Call for Papers and Posters2020-11-01T15:17:14+00:00

Call for Papers and Posters:

~Deadline: Friday 30 October 2020~

If you would like to present a paper or poster at the KHS annual meeting, please fill out and submit the form below.
Papers run 15 minutes (12 for the presentation and 3 for questions). Presentations will be delivered shared via Zoom. PowerPoint is recommended but you get by using your camera and speaking with visual aids.
Poster sessions typically coincide with the evening activities.
Check the KHS Annual Meeting web-page for updates on specifics of the paper and poster session.


Oral Presentations:

KEYNOTE: Somebody’s Got to Stay Outside!
Michael Lannoo; 
Indiana University, School of Medine, Terre Haute, Indiana 47809

Herpetofauna Communities on Mined Lands in Southeast Kansas
Emma M. Buckardt*, Christine C. Rega-Brodsky, Andrew D. George
Pittsburg State University, 

— Southeast Kansas has a rich history of coal mining, with decades of strip mining that severely altered ecosystems. The resulting habitat composition of forests, prairies, and wetlands makes this a unique area for the state, in addition to its location along the narrow swaths of the Cherokee Lowlands and the Ozark Plateau. Since 2018, herpetofauna surveys have been conducted on mined lands with the use of drift fence arrays that included funnel traps, pitfall traps, and cover boards. To expand herpetofauna surveys, we conducted call surveys and larvae sampling at 24 wetlands across the Mined Land Wildlife Areas in 2020. Surveys were conducted from May 15 to August 14, during which time we documented 12 reptile and 6 amphibian species at 5 drift fence arrays and 6 reptile and 5 amphibian species at wetland sites. Most notably we encountered adult and juvenile Broad-headed Skinks at a drift fence array location. Our project will be expanded for the 2021 and 2022 field seasons to encompass anuran distributions, wetland herpetofauna communities, and box turtle densities on mined lands.

Analyzing the Impact of Environmental Variables on Breeding Pond Occupancy of Ambystoma Salamanders
Meghan Ward*, Thomas Hossie
Trent University;

— One of the greatest threats to amphibian biodiversity is habitat loss. Many amphibians have biphasic life histories that require the use of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Aquatic habitat in Ontario has declined significantly in the past 150 years. To combat the loss of amphibian habitat, stewardship wetlands have been created to replace natural wetlands. Because of the widespread wetland destruction in Southern Ontario, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has created over 20 constructed ponds on Pelee Island with the goal of increasing the number of breeding sites for Ambystoma salamanders; a pond breeding amphibian. Pelee Island, therefore, serves as an excellent study site, as both natural and stewardship ponds are available. The aim of this study is to answer three prominent questions. The first: what environmental variables influence occupancy of potential breeding sites by Ambystoma salamanders on Pelee Island? The second: what environmental variables predict the relative abundance of Ambystoma larvae? We used generalized linear models with up to two predictive variables to answer questions one and two. Canopy cover and crayfish presence had the most predictive power for occupancy. Temperature and substrate had the most predictive power for relative abundance. The third: do existing stewardship ponds adequately mimic the environmental requirements for Ambystoma breeding and larval habitat as observed in natural ponds? A Principle Component Analysis was run; the PC variables that explained > 10% variation were used in a MANOVA and followed by a univariate ANOVA to determine in what ways natural and stewardship ponds differ.

Sirens Changed their Relationship with Droughts to “it’s complicated.”
Thomas M. Luhring*1,2, Lyndsie S. Wszola 3, Grant M. Connette 4,5, and Christopher M. Schalk 6
1Biological Sciences, Wichita State University, 2Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, 3Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, 4Working Land and Seascapes, Conservation Commons, Smithsonian Institution, 5Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 6Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin University;

