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Manchester frogs go to USA!

new imageThanks to Ron Gagliardo (AmphibianArk) and Atlanta Zoo, this weekend I will be taking several Splendid Leaf Frogs, Cruziohyla calcarifer, with me to America. They are part of an international conservation initiative that was started many years ago.  The breeding programme was first started in Manchester in 2000 with the aim of establishing an ‘Ark’ for the species. Over the years breeding has gone well and the bloodlines  have been carefully managed at The Manchester Museum, who deserve all credit for supporting their care. This species only lays very few eggs, but through experience we have been gaining a really good idea of how to raise and maintain these frogs in the best possible conditions. Keeping the species has also facilitated much research, including work for my own Master Degree and also several excellent Manchester student projects. The research has helped us learn much about this wonderful species, from providing a unique perspective into territoriality, communication and dietary requirements, to enabling a thorough comparison with other closely related species (to see an example of a supervised student project on a calcarifer/craspedopus comparison click here: calcarifer eye morphology. Also, the unusual phenomenon of ‘leg-waving’ in phyllomedusines was first witnessed with the captive specimens: https://frogblogmanchester.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/tree-frog-leg-waving/                              

Frogs bred at the museum are now being distributed to world zoo’s that have the necessary skills to maintain them in optimum conditions; Some have already been provided to Bristol and Chester Zoo in England. I must admit that the conservation of these particular frogs is so close to my heart, and so am extremely pleased that they are going to others who fully appreciate how very special they are. Perhaps more importantly, it’s good to know that the species is now doing so well in the wild, thanks to the likes of Brian Kubicki at the CRARC in Costa Rica.

Video clip of the frogs in the Wild: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7597118.stm)

Story in UniLife Magazine: http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/medialibrary/unilife/vol6-issue8.pdf

Bank Holiday Talk!

Apart from giving talks for under 12’s in the Museum, over the forthcoming months I am also very pleased to be giving several other presentations. Its always a pleasure for me to talk on my favourite subject – but be warned that its hard to stop me once I start! During some of the talks I will be highlighting the plight of the worlds amphibians and talking from a personal perspective about the conservation of some of the rarest and most fragile species. Most of  the talks will be between 40 minutes to an hour in length and will focus mainly on my work, conserving endangered frogs, and the importance of education and research. If you have the opportunity to come along then it would be great to meet you. At some events I will have some of the live frogs in question with me, but at all of them I will be making plenty of time for a chat afterwards.  The dates for the talks so far are as follows:   

3rd June –  Altlanta Zoo, GA, USA . 12 noon. For further info contact: ron@amphibianark.org

6th June – Manchester Museum, UK,  Go green! (For over 12yr old) 2pm in the Kanaris Theatre: http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/whatson/june/

9th June – Manchester Museum, UK, (For Science Teachers) also see: http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/learning/

12th June – Manchester University, UK, Smith Building 6pm (For students, staff and public over 12 years old) Contact richard.preziosi@manchester.ac.uk

23rd June – Manchester Museum, UK, (For secondary students) http://learningmanchester.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/meet-the-scientist-with-his-frogs-and-reptiles/

15th July – Manchester Museum, UK, (For secondary students) see above for details.

16th July – Manchester Museum, UK, (For secondary students) see above for details.

8th August – Manchester Museum, UK,  Nature Discovery Day session (For over 12 years olds) Details to follow.

31st August – SciBar, Didsbury, Manchester, UK. 6.30pm http://www.scibar.info/


IMG_3355The adult male Fat-tailed gecko who is the star of our education talks has just become a father!  Here is a pic of the tiny hatchling that emerged just 3 hours ago! Mother and baby are doing fine! 

More photos at http://is.gd/BZpT  and to keep up to date with all our other museum news see http://twitter.com/McrMuseum

Green-eyed frog update!

The year before last I joined forces with my friend Mark Wainwright to try and help secure the future of a Critically Endangered Costa Rican frog, Lithobates vibicarius.  This beautiful green-eyed frog, which was once abundant in Costa Rica and Panama, is now restricted to just one pond in the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  Following a guelling 2 day hike to the site, situated high on a mountain ridge far into the cloud forest, to our amazement we found a huge aggregation of the frogs breeding. To me it was a sight reminiscent of the last time the Golden Toads were ever seen at Monteverde, so I was especially pleased to have been given special permission from the Costa Rican Authorities to collect a few tadpoles, just in case the same thing happened to this amazing species. Here is a short clip of the frogs breeding that Mark recorded: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7611258.stm

Although more than 99% of these tadpoles tend to die in the wild, I was pleased that all the ones we collected survived. But the collection of the few tadpoles would be only the start of what we hoped might become a really important conservation initiative involving supporting the species in-situ, in Costa Rica.  Upon my return, I tried desperately to get support for the preliminary conservation initiative I proposed. Chester Zoo welcomed the opportunity to support such an important project and in July I met with Douglas Sherriff and Richard Gibson, the Curator of Herpetology at Chester to progress the project. https://frogblogmanchester.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/welcome-to-frog-blog/.

DSCF0178The following September, Richard and Douglas, together with Steph Dawson (Manchester Conservation Biologist) would join me on a return visit to Monteverde, not to collect frogs, but to provide support and help facilitate the in-situ conservation of the species.    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7612961.stm.

Over the past year, the preliminary project supported has been extremely successful in training people on the ground, collecting new environmental data, and screening the frogs for Chytrid. Credit, and my sincere thanks, go to all involved and especially Mark Wainright and Chester Zoo.

Please click here for the most recent project report: Lithobates vibicarius project report

Green-eyed frogs supplied by Manchester Museum to Chester Zoo

Collecting Frog DNA

IMG_2835Research using DNA helps us to understand frog populations better so in many cases we can help conserve them more effectively. Together with my colleague Dr Cathy Walton, I have been developing  DNA techniques for evaluating the genetic status of several species so that different populations or separate ‘species’                                                                               can be identified for individual conservation.


The year before last we went to the north of Thailand to assess various amphibian populations and to trial collecting DNA samples by simply swabbing the frogs’ mouths. The fact that we won’t have to take a single blood sample from a live frog to do our research is key, as it’s very important to us that all our work is completely non-invasive. The procedure worked a treat and afterwords all the samples were highly usable in the lab. It was my first time in Thailand and it was a really wonderful trip. Above is a picture of Cathy and I collecting a sample from a large Racophorous tree frog, R. nigropalmatus (pictured).

We were staying with extremley kind people belonging to a hill tribe in a remote area in the far North. It was very cool, and so were the frogs that we were looking at – large flying frogs that had the most amazing colours and webbing on their hands and feet! Fantastic, they reminded me of a species I have worked quite extensively with from Costa Rica, Agalychnis spurrelli.

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