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 Post subject: Conference: Field Trip Rules and Desert Safety
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2007 5:40 pm 
ATS Vice President
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Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:32 pm
Posts: 6414
Location: New Mexico
Hi all-

The following information will be included in your registration packets, but I thought I'd put it here for viewing as well in advance of the conference.


ATS Field Trip Rules and Survival Guide

For many attendees, the most memorable part of the ATS conference is our field trips. For those who are unfamiliar with the southwest, the scenery can be breathtaking; and seeing tarantulas and scorpions in the wild for the first time is an experience few arachnophiles ever forget!

However, there are a few important things to remember before heading out into the desert, both for your own safety and in the name of preserving the habitat.
We are also aware that many attendees may take side trips that are not part of the ATS Conference. This is fine, but we urge our attendees to consider the rules and safety tips listed below whether they are on an official ATS trip or not.

Field Trip Rules

1. Obey the Trip Leader The trip leader is the ultimate decider of what can and can’t be done in the field, including issues regarding the collection of animals. If the leader asks that you not to collect in a particular area, or asks you to put an animal back, please do so. Some of the areas we may visit (especially on the Pine Island Adventure trip) are ecologically sensitive and very vulnerable to damage, and it is the leaders’ responsibility to insure that all official ATS trips are managed in a way that respects the environment.

2. Practice Ethical Collecting In areas where collecting is allowed, field trip attendees are still encouraged to show restraint and to use common sense when collecting arthropods. In other words, do not over collect! While it is exciting to encounter tarantulas and scorpions in the wild, ask your self a few questions before taking them home: “Do I really need this tarantula/scorpion? Do I really need more than one? Am I prepared to care for this animal correctly? Do I have a plan to transport this animal back home?” Sometimes a photograph makes a better souvenir!

3. Respect the Habitat While it may be tempting to flip every rock and log in the search for interesting critters, remember that such structures provide critical microhabitats and moisture reservoirs for the animals that live beneath them. Show restraint when flipping, and always return every rock and log to its original position. Never attempt to turn a rock that is too big to be returned! In some areas and on some trips, there may be no rock flipping at all allowed. Ask your trip leader when in doubt.

4. No Collecting of Plants or Vertebrates is Permitted Arizona has very strict laws regarding the collection of plants, including dead plants. That dried piece of cactus you see might seem like a nice terrarium decoration, but it is illegal to take it. It is also illegal to collect reptiles, amphibians, or other vertebrate animals without special permits. Even if you have a permit, we ask that you not collect these creatures while on an ATS sponsored trip. In addition, some animals (such as the desert tortoise and the Gila monster) receive special protection, and it is illegal to touch or disturb them in any way.

5. Respect ‘No Trespassing’ Signs All ATS trips will visit areas where we are allowed to be. However, it is possible that some of the areas may be adjacent to private property. It is important that no one disregard signage and climb fences or otherwise attempt to gain entry to private land illegally. This is both out of respect for the law and for your own safety, as some landowners have been known to take shots at trespassers!

Desert Safety Tips

In addition to providing an exciting and educational experience for our attendees, the ATS conference organizers are also proud that our field trip groups always return with the same number of people they went out with! In order to keep this tradition (and our attendees!) alive, we offer the following list of survival and safety tips. No list is a substitute for common sense, and the ATS cannot take responsibility for your safety while in the field.

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! That means drink water and lots of it! One common mistake first-timers in the desert make is failing to drink enough water. Dehydration can make you feel physically ill and can have serious medical consequences. Be sure to pack plenty of water for all outings, and to drink frequently while in the field. This is especially important for those not accustomed to the heat and dryness of Arizona in June. Be sure to tell the trip leader if you think you’re having any sort of health problems in the field.

2. Pack a lunch and dinner for the all-day trips. Not required for the shorter evening trips.

3. Apply Sunscreen At least 30 SPF. Obviously, this is not as critical on the night trips!

4. Wear a Hat This can make a huge difference in both comfort and protecting against skin damage! Wide-brimmed hats are best.

5. Wear loose, light colored clothing Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants protect the skin from sun damage while they reflect heat. They also help guard against chance encounters with spiny plants!

6. Wear sensible shoes While heavy duty hiking boots are not required, sandals or flip flops are not recommended either! A decent pair of sneakers is adequate. Whatever shoes you wear, they should be well broken in, or else you’ll be in for some sore feet later!

7. Watch where you step Loose rocks, fissures, animal burrows and other landscape features can present a hazard, so you’ll want to avoid tripping and falling on those. This is not usually a problem for arthropod hunters since they tend to be staring at the ground anyway, but some hazards may also be at face level. There’s nothing like scanning the ground for scorpions only to get a face full of cholla cactus!

8. Bring a flashlight with fresh batteries This is especially important on the night trips!

9. Use caution when collecting venomous arthropods Many, if not most, of the arthropods we'll be observing in the field are venomous. Although the majority are not considered dangerous to people, most can still inflict a painful bite or sting and can ruin your day! In addition, at least one scorpion that is common in the area, the Arizona bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus) is known to possess medically significant venom. If you choose to collect any arthropods, use proper collecting tools (such as long tweezers for scorpions, or a deli container to scoop up tarantulas) and a lot of caution! It is also recommended that beginner level keepers avoid collecting or keeping Arizona bark scorpions. Your trip leader should be able to help you recognize this species, so feel free to ask!

10. Watch out for snakes and other wildlife Arizona boasts a huge assortment of snake species, including many venomous ones. Rattlesnakes are especially common, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for them. They will mostly be hidden during the day, but they may be encountered accidentally while turning rocks or logs. For this reason, it is recommended that you lift rocks and logs with the open side facing AWAY from you. Also, do not stick your hand into any crevice or hole where you can’t see! Snakes may be encountered in the open during the night trips, and it is important to note that unlike scorpions, they DO NOT glow under black light! It is recommended that scorpion hunters “sweep” an area with a regular flashlight to check for snakes and other hazards before switching to the black light to look for scorpions. If you do see a snake, give it plenty of room, do not attempt to touch or move it! There are also other animals that may be capable of hurting you, so be careful where you step or place your hand.

11. Don’t go out alone It’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the desert, especially at night! Don’t wander too far from the group while on field trips. We also know many attendees will take side trips that aren’t part of the official conference. This is fine, but we urge people to use common sense and to not head out alone, especially if they are unfamiliar with the region.

12. Optional gear In addition to the water, food, and proper clothing already discussed, we also recommend the following optional gear: Cell phone, small first aid kit containing Band-Aids, antiseptic etc., field guides, binoculars, sunglasses, black light for scorpion hunting, collecting containers, long tweezers, headlamp for night trips, a small cooler with ice.

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