— Aquatic organisms are experiencing increasingly severe droughts with shorter periods between them. Simultaneously, the global footprint of drought effects carrying over to non-drought years is spreading. Animals that rely on inter drought years to prepare for seasonal or episodic droughts are thus experiencing less time to prepare for more severe droughts and given poorer conditions in which to do so. Many estivating animals rely on endogenous energy reserves to persist through droughts while they estivate. The goal of our study is to assess the impact of inter-drought year quality (as a function of the Palmer Drought Severity Index) on the growth (length) and accrual of resources (body mass) which determine the length of drought they can survive while estivating (estivation potential). In this study, we calculate growth rates (length) of Siren lacertina across 11 years of one of the most severe drought local minima in the SE US in the preceding 50 years. We use these growth rates to create age-class specific estimates of length, mass, and estivation potential given site-specific length-mass relationships and mass-dependent aestivation potential. We found that the average female in the population during the local minima grew slower, accrued less mass per unit length, and required approximately an extra year to reach the size class required to successfully persist through a typical local periodic drying event. Overall, drought-induced estivation by large long-lived animals is an effective strategy for persisting through predictable seasonal drying events and may provide a suitable strategy for periodic severe droughts under past climatic regimes. However, increasingly sub-optimal conditions associated with incomplete recovery of ecosystems from droughts alter the ability of organisms that rely on those intervening years to buffer against future perturbations. Thus, the quality of intervals among acute temporal events is essential to understand how well organisms respond to increasingly severe and frequent climatic events.

Snake Entanglement in Erosion Control Blankets: Causes, Consequences, and Conservation.
Christopher M. Schalk1*, Kasey L. Jobe1, Krista J. Ward1, Sarah E. Ebert1, Cory K. Adams2, Daniel Saenz2
1Stephen F. Austin State University; 2United States Forest Service;

— In road construction projects across the United States, erosion control methods (e.g., erosion control blankets [ECBs]), are mandated to stimulate seedbed regeneration and prevent soil loss. Previous reports have suggested that snakes are vulnerable to entanglement in ECBs. We conducted two entanglement experiments to examine what factors increase a snake’s risk of ECB entanglement. From first our experiment, we found that ECBs that contain fixed‐intersection, small‐diameter mesh consisting of polypropylene were significantly more likely to entangle snakes compared with ECBs with larger diameter polypropylene mesh or ECBs that have woven mesh made of natural fibers. Snake body size was also associated with entanglement; for every 1‐mm increase in body circumference, the probability of entanglement increased 4%. Our second experiment tested if a modification to the installation methods of erosion control blankets affects the likelihood of snake entanglement. This experiment examined snake entanglement in two treatments: 1) exposed erosion control blanket edge (i.e., perimeter) and 2) buried erosion control blanket edge. Snakes were less likely to attempt to pass through the mesh on the buried edge treatment and all entanglements occurred on the exposed edge treatment. These results can help construct a predictive framework to determine those species and individuals that are most vulnerable to entanglement as well as inform natural resource agencies on additional steps that can be taken to select products that pose low risks to wildlife.

Demographics and space-use of Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata) in Kansas and Nebraska: A comparative study
Samuel Wagner*1, Aubrey Gauntt1, Amelia Weller1, Shelby Bloom2, Kaylyn Hobelman1, Colin Nelson1, Megan Hanson2, Natalie Radcliffe2, Benjamin Reed1
1 Washburn University, 2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln;
— Species with large ranges are often composed of many populations that occupy areas that are ecologically different in terms of habitat, thermal conditions, resource availability, and stressors such as predation or parasite risk. Here, we investigated two geographically distinct populations of Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata), one in the southwestern panhandle of Nebraska and one in the northeastern region of Kansas. Our primary objective was to determine the space-use of individuals belonging to each population and the factors which may contribute to ranging variation within and between each population. We also compared basic demographic and morphometric characteristics of each population and found evidence for inverse-Bergmann’s Rule but otherwise, population demographics were similar across populations. We found a significant interaction between location and body condition for predicting range size, with Kansas turtles having larger ranges when in better body condition and Nebraska turtles having smaller ranges when in better body condition. Similarly, we found females have larger ranges when in better body condition and males to have smaller ranges when in better body condition across both locations. We found flesh fly (Sarcophaga cistudinis) infection rates to be significantly higher in Kansas (n=10) than in Nebraska (n=0). Understanding variation within and across populations can be critical for our understanding of how organisms interact with their environment and how to best implement conservation and management practices for targeted species.

