In this guest blog Steven Allain, University of Kent PhD student gives us his take on last year's Scientific Meeting.

When most people think of December, they think of advent calendars and whether or not it is finally socially acceptable to put up the Christmas tree. However, if you’re a herpetologist then December means something different entirely. It is the time of year when the ARC-BHS Joint Scientific Meeting takes place. Despite its name, not everyone who attends is a scientist, so don’t worry about that if you’re planning on attending next year. Pre-pandemic the meeting would be held at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society, with tea breaks and lunch spent with delegates chatting whilst investigating the range of taxidermy that calls this institution home. Unfortunately, this year was the second time that the meeting had to be held online via Zoom.

Despite this, there was an interesting range of talks on offer (as always) which covered topics as far apart as ARC’s update to the National Amphibian & Reptile Recording Programme to the provenance and invasion biology of geckos in Florida. Herpetology may not have the same level of interest from the populous as ornithology or mammalogy which is always a worry but the Joint Scientific Meeting is a great way to find out about projects that you never knew existed, some of which have been completed right under your nose.

That’s one of the things I love most about the Joint Scientific Meeting, it is a place where two worlds collide. One of them is that of researchers, and the other is of enthusiasts. The talks are generally tailored so that anyone can understand them, no matter their background knowledge on the subject.

One great example of this was Charlotte Ford’s talk on her research into Ranavirus, a pathogen known to infect fish, amphibians and reptiles. The particular aspect of Charlotte’s research she was highlighting was to do with Ranavirus detection in common frogs and common toads. To the uninitiated, this may seem like a daunting topic. Yet, my feeling was that it was perfectly explained so that everyone attending could understand. It always feels me with joy when researchers can effectively communicate their research with everyone. This does wonders to help enthuse the general public about nature, as well as helping them to understand the importance of such research.

Something I’m sure many people miss about such meetings, are having conversations while resting their lunch on a cabinet stuffed with a great auk, or having a curry the night before. These occasions are a great way for everyone to interact, and for new students to get to know the community they have just joined. Hopefully things will return to normal next year, as conferences aren’t the same without that potential for social interaction and networking. Fingers crossed, I may even see you there too!

Download the 2021 Programme and Abstracts

Recordings of these presentations are not available at the request of the speakers.