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Early years at Bank Hall

A big thanks to Bank Hall Nursery for inviting me to share Manchester Museum’s education collection of live animals with tots at their 30th anniversary. It was a special day, with fantastic support. The children loved all that had been put together for them to enjoy, which was done with so much thought. It was a pleasure to be apart of and my hope is that my small contribution will go some way to developing an interest in nature that leads them to caring for it in the future.

Continuing to INSPIRE

Last week Manchester Museum closed its doors and will remain closed until late 2022. It’s a major development for us but we will open with a larger, more inspirational, and even more inclusive museum than ever.

We are all working hard behind the scenes to ensure this will be the case, and non more so that our Director, Esme Ward, who’s commitment is our inspiration.

We continued to deliver our live public outputs right up to point when our doors closed last week, with external visits to local children including a visit with the live animals to Chorley’s INSPIRE Youth Group (below).

Don’t worry you can still follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with all the latest developments whist we are closed, and of course here on the frogblog. Our Manchester Museum From Home is also a great place to continue exploring our collections and learning about all our museum objects – and if you would like to visit the Vivarium you can still do so Virtually Here.

Whilst the Vivarium is closed we will be ensuring the animals are well kept and also working on the new Harlequin Toad exhibit, which will be our main exhibit when we re-open and be officially launched by the Ambassador of Panama in 2022. It will be a most stunning exhibit and a full naturalistic replica of the species’ natural habitat in the Santa Fe National Park. This state of the art exhibit will also feature specimen plants and other rare animals from this unusual tropical environment and be the only place in the world outside Panama you will be able to see the unique harlequin frogs that live there.

I promise, it’ll be worth the wait.

Recent teaching at INSPIRE To INSPIRE

BBC Features


BBC Wildlife Magazine Feature 2021

International Orangutan Day

Orang-Hutan translates to Person of the Forest. Today is the annual International Orangutan Day. This international event aims to promote the conservation and welfare of these critically endangered people of the forest so closely related to us and encourage the protection of their habitat. 

There are still approximately 2,000 to 3,000 orangutans being killed annually. Along with this, orangutans have lost over 80% of their natural habitat over the last 20 years.




Natures Rights – Who cares?

What are ‘Nature’s Rights’, and who is prepared to stand up for them? 

My guest in conversation for this Podcast is Dr Martha Dietrich, Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.

As you will know, here at the museum our team’s work focuses on wildlife conservation, specifically amphibians, with the Vivarium being home to many critically endangered species, including the Harlequin frog, and a number of rare species from Ecuador.

In 2008, amendments were made to the Ecuadorian constitution to integrate nonhuman claimants into judicial processes, and Martha’s research in the country has examined the practical application – debates and outcomes – of nature’s rights claims in the court of law. Most recently she has been involved in a ground-breaking case brought against the Ecuadorian state to stop the copper mining company, Codelco, from exploration work in the Intag region of Ecuador, an area with a high number of endangered frog species.

These frogs brought our two worlds together and today we discuss what this case could mean for the future rights of the natural world, and humanity caring for it.

Click the image below and scroll down the page to join our conversation.


Ecologist Article

Vapid Vapers treat Manchester like a toilet

Just home from work, with a sick feeling in my stomach. I had to write this before I can even eat. I spent the last 25 years trying my best to inspire a care and commitment to the environment, globally, but with the majority of work at Manchester Museum being aimed at supporting the local community in Manchester to be more social responsibly aware.

It’s heartwarming when you witness the positive results, of which there are many, but it seems there will always be some elements of our society that just can’t be reached. Tonight the adults in the car in front of me, just a stones throw from the University (literally a couple of streets away), launched their empty McDonnalds cup from their window. They had 2 small children in the back.

And this is not a one off, as many of the streets in Manchester can bear witness to. It makes me ashamed to be a human being, I know many other animals that are much cleaner. Those (*uneducated people) that litter our planet don’t think twice, they have NO respect at all, for anything. And this is what they are teaching their children as we try hard to help them learn a different way to live.

As I looked out of my car, the number of discarded vape bottles littering the street around me was unbelievable. The recording below is just down one side and does not go half way to showing the extent of the litter down this road as an example of some of the roads near Manchester City Centre. It’s not easy to miss and seemed to get worse the further I went.

Heartbreaking and absolutely disgusting to see..

(In some ways I have to be politically correct in my wording here but I hope you understand where I am coming from).

How many Vape bottles can you spot?

Love of Nature

This week I received a lovely surprise from my friend John Hamilton – a copy of his new book ‘The girl who really really really loves Nature‘ with a special dedication too me in the front. I am so chuffed and thanked John so very much.

Available from all good booksellers: ISBN 978 0 565 09509 3

John has been a practising artist for over 20 years and recently completed an MA in Children’s Book Illustration. His work has been exhibited widely across the UK and in USA and he has work in private collections in the UK, Australia, Germany, Cyprus and USA.