Assessing behavioral syndromes in the Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata)
Shelby Bloom*1, Aubrey Gauntt2, Samuel Wagner2, Amelia Weller2, Becca Tolbert2, Benjamin Reed2
1 University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2 Washburn University;
— Behavioral syndromes are used to define suites of behaviors that are repeated by individuals over time and across contexts. It has been hypothesized that populations should benefit from having individuals fall along a continuum of behavior types for population persistence as certain behavior types such as shy or bold may either help or hinder the survival of individuals in different contexts. In this study, we determined whether we could identify and quantify behavior types and ultimately behavioral syndromes in two spatially distinct populations of Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata). A total of 59 turtles were assayed from two different populations, one in eastern Kansas and one in western Nebraska. Through three different controlled assays, it was concluded that individuals do demonstrate consistent and repeatable behaviors, indicating the presence of a behavioral syndrome. We developed assays to help us determine individual risk-taking behavior, activity level, and exploration; three of the five main axes of behavior and likely most relevant for ornate box turtles. Identifying the presence and relative strength of behavioral syndromes within and across populations can help us determine the health of the population and their susceptibility/buffer to environmental change.

Spatial memory and space-use of Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata) in Eastern Kansas
Steven Dennis*, Amelia Weller, Kaylyn Hobelman, Samuel Wagner, Benjamin Reed
Washburn University;
— Effective space-use is vital for the survival and fitness of individuals and the persistence of any given population. Quantifying an animal’s use of space, such as home-range size and daily movement patterns, can enable a greater understanding of the ecological roles that an organism fills and the evolutionary mechanisms that led to traits related to space-use being selected for or against. One such trait is spatial memory, which should enable animals with better spatial memory to move more efficiently navigate between resource patches, avoid potential threats, and return safely to their refuge locations. Animals that are more physically limited in their ability to move may rely more on the use of spatial memory in order to offset their physical constraints. Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata) are one such species that cannot move quickly relative to other species in their habitat and thus may rely more on spatial memory to navigate their home-range. To determine an individual box turtle’s spatial memory ability, we constructed a maze and repeatedly assayed turtle performance within the same maze over time (one week to four months apart). Individual maze performance was aggregated and compared to home-range size, body condition, external temperature, and sex to determine whether these variables could be related to an animal’s spatial memory. We found a significant interaction between maze performance and sex, indicating a potential sexual dimorphism in how spatial memory is used differently between sexes as individuals move through their home-range. Our preliminary findings suggest that pursuing these interactions via maze assays could lead to a greater understanding of the link between spatial memory and space-use of wild animals.

Behavior types relate to measures of space use differently across populations of Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata)
Aubrey Gauntt*1, Samuel Wagner1, Shelby Bloom2, Amelia Weller1, Kaylyn Hobelman1, Benjamin Reed1
1 Washburn University, 2 University of Nebraska-Lincoln;
— Linking behavioral syndromes determined in the lab to space use in the field is an exceptionally challenging task that very few studies are able to do. This may be due to the inherent challenges of collecting wild animals, assaying them in the lab, as well as collecting field data on them. Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata) present a potential model system for investigating the interaction between behavior and space use because of their easily detectable variability in both behavior and movement. They can easily be transported between the field and the lab and their space use can be easily monitored via radio telemetry. The goal of this project was to determine whether we could link behavioral syndromes determined in the lab to field-based behaviors in two different populations of box turtles occupying ecologically different habitats. Our results indicate that some axes of behavior, but not all, could be linked to field behaviors including aspects of ranging and home range philopatry. We also found significant differences in how behavior types link to space use in different populations. These results are some of the first to show that behavior types determined through carefully controlled assays can be linked-to field behaviors. Our results indicate that behavior types covary with habitat variables to influence how animals use their habitat. These findings highlight the importance of how different selective pressures may influence how animals of the same behavior types respond differently across different habitats.

