The inaugural Venomous Herpetology Symposium hosted at Zoo Miami on September 8-9, 2018, was a huge success! We had 169 attendees from all over the globe and speakers from diverse backgrounds. This year, we begin a tradition of several grants and awards. Best presenter, best student presenter, best poster presentation, and an awards for Global Achievement in Venomous Herpetology were awarded at the conference. Speakers also had the opportunity to apply for and receive travel grants to offset their cost of attendance to share their wonderful work!
Rom Whitaker is a global leader in venomous snake conservation and reducing human-snake conflict. He has devoted his life to working with the native wildlife of India and studying their ecology and interaction with people. During his lifetime, he has come to be known as the world's leading expert on King Cobra ecology and behavior.
Currently, he lives in Tamil Nadu in India with his wife Janaki Lenin. Rom and his wife are both accomplished authors, with Janaki publishing several books about Rom's adventures (My Husband and Other Animals 1 & 2) and Rom publishing Snakes of India, a Field Guide. Rom is also the founder of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust & Centre for Herpetology and continues to be actively involved with their conservation work. The Centre is currently leading a project radio tracking King Cobras to learn more about their ecology.
Michael Starkey, Save The Snakes (Left); Romulus Whitaker, Madras Crocodile Bank (Center); Tony Daly-Crews, The Rattlesnake Conservancy (Right)
Global Achievement in Venomous Herpetology
2018 - Romulus Whitaker
Best Overall Presentation
2018 - Ray Morgan
Ray Morgan has been a private-sector reptile enthusiast for more than 40 years and has produced science communication media around herpetology since 2010. In 2016, Ray released The Venom Interviews, a documentary film about the work and science of venomous herpetology. His current project is a series of training videos for the African Society of Venimology to help medical professionals manage snakebites in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Snakebite is one of the most important neglected tropical diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa, with fatalities estimated to be between 30,000 and 50,000 per year and several times that many left with permanent injuries. The epidemic is characterized by a feedback cycle in which factors like insufficient epidemiology, inadequate training of medical professionals, insufficient supplies and distribution of antivenom, and low public confidence in the healthcare system reinforce and amplify each other.
Ray Morgan, Film Maker.
Best Student Presentation
2018 - Andrew Mason
Andrew Mason is a PhD candidate under Dr. Chris Parkinson at Clemson University. His research interests focus on integrating the fields of ecology, phylogenetics, biogeography, genomics, and comparative methods to answer questions about the roles of adaptation and evolution in speciation processes. His dissertation work is focused on examining Middle American palm-pitvipers as a model system to investigate how evolutionary and environmental pressures shape venom adaptation. He is a participant in the Parkinson Lab’s NSF funded project examining venom as a key innovation in the advanced snakes and has conducted fieldwork in the U.S., Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
Andrew Mason, Ph. D Candidate, Clemson University