22nd July 2019 – Steven Allain, University of Kent/Zoological Society of London

Steven AllainSteven is a current PhD candidate at the University of Kent where his research focuses on the population dynamics of the barred grass snake (Natrix helvetica) and the effects of snake fungal disease (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola). Steven holds a BSc Zoology from Anglia Ruskin University and an MRes in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation from Imperial College London. Throughout his academic career, Steven’s main interests have been the conservation of amphibian and reptiles. This has taken many forms over the years including population monitoring and investigating for the influence of disease. One of the projects which you may be aware of is the monitoring of midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) in Cambridge, where Steven has been coordinating a project to investigate the population size and to also screen for disease since 2015.

Steven is actively involved with the conservation of the UK’s herpetofauna but is also involved in projects across the world. Steven’s research has also seen him travel to a number of countries including Germany, Malaysia and Tanzania. Some of Steven’s affiliations include the British Herpetological Society (where he is a council member), Save the Snakes (where is on the advisory board) and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (where he is chairman). Aside from Steven’s strong passion for the natural world and particularly of herpetofauna, he also has a strong scientific background too. With a large number of publications under his belt before starting his PhD, it is clear that Steven strives to improve our understanding of amphibians and reptiles as well as making this information available. You can find out more about Steven by visiting his website: http://www.stevenallain.co.uk/

26th February 2018 – Andrew Durso, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Utah State University

100px_amdAndrew Durso was born in New York and grew up catching snakes in North Carolina. He earned a B.S. in Ecology from the University of Georgia in 2009, an M.S. in Biology from Eastern Illinois University in 2011, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Utah State University in 2016. He writes a blog about snakes called ‘Life is Short, but Snakes are Long’. He currently lives in Jena, Germany, where he works as a scientific editor for the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry.

16th January 2017 – Patrick Hennessey, Queen Mary University

patrick-hennesseyMy name is Patrick Hennessey; I am a young zoologist from Essex, England. For as long as I can remember I have been interested in animals, but my real passion for animals began when I was ten, when I was first introduced to snakes. Since then all I have wanted to do is be a herpetologist.

My summer of 2016 consisted of both science and travel – two things that go very well together. I spent time in three different countries over the space of two months. Two of the trips were for university modules, and the third was to undertake research for my university dissertation project. For my project I had the privilege of travelling to Cusuco National Park, Honduras. The cloud forests of Cusuco are home to many amazing animals such as endemic amphibians, amazing birds, and most importantly some incredible snakes. During my six weeks I was collecting data on the thermal niche characteristics of two species of pit viper. This is incredibly important because cloud forests are one of the habitats globally that are at risk of being lost due to climate change. Therefore, it is important that environments like this continue to be monitored to show any changes that may occur.

The two snakes that I looked at specifically were the Honduran palm pit viper (Bothriechis marchi) and the Honduran montane pit viper (Cerrophidion wilsoni). Both are pit vipers and both live at higher elevations than most other snakes, meaning their thermal requirements are unique. I am currently in the process of analysing my data and writing up my dissertation, although it isn’t as fun as the field work!

I am currently studying Zoology at Queen Marys University London, where I am halfway through my final year. During my degree I have been privileged to gain knowledge from people whom are experts of many different fields, opening my eyes to different areas of science. One thing that has been made very clear to me is the importance of genetics in conservation, and this has led me to want to integrate this into my future career.

My other interests apart from science are collecting skulls (I don’t have many…yet), reading, and running.

I look forward to talking to everyone over the next week!