Grip it and Flip it 4.0: Season Four of Herpetofaunal Composition and Monitoring at the Sternberg Natural Area
Jacob N. Alexander*, Curtis J. Schmidt, Morgan A. Noland, Mitchell J. Greer
FHSU Department of Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University;
— On 10 June  2017, twenty-one 2.4×1.2-meter plywood boards were placed throughout the Dr. Howard Reynolds Nature Trails property (Sternberg Natural Area) to begin monitoring of the area’s herptofaunal richness and diversity. The objective of the project is to monitor changes in species richness and diversity in relation to changes in landscape composition, as we continue to restore the habitat to native prairie. In the 2020 season, the boards were checked twice weekly, varying the time of checks. Five temperature variables were recorded at each board each time they were flipped. The fourth season of monitoring began on 4 March 2020 with the first observation occurring on 31 March 2020. To date, 242 individuals of ten species have been encountered. In addition to temperature measurements, Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags were implanted (beginning in the 2018 season) for individual recognition and to get accurate counts. To date, 94 individuals of six species have been implanted. Out of these implanted individuals, the Great Plains Skink (Plestiodon obsoletus), North American Racer (Coluber constrictor), Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata), and the Gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer) have been recaptured at least once. In future seasons, we hope to implant more individuals with PIT tags and estimate population sizes for all species and continue collecting temperature data in attempts to correlate cover use and temperature. Herpetofaunal monitoring is an important part of any environmental or restoration assessment as these species act as indicator species of ecosystem health.

Larval Amphibian Distribution across Intermittent Stream Pools in the Flint Hills
Jake T. Wright*, Christine S. Streid, Krista J. Ward, Thomas M. Luhring
Wichita State University,
— Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of droughts and precipitation events. Intermittent stream pools in the Great Plains present an idealized replicated system to study the impacts of variable climatic conditions on the distribution of aquatic species including amphibians, invertebrates, and fishes.  Here, we investigate the effects of hydroperiod, connectivity, and fish abundance on larval amphibian distribution in the Flint Hills of Kansas at Youngmeyer Ranch, a 4,700-acre Wichita State Field Station. We identified 82 stream systems on the property and selected 7 to sample for intermittent stream pool communities. We used a systematic random sampling regime to select 151 candidate pools and calculated preliminary hydroperiod scores (number of years wet out of total years observed) and stream connectivity using Google Earth Pro for each pool prior to sampling. We sampled 117 stream pools (the remaining 34 were dry) and recorded larval amphibian diversity and abundance with area-constrained searches (enclosure sampling). Fish presence, pool volume, and pool connectivity all influenced the distribution of amphibians on the landscape. Fish presence reduced the likelihood of detecting American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) (P < 0.0001) or Plains Leopard Frogs (Lithobates blairi) (P < 0.0001). Overall, larval amphibians preferred larger pools that were not connected by inflow or outflow with the rest of the stream (P < 0.05). Surprisingly, hydroperiod was not a significant predictor of amphibian presence, potentially because our sampling occurred following a wet year when fish were widespread across pools that normally dry between years.  Intermittent stream pools are by far the most abundant suitable amphibian spawning habitat and undoubtedly serve as key habitats at Youngmeyer Ranch for the maintenance of amphibian populations. However, the relative suitability of a given intermittent stream pool likely varies from year to year given its accessibility to fish which is enhanced by years with higher precipitation.

Adult Body Size and Clutch Characteristics of the Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvaticus (LeConte, 1825), Along an Altitudinal Gradient
Walter E. Meshaka, Jr.*1, Pablo R. Delis2, and Eugene Wingert3, Erika Coover2, and Jeffrey Forrester4
1Section of Zoology and Botany, State Museum of Pennsylvania, 300 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120, U.S.A.,   2Department of Biology, Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Maine Drive Shippensburg, Pennsylvania 17257 U.S.A.,  3Department of Biology, Dickinson College, Post Office Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013 U.S.A., 4Department of Mathematics, Dickinson College, Post Office Box 1773, Carlisle, PA 17013 U.S.A.;
— We examined female body size and clutch characteristics of the Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvaticus, from four sites along an elevational gradient in south-central Pennsylvania. Body size varied among sites and increased with increasing elevation. Clutch size increased with female body size and also increased with elevation after standardizing female body size. However, ovum size was not related to female body size or to elevation. Our findings confirm in part to those of another such study in Virginia in which elevation played an important role in body size and clutch characteristics and indicate that elevational associations of body size and fecundity need not be coupled together strongly in this species.

