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Meeting at Myerscough

IMG_2309Today we visited Myerscough College in Lancashire, where Helen Murphy and Caroline Bowden (pictured) were kind enough to show us all around the Animal Academy there. The visit was fresh on the heels of a visit by the Animal Studies team from Myerscough to the museum this past week, which was specially organised by Helen.

This afternoon we was able to see the department at Myerscough that all the staff work in – from seeing the happy snuffling Kune Kune Pigs, that sit when asked, :-), to the colourful and very healthy bearded dragons that seem to have permeant grin on their faces as they meet you at the college’s reception!

Helen herself is a star. She originally started working at the Animal Academy back in 2009, and, after further developing her knowledge of reptiles, has helped extensively improve the reptile room at the college to ensure that all the animals are maintained there under the best conditions they can possibly provide. She undertook much of the development as part of her studies for her FdSc in Animal Welfare, and  her additions to the collection have included a Panther Chameleon, more Bearded Dragons and Leopard Geckos, Uromastyx, Plated Lizards, Royal Python, Redfoot and Sulcata Tortoises, and a Crested Gecko. As well as these new additions, the college also has some reptiles that have have been with them for many years, including a European Glass Lizard, which many of the staff worked with when they themselves were students.


Last year a foundation degree group undertook a project to convert an old fish tank in the foyer of the Animal Academy into a poison-dart frog exhibit (pictured above), and both Helen and her colleague Emma Harrison put a lot of time and effort into researching and helping the students achieve their goal. This started Helen’s fascination with amphibians, which led her to contact their former student Adam for some advice with the project. Adam went out to the college to assist in the new venture, and since the unit has started working with more and more amphibians. Although a large revamp for the Animal Academy is on the cards, which all the team are clearly looking forward to, the college currently offers a wide range of Animal Studies courses, from Level 1 to Degree level.

For more information, visit  www.myerscough.ac.uk

Swampy iguanas in Utila

Swampy IguanaHi, my name is Alexa and I used to work at the Manchester Museum with Andrew running the secondary and post-16 science programme there.

I am currently on a 7 month trip through Central and South America with my husband Sean, and Andrew asked me to contribute some posts to the Frogblog if I saw anything that may be of interest to its followers, which I was delighted to do!

So far, we have travelled through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and are currently in Honduras. We have spent the last few days on the island of Utila, off the northern coast of Honduras. While we were there, we went to the Iguana Research and Breeding Station. It was set up 15 years ago to research and protect the endemic species of spiny-tailed iguana to Utila (ctenosaura bakeri) or affectionately known as the swampy or wishiwilly as it lives in the mangroves on the island. They have over 30 lizards in the station ranging from the oldest one ever known to the baby ones that had been born in the last few months. Once they are about a year old, they will be released into the wild. There are also a couple of breeding pairs, but the station mainly collects the eggs from the wild, incubates them and then looks after the young ones in captivity until they are old enough for release and more likely to survive. Very little is known about this species of iguana an it is down to the dedication of the volunteers who run the station (both locals and from abroad) that this species still survives. The utila swampys were hunted almost to extinction and it’s habitat on the island is shrinking so the work they do it very important to keep the species alive.

Old Male Swampy IganuaThe station is open to the public and does tours, as well as educating tourists and locals about swampys and other species of animals that live on Utila. They also have other species of lizard, snakes, parrots and other animals there and take in any other reptiles or amphibians that have been hurt. To find out more about the swampy iguana and the fantastic work of the station, please look at their website below: www.utila-iguana.de or email them station@utila-iguana.com

During our time in Utila, we saw another rare species of lizard called ‘shakey leg’ due to its notable characteristic of shaking its leg every few steps! I have no idea why so if anyone could enlighten me that would be appreciated! It’s beautifully coloured and a really pretty lizard.

I have also included a few photos of other intersting animals that we have seen on our trip. I am afraid that I don’t know the names of most of them! Nicaragua and Cosa Rica are our next couple of countries, where we hope to spend some time in the rainforest so I will let you know if we see anything interesting.

Until next time…


P.S. if anyone is interested in following our blog of the trip, the link is http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/seanandalexa/1/tpod.html

Talk Dates


Interview in latest PRK Magazine



7th February, 2013 – University of Manchester, Manchester Museum: Frogs of Ecuador (further places now made available)

23rd March, 2013 – University of Manchester, National Science & Engineering week

25th March, 2013 – Sci-Bar (Macclesfield): Amphibian Conservation in Action