This year's event was marked by several firsts...canceling the 2016 meeting because of a hurricane, rescheduling the meeting three months later, and placing trust in an old guy with failing eye-sight, diminished hearing, and bum knees with a need to write reminders on the back of his hand. Despite that, the January 2017 meeting went very smoothly. We had 138 registered participants. Several park and district biologists from the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (FDEP) also attended. Almost all of the 150 seats in the state park auditorium were occupied during the professional paper sessions. We also had 22 people attend the Sunday field trip to Dunn's Creek State Park led by a park biologist who provided informative interpretations of upland and gopher tortoise management practices at the site. The incredible cooperation between the FDEP park staff, GTC board members, City of Palatka, local businesses in Palatka, Water Works Environmental Education Center, and the St. Johns River Center made this event so successful.
We want to extend our special thanks to the many volunteers at the state park, Water Works, and the River Center for their efforts. The agenda was full. We had 18 posters and 29 oral presentations and a silent auction. We provided meeting-goers with GTC T-shirts, featuring an amazing gopher tortoise painting by local artist, Harimandir Khalsa. We also hosted a business meeting and three socials consisting of a noon luncheon on Friday at Water Works Environmental Education Center, the business meeting and the Friday night social at Beef O Brady's at the Quality Inn, and the catered Saturday night event at the St. Johns River Center where we were treated to the sweet musical strains of Dim Lights! The most exciting aspect of the meeting was the huge turn-out of young people, both undergraduate and graduate students, from colleges across the southeastern US. Their presentations were very professional and sophisticated. It is exciting to know that these young people represent the next generation of biologists that will find employment with state and federal agencies and private conservation groups across the southern US. They are the future safety-net to ensure that tortoises and upland habitats are protected and well managed into the future.