Thank you to all participants and presenters for helping make the 43rd Annual Gopher Tortoise Council Meeting a success! Keep reading for highlights from the meeting.
This year's oral presentations featured a diverse array of subjects, including tortoise cognition, using machine learning to improve camera trap monitoring for tortoises, gopher tortoise seed consumption, and many other areas of tortoise research and conservation. The meeting also featured a virtual poster session, and a special panel session focused on the current challenges facing gopher tortoise relocation. Thank you to all of our excellent presenters!
Live Auction and Door Prizes
Ericha Shelton-Nix kept meeting participants on their toes by awarding door prizes throughout the day. Jimmy Stiles joined us to host a virtual live auction featuring a custom mosaic by Harriet Smith and a gift package from the Clyde Butcher Gallery. Bidding for both items resulted in over $500 in donations to GTC.
Grants and Awards
Congratulations to the 2021 recipients of J. Larry Landers Student Research Grants:
Alexandra Brown (University of Georgia): If you build it, will they come? Snake occupancy of restored southeastern pine savanna habitats
Arik Hartmann (University of Florida): Assessing community-level pathogen spillover in longleaf pine associated herpetofaunal communities
McKayla Susen (University of Georgia): Examining the reciprocal relationship between habitat structure and the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)
The Gopher Tortoise Council’s Donna J. Heinrich Environmental Education Grant honors Donna J. Heinrich, an environmental educator whose life was dedicated to conserving wildlife and their habitats. This year’s winners were:
Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Foundation - $2,000
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus - $1,950
Finally, the Gopher Tortoise Council's 2021 Service Awards were presented to:
Distinguished Service Award, Jessica McGuire, This award was presented in recognition of her work on behalf of our organization and the conservation of gopher tortoises and upland ecosystems.
Conservation Education Award, University of Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab (Accepted by Dr. Kimberly Andrews), This award was presented in recognition of their outstanding education and outreach activities for gopher tortoises and upland ecosystems, especially during COVID.
Special Project Award, Jeff Goessling, This award was presented in recognition of Jeff’s amazing contribution to GTC by planning four annual meetings during his term as Co-Chair.