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The American Arachnological Society Conference is right around the corner and this year’s conference is being hosted…

The American Arachnological Society Conference is right around the corner and this year’s conference is being hosted by Andy Roberts at OhioStateNewark. The conference sponsors a great lineup of speakers (see details below) for their annual public event, “Casual Night with Arachnids”, and Science on Google+ will stream these presentations on Google+ in a Hangout On Air. Each talk will be approximately 10 – 12 minutes and there will be time to ask each presenter questions. Google+ members can submit questions using the Q & A app or by posting questions on the event post ( RSVP “yes” if you want to add this event to your Google calendar. Anyone can view this event live or watch the archived youtube video; however, individuals not using Google+ will have to submit questions to @spiderprofessor on twitter. Please use the hashtag #arachnids14 .

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Do you live in the Columbus area?

The event is open to the public and will be in the Reese Center at 1209 University Dr, Newark, OH 43055. See more details about the event here:

List of Presentations 

Times below are in EST.

7:00 – 7:20pm, Doug Gaffin, Mind-melding a scorpion.

7:20 – 7:40pm, Cara Shillington, Male versus wild: Radio-tracking tarantulas.

7:40 – 8:00pm, Bob Suter, Messing with time—see the invisible, hear the inaudible.

8:00 – 8:20pm, George Uetz & Dave Clark, Avatar 2.0: Digital imaging and (virtual) spider communication.

8:20 – 8:40pm, Rick Vetter, Mythconceptions of the brown recluse spider in Ohio.

8:40 – 9:00pm, Joe Warfel, Getting together with family: Spiders and their Relatives.


Douglas Gaffin, PhD (Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma)

Mind-melding a scorpion. Scorpions are secretive, mysterious, and patient animals. What are they thinking as they wait for hours in their burrows? Although we can’t answer that yet, we can use a trick called electrophysiology to listen in to their nerve cells and to get a sense of what they perceive. It looks like mad science, but I will lead you through the maze of equipment we use, demystifying the process and explaining how easy and useful it actually is.

Cara Shillington, PhD (Department of Biology, Eastern Michigan University)

Male versus wild: Radio-tracking tarantulas. Despite their notoriety and popularity in the pet trade, surprisingly little is known about tarantulas in their natural environment.  Where do they go and what do they do when they’re free of the glassy confines of your home aquarium? I will discuss many aspects of their life history and behavior both in captivity and in the wild.  Compared to most other arthropods, these animals are exceedingly long-lived (surviving 15 years or more in some cases).  Females remain in burrows for much of their lives, but mature males leave their permanent burrows in search of females. To track them, my students and I radio-tagged males to gather data on activities and distances travelled in their search of receptive females.  These studies have also allowed me to document some of the perils faced by males; extreme environments (hot and dry) as well as many types of predators.

Robert Suter, PhD (Department of Biology, Vassar College)

Messing with time—see the invisible, hear the inaudible. The natural world is full of sights and sounds that we can’t perceive because they happen too quickly or too slowly for our eyes and ears to capture and for our brains to interpret. By recording these sights and sounds at high speed and then playing them back more slowly, we reveal important details of the processes we are studying. Paradoxically, we also have trouble with events that happen very slowly. For these, we record at very slow rates and play back more rapidly. Examples will include spitting by spitting spiders, capsule construction by Clubiona riparia, and ballooning by wolf spiderlings (weather permitting).

George Uetz, PhD (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati) & David Clark, PhD (Department of Biology, Alma College)

Avatar 2.0:  Digital imaging and (virtual) spider communication. Although spiders would appear to have little in common with humans, we do share a characteristic of our visual senses that enable us to see moving images on TV screens.  We are using digital imaging and playback of virtual spider avatars in our research, revealing surprising insights about animal communication behavior.

Rick Vetter, MS (Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside)

Mythconceptions of the brown recluse spider in Ohio. Although the brown recluse spider is of potential medical importance, it is not a common spider in Ohio.  However, that does not stop people from elevating it to larger-than-life status where its reputation is overblown throughout the state.  Many myths and exaggerations occur in reference to the brown recluse which can be countered with solid information.  Science rocks!!

Joe Warfel, Photographer (Eighth Eye Photography)

Getting together with family: Spiders and their Relatives. An astounding variety of spiders and their arachnid relatives can be found in common, ordinary places like backyards, neighborhood parks, and even national parks.  From your yard to the world’s most exotic locations, more than 40,000 species of spiders exist.  Spider relatives such as harvestmen, scorpions, mites, ticks and others add many thousand more species making up the arachnids.  This presentation will highlight many colorful and amazing arachnids from around the world, representing the great diversity I have photographed in various habitats of North, South and Central America, Africa and Australia.  Every one of the arachnid orders have fascinating life stories to tell and help make up the great web of life on earth.  My goal is for everyone to “see with different eyes” the next time a spider or arachnid is viewed at home or anywhere else one might find them lurking.


Join the Conversation





  2. This is amazing! I want to hang out with all these scientists in order to continue to be extremely grossed out and fascinated in equal measure. Are any of the speakers still monitoring this topic? 

    If yes — how about a roundup on…

    1. your favorite arachnid encounter stories — esp bites/stings/etc. 

    2. favorite nature documentaries

    3. votes for most weird looking arachnid — and guesses about WHY THEY LOOK THAT WAY??!?

    Many thanks for an entertaining 2 hours. I would have stayed for even longer. And I CANNOT STAND to be in the same room as a real spider. That says a lot about how great this group was. You’ve given me additional respect (and… basis for fear) of these diabolically diverse and clever critters… 


  3. Science! Oh BELOVED SCIENCE! Why… why would you show me this.

    I shall not be able to sit down around any angle I can’t see clearly under for a good hour now… sigh

    I know, it’s an irrational fear, but these things scare the hell out of me. Uncanny Valley, right in the deepest cleft of it.


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