August 13, 2018: Turtle Conference

SLAC-kers received an invitation to attend the 16th Annual Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles, co-hosted by the Turtle Survival Alliance and the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG).

How cool is that?!

Unfortunately, only one SLAC-ker was free to go. That’s okay, though, she took copious notes, and this wasn’t a one-shot invitation. We’re confident all the girls will have the opportunity to attend many more lectures and conferences.

Three of our mentors were scheduled to speak. Do you know how incredible it is to be a kid and see the person who has been in your backyard, helping you dig in the muck, suddenly standing behind a podium presenting information to the movers ‘n shakers of the turtle conservation world? It’s pretty cool.

We arrived while a conference was in session, so most of the 300 attendees were in a ballroom. This gave us a chance to peruse the auction tables. Kenedy and Carl discuss some of the finer points of turtle art in the picture below.IMG_20180813_144133315

Reading up on mentor Andrew Brinker’s Trinity River Turtle Surveys (SLAC-kers have participated in these events).IMG_20180813_151601562

Wishing mentor Viviana good luck before her presentation.IMG_20180813_150406248

Front row seat, natch.IMG_20180813_153327549_LL

Our first speaker was Carl Franklin. He’s engaging and entertaining while he educates. We didn’t expect to laugh out loud during this conference, but that’s exactly what happened while Carl informed us about the state of Texas turtles. We know Carl so we shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, seeing a mentor behind a podium, absolutely owning a room is so cool.


Next up, mentor Andrew Brinker! He’s a teacher at Pascal High School, and it’s easy to see how his excitement about this work affects the kids in his classes. Students ride their bikes to get to his turtle surveys. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing an older person talk about how ‘kids these day lack drive, lack passion, blah blah blah.’ They need to spend a day at one of Mr. Brinker’s survey sites.


Then we listened to a couple of people we didn’t know. Some of the discussion may have been WAY over our heads. That’s okay, though—it was a chance to work our brains. IMG_20180813_171056917_LL

One of the speakers covered the effects of hurricane Harvey on snapping turtles in Houston. It was so interesting to learn how the city set up to track wildlife and that snappers weren’t negatively affected by the storm.  IMG_20180813_172241738_LL

Then it was time for our Vivi! She rocked it.
Her presentation covered the annual turtle survey that takes place at a BBQ joint on the water in Austin. Of course, it would be best if you could hear about this event from Viviana herself, but this article gives a fair amount of information about it:


After closing comments, local news reporter Bud Kennedy made a bee-line to Viviana for an interview. Someone was not thrilled that her precious Vivianatime was appropriated by someone else. 😉IMG_20180813_175533651_LLIMG_20180813_175535192_LL

Notes from the conference, middle of the page: chicken turtle unicorn of turtle world. The kiddo got all the important stuff.IMG_20180813_175047470_LL



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