Demography of two aquatic turtle species in southwestern Pennsylvania
Daniel F. Hughes*1 and Walter E. Meshaka, Jr.2
1Department of Biology, Coe College, 1220 1st Avenue NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402; 2Section of Zoology and Botany, State Museum of Pennsylvania 300 North Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120;

— Multi-year studies of syntopic species provide a spatiotemporal framework for comparing their demographic responses to the same environmental conditions. We used data derived from 15 years of sampling at an artificial pond matrix in southwestern Pennsylvania to investigate the survival, growth, and ages of Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) and Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina serpentina). We trapped turtles with baited hoop-nets at a primary wetland, which was the largest and deepest of five artificial ponds in a spatially aggregated matrix at the Powdermill Nature Reserve, a protected site in the Allegheny Mountains. We captured 81 Midland Painted Turtles 162 times, and 43 Common Snapping Turtles 136 times. For both species, apparent survival probabilities were higher for adults (range 79–95%) compared to juveniles (range 57–82%), and higher in females compared to males or juveniles. The average growth rate was highest in juvenile turtles of both species, indicating growth was maximal during periods of the lowest survival. Average growth rates, in general, were slower for Midland Painted Turtles compared to Common Snapping Turtles. Relating body size to age revealed estimates conforming to studies elsewhere and to longevity records based on known-age turtles. We interpret findings at this wetland matrix to represent the demographics of a deme within a fluid and dynamic regional network of demes for these two species and highlight the value of artificial pond networks to the conservation of freshwater turtle metapopulations in Pennsylvania.

Poster Presentations:

A Survey for the Presence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis at Powdermill Nature Reserve, PA, USA
Amanda L. J. Duffus*1, Andrea Kautz2, Daniel F. Hughes3, Steven J. R. Allain4, and Walter E. Meshaka Jr.5
1 Department of Natural Sciences, Gordon State College, Barnesville, GA 30204, 2 Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Powdermill Nature Reserve, Rector, PA 15677, 3 Department of Biology, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA, 52402, 4 Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK 5 Section of Zoology and Botany, State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA 17120;
— Amphibian declines are a global phenomenon and are driven by multiple factors, including emerging infectious agents, such as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Globally distributed, Bd is known to affect amphibians in Pennsylvania, USA. Here, using non-invasive skin swabs, we screened 198 individuals of 14 amphibian species for Bd at Powdermill Nature Reserve (PNR) in southwestern Pennsylvania during the spring and early summer of 2020. All animals appeared to be healthy. Among the species screened using traditional polymerase chain reaction, none of the nine salamander species were positive and only one of the five frog species, the Northern Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans melanota, tested positive for Bd DNA, with 18% positive prevalence (5 of 28 individuals). The Bd-positive individuals originated from sites where conspecifics and other amphibian species were found to be Bd negative. The overall low prevalence for Bd (2.5%) is potentially good news for the PNR. Most, if not all, of the species we screened, are known to be infected by Bd in other areas. Perhaps, Bd is not infecting many species or individuals at PNR at this time, and those species that are infected are known to be relatively resistant to chytridiomycosis, the disease that can be caused by Bd infections. Future directions include targeted surveillance of L. c. melanota and the North American Bullfrog, L. catesbeianus, a known carrier of this pathogen elsewhere.

Ranavirus Infections in Wild North American Herpetofauna
P.L. Bartlett*, A.K. Carey, T.M. Ward, D.E. Brue, and A.L.J. Duffus
Health of Herpetofauna Communities Research Group, Department of Natural Sciences, Gordon State College, Barnesville, GA 30204;

— Ranaviruses (family: Iridoviridae) are emerging infections in herpetofauna and fish. They are globally distributed, occurring on every continent where amphibians and reptiles exist.  Ranaviruses are responsible for many diseases and die-off events in wild herpetofauna in the USA every year.  However, infection with a ranavirus can be asymptomatic or result in disease or death in individuals of the same species. In some species, ranavirus outbreaks can have extremely high mortality (e.g. over 90% in wood frogs, Lithobates sylvaticus/Rana sylvatica). In wild amphibians, there are over 50 species of amphibians and at least 10 species of reptiles that are known to be affected by ranaviruses in North America. In amphibians, ranavirus infections can occur in multiple life-history stages. In amphibians, ranaviruses are considered to be a reportable disease by the OIE (World Health Organization for Animals) and if a disease/die-off event is suspected to be caused by a ranavirus, it should be reported to the appropriate state authorities and any suspected herp diseases reported to the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) Herp Disease Alert System at

