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SCCF Presents at First Herpeton Conference

September 27, 2023
Kelly At Herp Conf 1800

The first Herpeton Conference took place at the FSW campus in Fort Myers from Sept. 23-26. Not only was SCCF a sponsor, but the Wildlife & Habitat Management department gave two presentations and Coastal Wildlife also gave two oral presentations, as well as a poster presentation.

The keynote speaker was Charles LeBuff who worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, was a founding member of SCCF, and started the sea turtle program on Sanibel in 1959.

Florida is well-known for its high diversity of amphibians and reptiles, as well as the soaring quantity of research on these species that are commonly referred to as “herps” for short. The term “herps” comes from the word herpetology, which is the study of amphibians and reptiles which originates from the Latin “herpetón” or “creeping animal.” 

Need for Researchers to Get Together

“The decline in many species around the world, the increased knowledge about their importance in the environment as ecological health indicators, roles in the food chain and seed dispersal, as well as invasive species has caused a sharp increase in both funding and need for research,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. Conferences and symposiums related to this topic are important conduits that spread information and findings to other colleagues.

The Florida Herpetology Conference was a long-running and treasured event that took place annually in Gainesville, FL from 1978 to 2020, when COVID brought it to a halt. At this conference, interested parties from the academic, research, zoological parks, captive-breeding, and hobbyist world would gather to hear presentations on all things herp-related, as well as abundant socializing and sharing ideas.

Although there were always some presentations on various projects around the world, the focus was on Florida herp research. This was especially popular among grad students in Florida, as a place to showcase their research to their peers.

FSW Professor Takes Initiative

There has been a large gap in the community since the conference in Gainesville last occurred. Florida Southwestern State College Professor Jordan Donini took the initiative to resurrect the long-time tradition of a Florida-based conference but in southwest Florida. The conference featured field trips on the first two days, a banquet at night on the second day, and talks the third and fourth days. This conference was a sold-out event that will likely become an annual event.

SCCF Presentations:

Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz (Plenary Talk) – Hurricane Effects on Insular Populations of Amphibians and Reptiles in Southwest Florida

Wildlife Biologist Mike Mills – Population Demography, Spatial Ecology, and Habitat Use of the Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene bauri) on a Barrier Island

Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan – Evaluating the Sub-lethal Effects of Red Tide Blooms and Brevotoxin Exposure on Nesting Sea Turtles

Biologist Savannah Weber – Then and Now: Comparing Reproductive Trends from the Longest-Running Sea Turtle Tagging Project in the Country

Biologist Jack Brzoza (Poster Presentation) – Vessel Strike Injuries in Sea Turtle Strandings along Sanibel and Captiva


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