June 17 – 20, 2019

Blacksburg, Virginia


The Hellbender Symposium is a biennial event where ​hellbender researchers from all over the United States and other parts of the world meet to present and discuss their research.

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Agenda for the 2019 Hellbender Symposium [PDF]


Monday, June 17
3:00 – 5:00       Registration & Check-In
5:00 – 5:45       Social/mixer
5:45 – 6:00       Opening remarks
6:00 – 7:00       KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Fifty-two years searching hollows, ridges, and rivers in WV
7:00 – 9:30       Dinner & Keynote Reception


Tuesday, June 18
9:00 – 9:10       Welcome & Logistics                                                            
9:10 – 12:00     SESSION I: SURVEYS, MOVEMENT, AND STATUS ASSESSMENTS                                           
6:00 – 9:30       Dinner & Poster Session Reception; State Updates


Wednesday, June 19
9:00 – 9:10       Welcome & Logistics
9:10 – 11:50     SESSION III: DISEASE AND PHYSIOLOGY                                                                        
6:00 – 10:00     Dinner & Social; Best Graduate Student Platform Presentation Award


Thursday, June 20
8:55 – 9:00        Welcome
12:00                Adjourn
1:00 – 6:00        Social & picnic on the New River

Monday, June 17, 2019

Holtzman Alumni Center at Virginia Tech


Dr. Thomas K. Pauley

Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, Marshall University

Dr. Thomas Pauley has been studying amphibians and reptiles in the Central Appalachians since 1966, with a focus on salamander ecology in the West Virginia subalpine forest for over forty years.  His major research species in these high elevations is the Cheat Mountain Salamander (Plethodon nettingi).   Research highlights from his work with the Cheat Mountain Salamander include a study for the U.S. Forest Service on its range and distribution, a 31-year study of the effects of a ski slope on a population, a study on a transplanted population, numerous surveys for timber harvests and various types of rights-of-way, and several studies for the WVDNR, USFS, and USFWS.

Other studies have included the effects of diflubenzuron on forest terrestrial and stream salamanders, effects of Gypcheck and Bt on forest terrestrial and stream salamanders, effects of acid deposition on forest terrestrial and stream salamanders, potential effects of ultraviolet radiation on pond-dwelling amphibians, use of artificial road-rut pools by amphibians, and amphibian and reptile inventories in National Parks — New River Gorge National River, Bluestone Scenic River, Gauley National Recreational River, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, and Capitol Region Parks.

In 1987, Dr. Pauley co-authored a book entitled “Amphibians and Reptiles in West Virginia”, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.  This is the only book published on amphibians and reptiles in the state. He is currently working on the second edition of this book and a companion volume entitled “An Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in West Virginia”. Additionally, he is working on a book about his experiences with amphibians and reptiles in the Central Appalachians, anticipated for publication in 2020.

Dr. Pauley was a professor of biology at Marshall University from 1987 to 2013, preceded by 21 years of college teaching at Salem College in West Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, PA. While at Marshall University, he was the major professor of over 90 graduate students whose research dealt with amphibians and reptiles of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  Dr. Pauley currently serves on several graduate student committees at Marshall University and West Virginia University.

The Marshall University Herpetology Lab

Outstanding Student Presentation Award

Congratulations to Stephanie Morrison of Missouri State University for winning the Outstanding Student Presentation Award!!
Two exhibitions were planned as part of the 9th Hellbender Symposium. These were interactive, hands-on forums where people displayed or presented items relevant to the event.

Artificial Shelters

Significant advancements have been made in recent years with design and use of artificial shelters (a.k.a., nest boxes) for hellbender research, monitoring, and propagation. Because artificial shelter design and use is rapidly evolving, this forum allowed hands-on interaction and discussion with colleagues who are using different approaches.  Participants brought the latest advancements in artificial shelter design and other supporting props and materials (e.g., blueprints, video, posters) for an exciting interactive forum.

Photo from the Hopkins Lab, Virginia Tech.

Outreach and Education Materials

Collectively, our hellbender community has developed some very impactful outreach materials, but we haven’t really had a venue to highlight those activities/deliverables. A portion of the symposium was allocated for an “exhibit” of these materials. Exhibits displayed outreach materials, videos, and education program information. The goal of this exhibit was to provide a space to share ideas, develop new partnerships, and identify gaps in our outreach.

Anyone who produces outreach and educational materials was invited to participate in the exhibition. This activity was spearheaded by Dr. Rod N. Williams of Purdue University.

Photo by Rod Williams.
Registration Fee: $100.00
Student Registration Fee: $75.00
Partner/Spouse Fee (included dinner/socials only): $60.00


Registration Cost Included:


  • 2 days of presentations and updates from peers and colleagues contributing to hellbender conservation and biology
  • 2 exhibitions:
    • Hellbender nest box construction and implementation
    • Outreach and education materials
  • Social and dinner each evening of the program and live music
  • Free drink ticket at Monday and Wednesday’s socials, and drinks included for Tuesday night’s social
  • Commemorative event t-shirt:

T-shirts are Bella + Canvas Jersey, 100% pre-shrunk combed ringspun cotton jersey, which runs small for sizing.

T-shirt design will feature the Hellbender Symposium art created by Mark Mandica, founder and director of The Amphibian Foundation in Atlanta, GA:

Lodging & Meeting Venue:


 The Hyatt Place in Blacksburg, Virginia

The town of Blacksburg is nestled within the New River Valley and northern Blue Ridge Highlands region of the Virginia. Just 40 miles east of Roanoke, Blacksburg is home to Virginia Tech, fostering a bustling and diverse community in a picturesque, rural setting. The town is surrounded by an abundance of natural resources, including countless recreational trails and the ancient New River – one of the last strongholds for the eastern hellbender.

Appalachian culture is alive and celebrated throughout Southwest Virginia, where you can find Old Time musicians at the weekly Blacksburg Market Square Jam, an affiliated venue of The Crooked Road. True to the region’s heritage, the 9th Hellbender Symposium will feature local cuisine, live bluegrass and folk music, and a keynote speaker who has spent his career studying the herpetofauna of Appalachia. For those who had time to stay and play after the meeting, the 2019 meeting included an optional river-side social and lunch on Thursday afternoon.

new river 2


The Hyatt Place in Blacksburg offers convenience and comfort for our gathering in the New River Valley of Virginia. Amenities include a business center, fitness room, indoor pool, 24/7 dining and more. A room block for conference attendees is offered at The Hyatt Place Hotel for a rate of $108.00 per night plus tax, and a hearty breakfast buffet is complimentary each morning.


The primary meeting space for the conference was located within The Hyatt Place Hotel building, just adjacent to the lobby and dining areas. Several events during the symposium were held off-site at nearby locations, including the Holtzman Alumni Center and Lane Stadium South End Zone on Virginia Tech Campus.


On-site dining is offered at The Hyatt Place Hotel, to include a hearty breakfast bar, coffee-to-cocktails bar, and 24/7 grab-and-go and gallery menus.

Breakfast: Included in the lodging rate.

Lunch: On your own each day. An abundance of local and familiar cuisine is available within walking proximity. A map highlighting restaurant options was provided upon arrival.

Dinner: Included in the registration rate, each day of the program (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday)


Parking is free at the Hyatt Place, the conference meeting and lodging venue.

Roanoke–Blacksburg Regional Airport is the closest commercial airport with connections to major cities such as Charlotte, Orlando, New York and Chicago. For international service, Richmond International and Charlotte Douglas are just a couple of hours drive.

THANK YOU!  2019 Event Sponsors: