Last week I was in Green Bay, Wisc., for the American Arachnological Society meeting, which brought together about 100 researchers working with spiders and other arachnids. It was wonderful to see old friends and make spidery new connections. Hosted by my friend and fellow-linyphiid specialist Mike Draney, the meeting had presentations involving my favorite group, as well as a bit of actual linyphiid-themed meeting-swag (given that many Linyphiidae are only about 1 mm long, and all but unknown to regular folks, they do not usually feature much in merchandising). In three days of oral presentations, we heard talks on interactions between arachnids and carnivorous plants, neurotransmitters mediating spider inclination to socialize, opilionids that can wrap their legs all the way around a twig, and what happens when a love-struck spider needs to drum and the substrate is soggy -- to name just a few enticing topics.
Sunday the public was invited to a "casual night" of exotic photos (the campus newspaper noted that the entire room would erupt in choruses of "Awwww" at pictures of spider babies), and a wonderfully kinetic spider science session for kids put on by Matt Welter of Green Bay's Neville Public Museum. Among other things, the kids learned to draw pretty darn accurate pictures of spiders -- freehand! Another casual-night highlight was hearing that an opilionid collected from leaf litter has been living in moist moss in a photographer's fridge for a year now.
The banquet was in beautiful, sunset-lit Weidener Center on the UWGB campus. In an amazing touch, each table's centerpiece featured a live native spider in its natural habitat (all collected that day, they were released in the evening). The evening's auction (mostly of spider memorabilia) raised $2,678 for student research.
I live-tweeted the conference, including the talks, auction and highlights of a field trip to Toft Point in Door County. I have now storified that, along with a few other people's tweets, and you can see it here: http://storify.com/nsandlin/arachnology-2012-green-bay