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Scientist Loses Award After Acceptance Lecture Featured Students in Bikinis

The Herpetologists' League "regrets and apologizes for offensive content presented in the 2018 Distinguished Herpetologist lecture."
Image: Shutterstock

A scientist who won a “Distinguished Herpetologist Award” Thursday was stripped of the award Friday after delivering a plenary lecture titled “The Excitement of River Turtles from the Mississippi to the Amazon” in which he showed a presentation that included photos of former students, all of whom are women, in bikinis.

Dr. Richard C. Vogt’s presentation Thursday at the 2018 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists received widespread condemnation on Twitter from people who attended the lecture. Friday, the Herpetologists’ League, which gave him the award, rescinded it and said in a statement that it “recognizes the scope of the controversy” stemming from Vogt’s selection as an awardee.


“HL does not condone harassment or discrimination in any of its forms,” the organization said. “HL regrets and apologizes for offensive content presented in the 2018 Distinguished Herpetologist lecture.”

Vogt did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment from Motherboard.

According to people who were in attendance at Vogt’s lecture, a member of the conference’s audiovisual team censored many of the images by placing blue squares over parts of women’s bodies in the photos.

“It's just a really sleazy situation that undermines the comfort, the success and the importance of a diverse group of scientists here at the conference,” Dr. Emily Taylor, a herpetologist and Associate Professor at California Polytechnic State University who attended the conference, told Motherboard. “When we do field work in tropical areas, it’s often times very hot so people might be wearing like a sports bra or a bikini or something. It’s not a big deal,” but added that Vogt “showed these photos in an explicitly suggestive way.”

Jessica Ford, a first year Master's student at McGill University who attended Vogt’s lecture said “a few people walked out, but most people either were flabbergasted or nervously laughed.”

“Why does he have these pictures and why does he think its okay to show these pictures?,” she said. “I was rather disgusted and I’m pretty sure most people were.”

According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Vogt gave another lecture Friday in which he included photos of turtles having sex that it said was unrelated to the topic of the lecture.

The event’s sponsor, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, said in a statement that it “deplores any activity that objectifies individuals or groups. We are committed to creating an inclusive and diverse environment for all members of ASIH and JMIH.”