Day Two at Biology of the Pitvipers Conference

This post will not do the day justice, but here goes, anyway…


Day two at Biology of the  Pitvipers was mostly about  demography, biogeography, venom, and translocation.   Steve Mackessy started the morning with a keynote address on the state of the art of venom research.  if you are not familiar with Steve’s work you need to be.  He is truly an integrative biologist who utilizes cutting edge biochemistry techniques and old school natural history to understand not just snake venom, but the ecology of venomous snakes.

Following Steve’s keynote, Bill Brown presented demographic data he has been collecting on Timber rattlesnakes of New York for the past three decades.  His is an amazing data set that includes a 45 year old individual!    Dan Beck gave a talk on a couple of populations of Crotalus oreganus and Matt Goode talked about his decade long study on urban Tiger rattlesnakes.

Timber rattlesnake coiled among leaves.

Timber rattlesnake coiled among leaves.


There were a couple of great talks on pitviper biogeography given by Mike Douglas and Allison Fenwick. Dr. Douglas’ talk centered on the impact global climate change will have on montane species of rattlesnakes and Dr, Fenwick discussed biogeographic hypotheses for explaining the current distribution of South American Pitvipers.


Chuck Smith of the Copperhead institute gave a talk on sexual selection in Copperheads.  There were a number of interesting talks on the ecological significance of rattlesnake venoms and venom components.  The venom talks were followed by talks by a number of people interested in the value of translocation as a management strategy for nuisance rattlesnakes.    Noteworthy among these were Erica Nowak’s talk covering the pros and cons of translocation and Jeff Mohr’s talk on the potential utility of the technique in Timber rattlesnakes of South Carolina.  The final talks of the day were about advances in radiotelemetry surgical implantation procedures by Dr. Thompson.

Following the sessions everyone attended a BBQ with killer food and a behind the scenes tour of the reptile/amphibian building at the Tulsa Zoo.  The Biologyof the Pitvipers meeting continues to be everything I expected it to be.


About benevolentheathen

I am an Associate Professor of Biology at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. I teach courses in ecology, evolution, and behavior with an emphasis on terrestrial vertebrates, especially reptiles. In recent years I have become increasingly interested in the interplay between science and religion. I consider myself spiritual, but not religious. I am continually reassessing my thoughts and ideas about God, faith, and religion and how they fit into my empirical worldview. View all posts by benevolentheathen

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