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Park Panel

Spring is a stirring in the north of England – at least the snowdrops seem to think so!

On Monday I paid a visit to an old haunt of mine, a little village called Euxton in Lancashire where once I used to live. Here, Euxton Parish Council has been doing wonders with the local park (Millennium Green) and have now created a large pond. A beautiful boardwalk will allow visitors an opportunity to observe the establishing wildlife as the pond matures. It’s a great spot, even in February, and one can only imagine what it will be like at the height of summer.

Lucy (of Learning with Lucy fame) kindly unveiled the information panel, which of course included all the amphibian life we hope people will observe here in the future!

Euxton Parish Council


Harlequin Heaven

Searching for frogs has become a big part of my life, since my early childhood where I spent days in and around my local park’s pond. However, the frogs searched for nowadays are somewhat rarer. Here I find myself deep in the humid primary forest of the Santa Fe National Park, Panama. For the past few days myself and colleagues from Panama Wildlife Conservation, have been looking for the critically endangered Harlequin Frog, Atelopus varius.

We have been granted special permission to work with the species, assess the population, and the unusual habitat it frequents, in an effort to collaboratively support this colourful amphibians’ conservation.


Harlequin Frog, Atelopus varius (c) Andrew Gray

The species lives in flowing watercourses through the jungle, preferring to frequent the sides of powerful waterfalls and the moss covered rocks of fast-flowing streams rather than the surrounding primary forest. This makes for treacherous work, which is proving really hard going, but seeing these animals in the wild is simply heaven!

The fieldwork is just one aspect of the project, which also includes environmental education with the local community and an ex-situ component at Manchester Museum.


Panama Wildlife Conservation


Signing of official collaborative agreement  (c) Universidad de Panama/PWCC

Over the past week or so it has been my great pleasure to spend time with my wildlife conservation-orientated colleagues in Panama, particularly Dr Luis Urena and Dr Eric Flores. During this time we signed the official collaborative agreement to facilitate the University of Manchester and the University of Panama working together in developing important academic links.


Atelopus certus (c) Andrew Gray. Kind courtesy of the Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Centre.

This will support international student learning, as well as facilitate important wildlife conservation collaboration. It was an honour to meet the President of the University (pictured) and the Ambassador of Panama. It was also wonderful to witness the excellent captive work being carried out at the Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Centre, where we were introduced to some amazing species of Harlequin Toad (Atelopus) by highly committed Gina Della Togna, who I would sincerely like to thank.


The Atelopus fieldwork aspect is particularly gruelling, but highly rewarding: searching for these Harlequins in the wild is truly magical, if not totally draining, as we spend several days negotiating slippery moss-covered boulders in fast flowing rivers, treacherous waterfalls, and dense, wet, tropical habitats these brightly coloured amphibians love to frequent.

Supporting the monitoring of Atelopus in the wild, and the collection of environmental data, is an important aspect of our collaborative project with PWCC in supporting these Critically Endangered amphibians.

More on what we find during our intense Harlequin Frog fieldwork coming soon!!!


The Story of Sylvia’s Frog


Film produced by Katie Garrett (@katieggarrett)

Cruziohyla sylviae


Paintings for Paignton

This week we had Luke Harding and Katy Upton from Paignton Zoo visit to collect ten Harlequin Toad specimens we are providing them with. The stunning specimens, which each look like they have been individually painted, are an unusual form of Atelopus spumarius. Paignton Zoo in Devon is now the only institution in the UK to keep these special South American toads.

Manchester Museum has previously maintained several species of Atelopus and this South American species was acquired to help us further develop our husbandry skills for keeping a related Central American species.

It’s a real pleasure for us to provide these specimens, which we can all learn from, in support of the great amphibian-related work already being conducted at Paignton Zoo. Knowing how committed Luke and Katy are to the amphibian conservation work at Paignton we feel confident the specimens will do very well there. It was really great to see them both again and we hope this will support the development of further links between our institutions.

Paignton Zoo Amphibian Ark Experience


Redwood visit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOut of all our fabulous teaching sessions there is one that is even more close to my heart – our Snails and Tails session. There are no snails actually involved – but certainly animals with tails and lots and lots of smiles!

This session was developed to support children with special educational requirements, allowing them to have a personal and very close up encounter with some of our most unusual vivarium creatures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s just amazing how the children and animals connect and what a wonderful experience the sessions can be for all involved.  This week we had a visit from the pupils of Redwood School, a pioneering secondary special school situated in Rochdale, Lancashire. The session was carried in our new space – Sylvia’s Place (named after the wallpaper we had made especially for it which features Sylvia’s Tree Frog 🙂                     It was truly magical.



Frog Forensics

PCR poster2This autumn Manchester Museum’s Vivarium in collaboration with Manchester University Stopford labs has been thrilled to pilot our first ever amphibian based genetics session for high school and college students. This session aims to encourage students to take the leap into the world of “frog forensics”, or amphibian DNA analysis, by introducing them to basic lab based tools such as PCR and gel electrophoresis. Using preserved specimens from our own unique collection, students learn about collecting and comparing DNA in order to identify different species.

The Frog PCR session brings environmental conservation and state of the art laboratory techniques together to inspire students of all academic backgrounds to engage in hands-on science!

Frog PCR Workshop