2017 Program Schedule: 

10am-10:30am: Black King Snakes with John Howard

  • Learn about the fascinating yet often underappreciated Black King Snake, a constrictor whose northern range extends just into a few counties in south central Ohio.

10:30am-11am: Hellbenders with Steve Spear

  • Hellbenders are arguably the most mysterious and unique amphibian species in the state of Ohio, and are declining across their range. Their decline is largely due to erosion and pollution in river systems where they occur. Join Steve Spear for a journey through the natural history of the hellbender and learn about his experiences working with this giant salamander. You’ll also hear about some of the current conservation efforts for hellbenders in Ohio, as well as what people can do to help.

11am-11:30am: A Year in the Life of a Timber Rattlesnake with Doug Wynn

  • We will examine the biology of a Timber Rattlesnake from its egress in the spring to in its ingress in the fall.  Starting with common misconceptions of their denning behaviors we’ll look at aspects of their life styles that were largely unknown until the application of radiotelemetry. This will include their early season behaviors, reproductive biology, misconceptions about their feeding habits and other aspects of their life history that has led to their endangerment. Live specimens will be examined as well as techniques used in their studies.

11:30am-12pm: Best practices for handling and care with Jenny Richards

  • Jenny Richards oversees an impressive collection of snakes at Shawnee State Park. She and her trained volunteers give nature presentations to thousands of children and adults alike each year, instilling in them a deeper understanding and appreciation for herp species. Learn from Jenny how best to care for snakes in captivity, and best practices to avoid spreading disease from one to another. If you have captive herps at home, you won’t want to miss this talk!

1pm-1:30pm: Common Turtles of Ohio with Shawn Conner

  • Join Shawn Conner, naturalist at Hueston Woods State Park, to learn the natural history of Ohio’s beautiful turtles with live examples of several of the most common species found in our state.

1:30pm-2pm: The Historical Eastern Massasauga in Ohio with Tom Beauvais

  • The massasauga is the only North American pit viper with a common name derived from native peoples. Pioneer immigrants settling in the unglaciated areas of Ohio encountered the snake in their yards, fields, and berry picking sites. Drainage, deliberate killing and habitat destruction and fragmentation have reduced the population to just a few isolated sites today. The snake is state-endangered and received a Federally listed status as Threatened in Fall, 2016.

2pm-2:30pm: Citizen Science with Nicholas Smeenk

  • The use of citizen science projects for data collection is increasing in popularity, with as many as 66 projects already collecting amphibian or reptile data.  The allure of crowd sourcing science and involving citizens is easy to understand, evidenced by the 2,046 reptile and amphibian observations from Ohio in three popular citizen science databases (iNaturalist.org, HerpMapper.org, and NAHERP.org).  Although citizen science projects have become increasingly prevalent in herpetological research, there has been surprisingly little research into examining these programs to determine their utility in providing scientifically rigorous data. Our evaluation focused on determining if submitted observations: (1) provided basic information including the date, observer, and location; (2) included a quality photograph showing the diagnostic features necessary to identify the species; and, (3) were available to agencies and qualified researchers.  Finally, we compared records meeting these criteria to previously documented distributions to determine the contribution citizen scientists are making to our knowledge of the distribution of Ohio’s amphibians and reptiles.  We conclude that citizen scientists could play a valuable role, but that programs to collect data need to address some serious issues related to the accessibility, accuracy, and precision of the data.

2:30pm-3pm: A Slithering Success Story: Rapid Recovery and Delisting of the Lake Erie Watersnake with Kristin Stanford

  • Listed as threatened in 1999 and recovered in 2011, the Lake Erie watersnake (Nerodia sipedon insularum) represents one of the most rapid species recovery stories of the Endangered Species Act. But what can the recovery of a small population of endemic watersnakes teach us about conservation on a larger scale? Several factors in the success of the LEWS can translate to other species conservation programs. These include (1) timely listing, identification of quantitative recovery criteria, and immediate recovery plan implementation, (2) a recovery team that included participants from state and federal agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, and citizen scientists, (3) intensive monitoring, facilitated largely by volunteers, designed to yield estimates of key recovery indicators, and (4) active outreach efforts led by a local, dedicated recovery coordinator. Other key factors to recovery that were species- and context-specific, included high reproductive potential, a shift in diet to an abundant new prey species, and  land acquisitions. Here too, there are implications for other species, e.g., regarding the sometimes unexpected effects of invasive species. A five-year post-delisting monitoring plan, currently underway, further ensures watersnake populations remain stable and that conservation continues.