Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SciFri: ARC-BHS Joint Scientific Meeting 2021

It’s a shame that we are still yet to return to in-person conferences, I’m still looking forward to that day. However, with the ongoing uncertainty of the Omicron variant, and COVID transmission this winter (despite the fact most people have now been vaccinated), I guess online conferences are here to stay. As I’ve said before, it is usual for a whole host of herpetologists from all over the country to descend on Bournemouth for the annual Joint Scientific Meeting, held between the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, and the British Herpetological Society. This year the conference was held on Zoom, on Saturday 4th December (which is around the usual time the conference is held). With the online format, I was able to listen in, while working on PhD bits and pieces, which is always a bonus!

Charlotte Ford’s talk on Ranavirus detection in UK native amphibian species was especially interesting, given my passion for infectious diseases in herpetofauna. Charlotte’s colleague Phil Jervis gave an interesting talk investigating the role of antimicrobial peptide expression as a defence against disease in midwife toad, which was just as fascinating!

As usual, the conference offered a varied line-up of herpetologically relevant talks. These are often quit fascinating, encompassing all corners of herpetology (where speakers are available). Unfortunately, due to it’s virtual format, there wasn’t the opportunity to chat over lunch/a cuppa with the other attendees, as there is when the event is in in-person (I’m sure I complained about this last year too!) offers the usual variety of fascinating talks and will be online once again this year. We were lucky that native species featured prominently, with a talk focussed on the successes for Lincolnshire’s natterjack toads, and another on adder monitoring. I’m pretty sure that Nick Dobbs’ adder talk could be written and crafted into a well-received popular science book – I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see on that front!

How often do you have a number of people giving the same talk? Thankfully, it worked a treat!

One of the most important talks (in my opinion) was given by ARC, regarding their Snakes in the Heather project. Smooth snakes are the UK’s rarest reptile, so much so that I’m still yet to see one! However, through the use of public engagement, citizen science, and other tools, the future is bright for these rare and elusive snakes. Which is a great outcome, if you’re still waiting to see one (like I am). I’d also like to thank Thomas Fieldsend for his talk investigating the invasive genetics of geckos in Florida, as there were a number of parallels between it, and our ongoing midwife toad project. We were also surprised to learn that Thomas wasn’t actually in Florida, but was indeed calling in from within the UK. Either way, it was another interesting talk that fitted in nicely with the theme of the Meeting. I wonder what will be presented at the meeting come this time next year?

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