Does Installation Method Affect Snake Entanglement in Erosion Control Blankets?
Krista J. Ward*1, Kasey L. Jobe1, Nicholas C. Schiwitz2, Christopher M. Schalk2, Daniel Saenz3
1Department of Biology, Stephen F. Austin State University,2Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, Stephen F. Austin State University, 3Southern Research Station, United States Forest Service;

— At the conclusion of road construction projects, erosion control products (e.g., blankets, spray mulch) are installed to reduce soil loss and promote plant growth. Wildlife, such as snakes (suborder Serpentes), are prone to entanglement in erosion control blankets (ECBs) that contain polypropylene mesh with fused apertures. Previous reports have noted that the occurrences of entanglements are not uniform in their distribution across an ECB, but primarily occur where the edge of the mesh is exposed. We conducted an experiment to determine if a modification to the installation methods of ECBs affects the likelihood of snake entanglement. We conducted entanglement trials to compare the likelihood of snake entanglement between two treatments: 1) exposed ECB edge (i.e., perimeter) and 2) buried ECB edge. Snakes were less likely to attempt to pass through the mesh on the buried edge treatment and all entanglements occurred on the exposed edge treatment. These results support that modification to the installation methods reduces snake entanglement in ECBs in some settings. However, we conducted our study in an experimental setting, and it should be evaluated under natural field conditions. This research can be used to inform several parties including contractors, habitat managers, and agency decision-makers on additional steps that can be taken for products that fit their application needs to minimize risks to wildlife.

Effect of Controlled Prairie Burning on Ornate Box Turtle (T. ornata ornata) Space-use and Below-ground Temperatures
Brice Riddle*, Samuel Wagner, Benjamin Reed
Washburn University;
— Controlled burning of native land is an important tool at the disposal of landowners and land managers, particularly in areas where natural communities interface with landscapes altered for human use, and in areas where invasive species threaten the healthy function of naturally occurring communities. However, prescribed burning can have unintended consequences on native populations that co-occur along with the positive functions that are associated with controlled burns. Controlled burns work to reduce the fuel load in areas prone to high-intensity fires and to restore the overall health of an ecosystem, either through the reduction of invasive species or by influencing the life cycles of plant communities that can be dependent on fire to remain healthy. On the other hand, controlled burns can be devastating to individual populations within the overall ecosystem when used improperly. In this study, we investigate the impacts of the prescribed burning of prairie ecosystems on below-ground soil temperatures as well as its effect on the above-ground space use of ornate box turtles (Terrapene ornata ornata). We find that underground temperatures in both spring and summer burns at the depths tested were unaffected by localized fire conditions; however, space use in the post-summer burn environment of T. ornata was affected, suggesting that controlled burns during the active season for T. ornata are likely to have detrimental effects on populations, either through direct contact with fire or through altering space use. In instances where local animal populations are of major concern in the ecosystem, these types of effects must be considered when planning controlled burns, and communities may be best served by burning when targeted populations are at the lowest risk.

Measuring Herpetofaunal Biodiversity of SW Missouri
Lexis Mader*, Kelsea Tyson, Thomas Zapletal, Jeremiah Cline, Alyssa Farney, Loegan Hill, Jainee Cowen, Camron Matteson, and David Penning
Missouri Southern State University,
— Kellogg Lake is a 22-acre man-made lake located in Carthage, Missouri.  As a small group, we investigated the abundance and diversity of the reptiles and amphibians from May-August 2020. During our preliminary work, we spent a total of 328 person-hours and 133 trap nights to survey the area.  We began this project as a way to conduct an animal inventory, as the records before were severely neglected.  We also took measurements (mass, length, sex, temperature), and recorded the GPS location of each individual in order to build a more comprehensive map of SW Missouri.  In total, we captured 173 individual animals including 1 Lithobates sphenocephalus, 3 Anaxyrus americanus, 8 Lithobates catesbeianus, 3 Apalone spinifera, 48 Trachemys scripta, 93 Sternotherus odoratus, 1 Nerodia erythrogaster, 1 Nerodia sipedon, 1 Storeria dekayi, and 15 Regina grahamii.  From the data collected, female Regina grahamii (n=11, mean=311.82 ± 134.15 g) were significantly heavier than males (n=4, mean=96 ± 9.51 g). However, male (n=27 mean=72.4 ± 31.69 g) and female (n=60, mean=82.8 ± 27.3 g) Sternotherus odoratus were not significantly different in their mass, given their length. Further, male (n=17, mean=240.71 ± 138.11 g) and female (n=14, mean=456.36 ± 243.41 g) Trachemys scripta were not significantly different in their mass, given their length.

