and work towards being a reptile curator. My M.S. was pitviper phylogenetics using morphology, and I realized I loved it plus I loved teaching. So I searched out a Ph.D. where I could keep working on pitvipers (now with added DNA!) and hopefully eventually become a professor. After six years of Ph.D. and one year of a neat teaching postdoc on stoneflies, I was hired at the University of Central Oklahoma to teach evolution and genetics. There a colleague introduced me to the well-known population of Mediterranean geckos on campus and suggested I work on their population genetics. That’s been the project fueling my lab for the last five years.
Why are you a member of SSAR?
I joined SSAR when I was a M.S. student headed to JMIH and SSAR had the cheapest membership of the three herp societies. But SSAR became MY society, especially when I started going to the business meetings.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Herpetological Review. The cover of this third issue takes a look back at the cover images published during the period of 2007 to 2012. Featured photographers were Michael Burger, Danté Fenolio, Paul Freed, Lee Grismer, Troy Hibbitts, William Lamar, Bill Love, Luke Mahler, Omid Mozaffari, Nikolai Orlov, Clint Otto, Tim Paine, Todd Pierson, Rob Schell, Thomas Schrei, Dirk Stevenson, Ginny Weatherman et al., Brad Wilson, and Steve Wilson.
This issue is scheduled to be mailed in late September, and full contents are now available online to SSAR members at https://ssarherps.org/herpetological-review-pdfs/. All Natural History Notes, Geographic Distribution Notes, and Book Reviews are Open Access and will be 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.
The Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles is seeking a successor to Ann Paterson, who has served most ably as Treasurer since 2013. The new Treasurer would take office in January 2020, or as soon thereafter as is practical. Dr. Paterson will be available to assist and to offer advice and training as
The Treasurer is a key member of SSAR’s Board of Directors, which administers the society through its officers, editors, committee chairs, and other officials. The Treasurer develops the society’s annual budget (based on input from editors and other officers), but does not handle membership matters (this is the responsibility of another office). The Treasurer supervises a paid assistant and works with the SSAR’s accountant (a CPA), bank, investment managers, and publications secretary. Additionally, the Treasurer makes payments, deposits checks, and works with the accountant to meet IRS reporting requirements. The Treasurer must be able to attend the annual meetings in order to lead the budget discussions; consequently, the society will cover their expenses for the annual meeting including transportation, registration, and housing costs.
Interested persons should contact the society’s president, Dr. Martha L. Crump (email@example.com or Department of Biology, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322). Please send a copy of your resumé and note any special qualifications for this post. If you prefer to have an exploratory discussion before making a formal application, simply give Marty a call.
SSAR is now the largest professional herpetological society and has a global membership in some 65 countries. It promotes research, education, and conservation concerning amphibians and reptiles through its seven different series of journals and books, meetings, committee work, website, and other activities. The new Treasurer will be at the center of all of these activities and provide leadership, together with others, for this dynamic and innovative organization.
SSAR members can help out a PhD candidate at the University of Florida by taking a survey on their public engagement activities. Surveys must be completed by October 1.
Dear SSAR members,
My name is Kirsten Hecht, and I am reaching out to ask for your assistance in my dissertation research. I am looking for participants with a wide range of experiences and viewpoints on public activities undertaken by scientists.
We are asking for your perspectives via an ~15-20 minute anonymous survey. Every 25th eligible participant who provides their email address after the survey will be contacted to receive a $10 prepaid debit card. Please click this link for more information or to take the survey.