Steve's Herpetological Blog

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


#SciFri: Herpetofauna Workers Meeting 2024

Regular readers of this blog, as well as those in the field will know that the beginning of February is a busy time for herpetologists. It is a time which has historically marked the beginning of the field season, when ecologists and researchers alike begin to crowd around ponds after dark, with a torch and clipboard recording all of the wildlife they find within. The impacts of climate change mean that amphibians are becoming active earlier and earlier, with some doing so far before Valentine’s Day. February is also the time when every year, that those of us that tend to stand around the ponds as frogs, toad and newts try to attract a mate, gather to celebrate our achievements and discuss new survey techniques or research that may impact on how we go about things in the field. I am of course talking about the Herpetofauna Workers Meeting, which this year was held just outside of Fareham, Hampshire.

Chris Packham opened the conference with a call-to-arms – which most of us were happy to rally behind

A lot has changed since we all migrated to Llandudno in North Wales last year, and just from a personal perspective. Another change (apart from the location), was the number of attendees present. As always, the Meeting was spread across two days, kicking off with an amazing curry on the Friday night, which is usually a great time to catch up with colleagues and make a few new acquaintances in the process. This year was probably the best attended Herp Workers Meeting I have been to, with special guest Chris Packham opening the conference. I shall take this moment to apologise for the shocking quality of my photos – I was forced to sit towards the back of the very full room, meaning the zoom function on my phone was my friend. However, the photos have ended being a tad pixelated but they are still readable/you can still discern the subject. With that out of the way, back to the conference!

Presenting perhaps my final talk at a Herp Workers Meeting on my PhD research. Photo credit: Wolfgang Wüster.

I was lucky enough to give a talk on the Saturday, whilst Chris Packham was still in the crowd – which was a real treat. Despite some problems with the clicker, it was great to finish off a session dedicated to British snakes by rounding everything off with the best species of them all. To begin with we had Ben Owens of Bangor University sharing his results on some adder population genetics, which was extremely cool. This was followed by Ben Limburn and Owain Masters of the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, proving and update for the Snakes in the Heather project (or SitH) – which has one of the coolest acronyms out there! Then it was my turn to shine, and aside from my presentation I also outlined my vision for a grass snake monitoring task force, so if you have any amazing acronyms please let me know!

The prize for best talk title goes to this legend – Éinne Ó Cathasaigh of the Herpetological Society of Ireland

Aside from the wide range of talks given throughout the Herp Workers Meeting, are the amazing workshops. The first of these was during the morning of the Saturday where I attended a workshop on engaging in small community-led projects, given by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight ARG. The second workshop, on the Sunday was on record verification and improving this across the UK. Both were extremely useful and I shall be using some of the tools we discussed to help increase the impact of my own recording and engagement at both the local and regional levels. No Herp Workers Meeting would be complete without the gala dinner and Have I Got Newts For You, so it was great to get involved again and try to win the top prize.

The majority of the Japanese Jack Mackerels reformed for Have I Got Newts For You, unfortunately we were unable to hold our crown but we did create this cool newt for one of the challenges

The talks on the Sunday weren’t as intense as they had been on the previous day, allowing people to recover from the night before and also allowing everyone to leave early enough to get back home again. Some of the talks that stood out from the Sunday included a talk by Andy Buxton from NatureSpace on the District Level Licencing for great crested newts and its results after five years, and a project summary from Nick Smith of the Hampshire Amphibian and Reptile Recording Network regarding a mapping project within the county. There was truly something for everyone, and I am proud to see the work and the impact the community is having. As always, I’m very much looking forward to next year’s Herpetofauna Workers Meeting when I am hoping that I’ll be able to share the final results of our long-term midwife toad project, or maybe one of my students will present their research to. Hopefully, I’ll see you there!

Update: Good news everyone! You can now catch myself talking to the brilliant Howard Inns about my talk for the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Podcast, which you can catch here. Additionally, the first chapter of my PhD has been published in Scientific Reports, which you can read here. If you missed the Herpetofauna Workers Meeting and want to catch up on what I spoke about, this paper covers some of that. Enjoy.

If you liked this post and enjoy reading this blog, please consider supporting me on Patreon where you will also gain access to exclusive content.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *