Josiah Townsend (Department of Biology) and a group of two graduate students (T.J. Firneno and Alexander Hess) and two undergraduates (Gretchen McCormick and Kayla Weinfurther) from IUP Biology attended and presented results of their research at the 18th annual Congress of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation (Sociedad Mesoamericanapara la Biologia y Conservacion, or SMBC), held October 13–17, 2014, in Copán Ruinas, Honduras.
This international conference draws participants from throughout the Americas, with over 500 students, faculty, and scientists attending.
A highlight of the Congress was the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics-sponsored symposium event, "Promoting Protection of At-Risk Habitats through Priority Species Conservation," planned in coordination with the American Bird Conservancy and the Alliance for Zero Extinction. The symposium featured presentations by researchers from the U.S. Forest Service, University of Florida, and universities and institutions in Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, and Cuba.
Townsend gave an invited keynote talk, "Promoting Conservation of Threatened Cloud Forests in the Chortis Block through Phylogenetic Inventory,” presented in Spanish to a Spanish-speaking audience of over 100 people. He also gave an oral presentation at the CNSM-sponsored symposium entitled “Herpetofauna of the Cordillera Nombre de Dios, Honduras: New species, threats, and opportunities,” also in Spanish.
Firneno won first place in the graduate poster competition for his poster, “Evaluating species limits in closely-related toads (Bufonidae: Inciliuscoccifer complex) from Mesoamerica,” while fellow graduate student Hess took home second place for his poster, “Taxonomy of Nanotriton (Plethodontidae: Bolitoglossa) in Honduras is confounded by highly conserved morphology and microsympatry.”
Undergraduate students McCormick and Weinfurther co-authored a poster presentation that combined results of projects they each completed independently in the Townsend Lab. Their poster, “Phylogeography of lowland anurans suggests differential patterns of divergence across the Nicaraguan Depression,” compared results of their individual research projects looking at evolutionary patterns of two widespread frogs from Mesoamerican rainforests.
While in Honduras for the congress, the Townsend Lab group made a number of cultural and biological field trips, including visiting the Mayan ruins at Copán, touring a working coffee farm, and spending a night searching for amphibians and reptiles in the cloud forest at Cerro Azul Meámbar National Park.
In addition to CNSM’s sponsorship of the symposium, IUP provided strong support for the Townsend Lab’s participation in the congress, including a University Senate Research Committee Travel Grant to Townsend, matching funds from CNSM and the Department of Biology, the Gilly Young Scientist Opportunity Award to McCormick, School of Graduate Studies and Research travel grants to Firneno and Hess, and funds from a President's Advancing Grantsmanship Award to Townsend.
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