This is a wonderful children’s book about exploring nature and is about Lara who goes exploring with her trusty bucket. Lara loves nature – she’s nuts about nature. She explores her back garden with her dog Cassie, and discovers bird’s nests, caterpillars, worms and snails. But she really really really wants to learn more about the mysterious creatures she finds at the pond…

John Hamilton Artist

Hazel dormice – back on our map!

Dormouse on release day : Clare Pengelly

The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is an arboreal species of mouse which is golden brown in appearance with a feathery tail and is native to the UK. The dormouse is a charismatic species, known for dozing in a ball throughout the day in neat circular nests with their tails tucked over their heads. Unfortunately they are considered a vulnerable species in the UK as populations have halved in the last 20 years.

Over the last two months, with the support of Manchester museum vivarium, I have been lucky enough to get involved with a hazel dormouse reintroduction project in my local area. The project is a collaboration between the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Natural England, the Morecambe Bay Partnership and the University of Cumbria’s Back on our Map project.

Volunteers checking for suitable habitat for nest box installation : Bethany Dean

The project brought 30 hazel dormice to an undisclosed location in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB in Lancashire which were bred in captivity, raised and quarantined at London Zoo ready for reintroduction last month. During the quarantine period, the health of the dormice was monitored and they were checked for any disease or parasites to ensure the mice were in fighting fit condition on their release.

Dormouse nest box and footprint tunnel : Bethany Dean

The habitat was specially chosen for its promising qualities of dense tree canopy, habitat connectivity and the presence of a variety of tree species that dormice show a particular preference for, including hazel and rowan trees. In preparation for the reintroduction, a team of volunteers including myself helped to install 200 dormouse nest boxes across the reintroduction area.

The nest boxes ensure the dormice have immediate resources for nest building and to enable close monitoring of the dormouse population by licensed project staff and volunteers. Footprint tunnels were also installed close to the nest boxes as a further measure to help understand their movements in their new habitat.

This is the first of two hazel dormouse releases planned for the area, the plan being that by next summer 80 dormice may have been released into the area. I for one am excited to see how the population develops and am hopeful for a future with dormice back in my local area where they belong!

Back on our map

Peoples trust for endangered species

Duke of Burgundy

Morecambe bay partnership

Uncovering the decline of common toads in the UK

Hi, my name is Rémi Martin and I have been invited to post about my PhD which investigates why toads in the UK are declining. During the past two decades, there has been growing concern about the decline of many common toad (Bufo bufo) populations across the UK. Despite recognition of decline, little is known about the extent and its causes (where and why?). This is partly due to a lack of extensive demographic surveying of the common toad population, especially when compared to more emblematic British species such as the natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita).

In absence of such studies, genetic assessment of populations across the country appears as a good approach to quickly assess population health. The main focus of the PhD project consists of gathering genetic samples from diverse populations across the whole of the UK that would help draw a (partial) genetic map of the country.

Samples are collected by non-invasive mouth swabbing. Looking also at museum specimens (including some of those maintained in Manchester Museum’s collection) will also enable us to compare past and present genetic diversity for some precise localities, giving us more clues into understanding fluctuations in the size of populations. Restricted to some specific localities in Shropshire, we would also like to take a closer look at the potential causes involved in population decline, monitoring some environmental contaminant in ponds during tadpole development.

Overall this project is a first step towards answering the question: where are populations declining?  But much more would be needed to answer the question: why? A mixture of various factors is expected to be responsible for decline and the relative importance of each factor is likely to vary locally. We hope the results generated by this research (that are yet to come) will give some insight into understanding the common toad rarefaction in Britain and serve as a basis for future conservation actions at the national level.

Common toad, Bufo Bufo


Bufo bufo Project

ARC Trust

Quite a Splendid Tadpole

I would like to share with you about a special frog that’s very close to my heart..

Cruziohyla calcarifer, the original Splendid Leaf Frog, which originates from Ecuador was first discovered almost 120 years ago – It’s a species that has remained extremely rare and very difficult to study in the wild. I first saw and read about it in an animal encyclopaedia when I was about 7 years old, and I was lucky enough to first come across it in Ecuador about 20 years ago thanks to Morley Reid, Luis Coloma and Santiago Ron. Only approximately 50 adult specimens have been found since it was first described and almost nothing has been known of the frogs’ breeding biology. Although somewhat confused with that of C. sylviae, to date the tadpole of the true C. calcarifer has never been described.

However, following detailed research and the first captive breeding of the species in captivity we are able to detail the species’ breeding biology and tadpole for the very first time. As such, it gives me great pleasure to share with you the resulting paper published in the British Herpetological Society’s Journal of Herpetology.

The work has been good to focus on during lockdown and represents a collaboration between myself and Konstantin Taupp, and also Loic Denes from the Paris Zoo, who’s captive work with other species in this genus is well recognised. The support and genetic work of Franziska Elsner-Gearing from the University of Manchester’s faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health has been instrumental, and another top contributor from Manchester, David Bewick, kindly provided accompanying illustrations. I would sincerely like to thank them all for their highly valued contribution to this significant herpetological description.