After much discussion, the Gopher Tortoise Council board has voted to move this year's annual meeting, originally scheduled to occur in St. Petersburg FL, to a virtual-only format. Given the current status of the covid-19 pandemic in the state of Florida, and regionally within the southeastern United States, we do not feel it would be a responsible decision for our group to convene in person.
While this decision has been an agonizing one to make, we feel that it is the clear choice for our group at this time. One benefit of this transition to virtual is that we have had the chance to learn and build on what worked with last year's virtual conference. To that end, the board will spend the next month and a half planning an equally, if not more, engaging virtual conference that will be conducted through Zoom. The conference will be held as a single day-long meeting on 29 October; registration fees for the conference will be equal to membership dues. This day-long conference will include sessions of regular-length presentations, rapid presentations, a membership-wide business meeting, a poster session in several concurrent "zoom rooms", and will culminate with a not-to-be-missed live auction. Cash awards will be given to top student presenters. Participants can once again expect edge-of-your-seats door prizes and games throughout the conference! We will once again use CustomInk to procure meeting t-shirts; please be patient and check our website as we repurpose this year's shirt to a relevant virtual theme.
Please visit the registration site to join in our meeting. The deadline to register is 5 PM EST Thursday 28 October. Conference registrants can expect to receive an email with the Zoom link to the conference location after the 5 PM registration deadline.
While the plans have recently changed for our conference, our organizational goals remain the same. We pride ourselves on supporting primary research of gopher tortoises and their surrounding ecological communities through J. Larry Landers Student Research Grants; we remain committed to enhancing educational opportunities to advance the cause for conservation through Donna J. Heinrich Educational Outreach Grants. We are still accepting proposals for both of these grant programs, and look forward to supporting these great causes. Please visit the Grant Programs tab on our website for more details on application.
It is hard to believe it was already a year ago that we were planning our first-ever (and hoped-to-be last ever) virtual conference. While the past year has taken unexpected turns, we are optimistic that we will indeed return to a "regular" in-person meeting next year in the Florida panhandle.
Please stay healthy and safe. I look forward to seeing you soon in Zoom!