RGC in Del Rio Hosts Herpetological Symposium

Dr. Dan Foley, left, chats with Dr. Butch Brodie at the Symposium.

By Laura Nelson

Del Rio, Texas-Amphibian and reptile enthusiasts gathered on the Del Rio campus of Sul Ross State Univ. Rio Grande College on Saturday, Oct. 20 for the fall symposium of the Texas Herpetological Society.

The Texas Herpetological Society promotes the discovery and dissemination of knowledge of amphibians and reptiles; encourages conservation of amphibians and reptiles, particularly in Texas; and stimulates fellowship among herpetologists in Texas. Approximately 50 students and professionals were in attendance and represented Texas State Univ., Texas A&M Univ., Trinity Univ., Sul Ross State Univ., Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Texas El Paso, and the San Antonio Zoo.

Eight students gave oral presentations about their research that incorporated photographs, data sets, and other visual information projected on a screen. Topics included fungal infections in frogs and toads in Texas; fungal disease in snakes found in the area of the Brazos River; examination of the Western Chicken Turtle population in Texas; and reproduction of the Rio Grande Cooter, a turtle found primarily along the Rio Grande River. Other research topics included testing a device that allows vehicles to easily cross wildlife fencing; examination of green anole lizards to attempt to determine when and why they change skin colors; the habitat of certain species of earless lizards; and the influence that landscape and other factors have when using automatic recording devices to record animal sounds.

Poster presentations included research on the effects of testosterone on lizards; the examination of several species of lizards to try to determine the likelihood each species is to autotomize their tails (separate from their tails) depending on how the tail is used; measuring stress hormones in tadpoles; and the incidence of cannibalism in Texas blind salamanders.

The symposium also included a keynote address and presentation by Dr. Edmond “Butch” Brodie, Jr., a professor in the Dept. of Biology at Utah State Univ. in Logan. Brodie’s presentation focused on the defenses some species of frogs and salamanders employ to avoid being preyed upon. His examples included venomous secretions and the mechanics of how that venom is used to deter or stop predators.

Dr. Dan Foley, Professor of Biology at RGC, serves as President of the THS and hosted the event which provided an opportunity for university students across Texas to present their research to peers as well as to seasoned professionals. Foley said, “The annual fall symposium gives undergraduate and graduate students alike an opportunity to learn how to disseminate their newly acquired knowledge to the greater scientific community. It allows students an opportunity to practice public speaking and presentation skills before progressing to national and international meetings. Furthermore, the more intimate atmosphere of the THS fall symposium allows students a greater opportunity to network with more experienced professionals from around the state.”