Each year ARC and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK organise a conference for those interested in the conservation of reptiles and amphibians, and this February the meeting took place in Stoke-on-Trent. Just over 200 people attended, coming from all over the UK, and a few from even further afield. The conference has tended to have a tried-and-tested format but this year we tested a couple of changes, with large Question and Answer sessions replacing smaller scale workshops. The presentations covered a wide range of topics, the aim being to appeal to both professionals and volunteers.

Amongst other nuggets, we learned the following. Marine turtle sightings are increasing in British waters, possibly because of increased survey effort, climate change and good conservation practice (Matt Witt, University of Exeter). Herps are the subject of training courses in prisons (Dave Willis, Ministry of Justice). Ad hoc records on the NBN Atlas can be used to determine trends in widespread reptiles (Sophia Ratcliffe, NBN Trust). There are a lot of fallacies about amphibian tunnels (Silviu Petrovan, University of Cambridge). The first national eDNA-based, volunteer amphibian monitoring programme in the world is generating useful status information on crested newts (Naomi Ewald, Freshwater Habitats Trust). When counting crested newts by torchlight in central Scotland, it’s best to look between 60 and 180 minutes after sunset (Erik Paterson, University of Glasgow). Thousands of contributors to the BTO Garden Birdwatch project submit records of amphibians (Dave Leech, BTO).

Workshops investigated identification of reptiles for beginners, how to interpret eDNA survey results, and how to approach non-native species issues. There was a session on painting “adder stones” which saw delegates express their creative urges! The general Q&A session explored issues such as disturbance and disease, while the session on crested newt licensing discussed the pros and cons of new approaches to mitigation. The tasty gala dinner was followed by a raffle with some rather unusual herp-related prizes, an amusing talk and film by Steve Green about his upcoming London Marathon run to raise funds for ARC, and top tunes from resident DJ Lizard Wizard.

ARC would like to thank all of the sponsors for helping to make this possible, especially our Gold sponsors – NatureSpace Partnership and Wardell Armstrong. Of course, we would also like to thank all the chairs, speakers and workshop leaders, as well as all those who worked before and during the event to make it happen – ARG UK representatives, ARC staff and volunteers. We look forward to another successful meeting in 2020, which is slated to happen in the northwest of England. Watch this space for updates later in the year!

Thank you to our 2019 Sponsors!



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