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 2023

Ahhh, the first weekend of December. For most of you it may be the start of your Christmas countdown, but for us herpetologists it is the timing of the annual Amphibian and Reptile Conservation TrustBritish Herpetological Society Join Scientific Meeting. This was my first Joint Scientific Meeting (JSM) since 2021, as this time last year I was still recovering from just submitting my PhD thesis, and had decided to sleep for three months. However, the last JSM I attended was in 2021 and was delivered via Zoom thank to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more about that here. I know the name makes it sound like this annual meeting is only for the most dedicated of boffins, but not everyone who attends is a scientist. There is a wonderful mix of amphibian and reptile enthusiasts of all abilities and background, making the JSM an extremely wonderful experience year on year.

Thomas Fieldsend gave an interesting talk regarding his PhD research looking at the invasion of tokay geckos in southern Florida

The night before the JSM, it is customary to have an Indian curry in one of the local curry houses, and this year was no exception. We then spilled into one of the local bars (as usual) to have a few more drinks, and to let the conversations and ideas keep on on flowing. The following morning, we all flow into the Bournemouth Natural Science Society to register for the JSM, and take a seat before being wowed by the spectacle that is the wide range of talks that are usually on offer. Herpetology may not have the same level of interest from the general populous as ornithology or mammalogy, which is always a worry but the Joint Scientific Meeting is a great way to find out about projects that you never knew existed, some of which have been completed right under your nose. We also certainly make up for it in enthusiasm, as some of the very animated speakers demonstrated!

Sarah Ball provided us with a powerful insight to alpine newts in the UK

The three talks that stood out to me this time around are the ones that I have included pictures of within this blog, along with their speakers. The first being Thomas Fieldsend revealing the origins of tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) in Florida, and the potential for a new species being identified within their native range, due to the provenance of the introduced ones – nifty. Next was a talk from Sarah Ball on alpine newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris) in the UK, and how they probably haven’t reached the invasion phase just yet as they are still largely restricted to urban areas – which made me think of my good friends the midwife toads. Finally, was a talk on the evolution of neoteny in mole salamanders (Ambystoma spp.) by Thom Lyons, which took things in a slightly different direction but was still extremely interesting. There was a little in it each of the talks given that I felt that I could use with both current and future research projects to help make them a little more robust, which is always a good feeling! Thanks to all of the speakers for such inspiring and relevant presentations regarding various aspects of their research – I really enjoyed it.

As is also customary to the JSM, we also have a raffle every year with the prizes being donated by the audience. I was upset that I didn’t have one of my tickets called sooner, as I could have come home with an amazing chameleon phone. However, I did managed to get a couple of cool posters and some amphibian-related pub paraphernalia. So, at the next possible opportunity that I get, I shall find a place for them either somewhere in my home, or in my office. Overall, this year’s JSM was highly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to finding out about some amazing research – and maybe even presenting some of my own!

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