This year’s 39th Annual Meeting and Symposium will honor Dr. Robert C. Stebbins, a famous herpetologist in western North America and author of a Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California (California Natural History Guides), Connecting with Nature: A Naturalist’s Perspective, A Natural History of Amphibians, The Lives of Animals in Joshua Tree National Monument, and many other books and scientific and educational papers. Dr. Stebbins passed away two months ago at the age of 98. He was a frequent guest at Desert Tortoise Council symposia and a very popular author and artist. When he autographed his field guide and prints, many people waited in very long lines for his autograph and to talk to him. He generously contributed prints and cards of his artwork for the Council to sell and auction.
We have several very special speakers and sessions scheduled for the 39th Annual Meeting and Symposium. Some highlights are presented below and more are to come. We are honored to announce Dr. Barry Sinervo as the Keynote Speaker. Dr. Sinervo, a Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will give a paper titled, “Prospects for Gopherus: Demographic and Physiological Models of Climate Change from 65 Million Years Ago to the Future.” A much published author on reptiles in such prestigious journals as Science and Nature, Dr. Sinervo will discuss new models of anthropogenic climate change and their role in generating extinctions of reptiles in this century. He has applied the new models to predict extinctions of Gopherus in present and future timeframes. He will discuss the effects of large-scale deployment of solar panels and how they generate a powerful Urban Heat Island Effect in adjacent desert habitat. Phil Medica, winner of the Robert C. Stebbins Research Award for his lifetime of accomplishments, will summarize a life well spent in research on tortoises and other reptiles, culminating in his publication last year on the Rock Valley tortoises.
Laura Cunningham will be our featured author with her book, A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California, which was published in 2010. Using historical records, archeological data and paleontological reports, artist Laura Cunningham created a view of California landscapes prior to the arrival of settlers in the 1700s. Her beautiful book and artwork provide a compelling compilation of what landscapes and the associated fauna may have looked like in the recent past. She will talk about her work and will be available afterward to autograph copies of her book. The Desert Tortoise Council will have copies for sale.
Roger Repp will be the Saturday night speaker. Roger works for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson and by avocation is a rabid Field Herpetologist who, since 1989, has averaged 900 hours per year studying the herpetofauna of the Sonoran Desert and areas beyond. His methods involve radio-telemetry (five different species of venomous reptiles since 2001), mark and recapture, and some good old-fashioned hands-off observation. Whether he has an antenna in hand or not, he has faithfully documented every herp encounter. In 2012, Roger gave a presentation at the Desert Tortoise Council titled, “Burrow Buddies—Or Not?” In his dinner address, he will expand on this theme about his tortoise buddies and the lairs of his many old friends. While tortoises will still command center stage in this presentation, more than casual mention will be made of close neighbors. Another added bonus for Council attendees will be a children’s book featuring Roger, the scientist, and a rattlesnake named Katie. This book for children 6 through 12 is in both English and Spanish, and is titled Katie the Rattlesnake. It makes a wonderful gift for children and is a great read.
The Saturday morning session will focus on Golden Eagles. Dr. Todd Katzner, who has studied raptors, including Golden Eagles, critically endangered Asian vultures, birds of prey in central Appalachian Mountains, red-footed falcons in central Asia, and New World vultures, will tell us about the lasted research on Golden Eagles in the California deserts. He has assembled several experts on the topic for a series of presentations that will cover subjects ranging from determinants of flight behavior of desert eagles, connectivity of California raptors to multiple ecosystems (from banding data), demography and movement of eagles at the Altamont wind farm, and long-term trends in Golden Eagle populations.
Call for Papers and Posters
As of December 7, the Call for Papers and Posters is still open and will be extended until the program is filled. We hope for a robust Poster session in 2014. The Posters will be available throughout the Symposium, until noon on Sunday. The authors should plan to be at their posters during the MIXER and prior to the BUFFET on both Friday and Saturday evenings. In previous years, posters have been very popular, and we expect a similar result in 2014. If you are thinking of presenting a paper or poster and are uncertain, please provide a note on your Call for Papers submission. You will be able to change the title and submit an abstract by January 1, 2014.