Measuring Venom Delivery and Strike Performance Across Ontogeny in Cottonmouths
Nathan Piccoli*, Jillian Hackney, Veronica Nguyen, and David Penning
Missouri Southern State University; 
— Striking behavior represents one of the most important and adaptive traits to the biology of snakes.  Although almost all snakes exhibit this behavior for both predation and defense, the physiological mechanisms used vary between the type of strike and species of snake.  Defensive strikes offer insight into predator-prey interaction among snakes.  Viperids and colubrids have acquired separate physiological responses to predators in their environment throughout evolutionary time.  The viper clade has evolved highly effective venom that it uses for both prey capture and defense.  This venom is produced by glands that are situated at either side of the maxilla.  Changes in the size and shape of each individual are likely to have an effect on defensive responses, such as venom delivery.  Here, we measured the striking performance and venom delivery of a widely-known viper (Agkistrodon piscivorus) across their ontogeny to better understand how size impacts defensive performance.  All individuals were given the opportunity to strike three consecutive times while we recorded a high-speed camera.  Here, we report the complete results from a sample of 42 snakes of varying size (body mass = 26.8–862 g; SVL = 270–845 mm).

Seeing Red: Quantifying the Diversity of Constriction Pressures Generated by Snakes
Jillian Hackney* and David Penning
Missouri Southern State University;

— There are numerous mechanisms that predators use during predator-prey interactions. Snakes use their limbless body in predation and two of the most commonly used mechanisms during predation are constriction and striking. The mechanism of constriction, specifically, involves the wrapping or winding of the body around the prey while contracting muscles to produce high pressure. There are several hypotheses about how these high pressures impact the prey that are being constricted. Those hypotheses include suffocation, cardiac trauma and arrest, blunt force trauma, and neural damage. The Red-out effect is the most recently proposed hypothesis that aims to explain how constriction works.  It suggests that when snakes constrict their prey, they are able to drive blood and bodily fluids towards the head of their prey, quickly incapacitating them.  This eventually leads to the shutdown of the nervous system. However, to date, this has only been investigated in one species of kingsnake.  Here, we aim to quantify constriction pressures within both the chest and cranium of prey to find evidence for or against the newly proposed Red-out hypothesis.  We quantified these pressures in a more phylogenetically diverse group of snakes in order to better understand how constriction mechanisms work.

Preliminary Assessment of the Aquatic Turtle Community at the Sternberg Natural Area
Jacob N. Alexander*, Curtis J. Schmidt, Morgan A. Noland, Mitchell J. Greer.
FHSU Department of Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University;
— Starting in the spring of 2020, aquatic turtle surveys took place in the section of Chetolah Creek that runs through the Sternberg Museum Natural Area owned and maintained by Fort Hays State University’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History (Sternberg Natural Area). Surveys consisted of five, three-foot diameter hoop nets baited with either sardine in Louisiana hot sauce, creamed corn, or both. Nets were deployed for three consecutive days every other week until 23 October. A total of 36 individuals were captured and implanted with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags for individual recognition with 22 total recaptures. Three of the four species known to occur here were captured: The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta), and Pond Slider (Trachemys scripta). The Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera) has been observed at this site, but not captured. This project joined a number of established long-term projects aimed at monitoring responses of biotic communities to prairie restoration activities. Included in these projects are a small mammal, terrestrial herpetofauna, insect, soil microbe, fish, and vegetation research components.

* Presenting author