History of the East Texas Herpetological Society
That was a time of growing popularity for reptiles and amphibians as pets. And for the club. “There was a lot of enthusiasm in the industry. We were riding the time. The commercial aspect of reptiles and amphibians was exploding,” David said. There weren’t a lot of mainstream books on herpetology, so people came to ETHS meetings for information. The prosperous conventions were putting a little money in the society’s bank account. The club was able to “salt some money away,” Buzz said, and it bought a bench for outside the reptile house and computers for the zoo.
In 1997, the society established the Herpetological Grants Program, a $2,000 grants program for upper-level undergraduate or Master’s-level students. The money was spread among multiple applicants. “That’s part of our mission of spreading knowledge, spreading learning, and being a portal to learning,” David said. “Some of these are niche projects that could affect the human race.”
The grants program continues, now awarding about $2,500 a year.
Leveling out, but still strong
In 1998, Buzz drafted the society’s bylaws.
By then, the two-hour drive to meetings every month was wearying Russ. He didn’t run for president again in the 1999 elections, and Mike Howlett, the long-time education chair, became president. Kim Cline took over as newsletter editor.
Andrew Godambe and Brian Williams created a welcome wagon for new members in August 2000, answering questions and calling new members to make them feel a part of the group.
The following March, 2001, members took a guided tour of the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection’s mammal, bird, fish and herp collections. Those field trips became an annual spring rite, usually in April or early May. Robert Edwards, a metal refinisher who joined the society in 1998, organizes the trips to Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area or Brazos Bend State Park or Big Thicket National Preserve. They camp out or get cabins, doing field observation, counting the species they see and reporting those numbers to the lead biologist with the Wildlife Management Areas of Texas. Saturday they have a large, society-funded dinner, and Sunday, they have breakfast together, take photographs and socialize.
At the October 2001 meeting, Brian Williams, who helps with the cooking and field management during spring field trips, volunteered to be webmaster for the society’s website. Robert Edwards volunteered to monitor the forums page.
While the Internet made communication between members easier, it had put a damper on membership numbers. Now, people could go online to find the insider information they got at the meetings, and membership declined before plateauing at between 75 and 125 members.
In 2000, the society moved its conference and expo to the Crown Plaza Resort. “The conventions are like reunions now,” Russ said.