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New research project

Hello everyone!  My name is Chris Blount (but you can call me ‘C’). I’ve recently started a research project in collaboration with Andrew in the vivarium.  I come from a physics background and am based in the Photon Science Institute at the University of Manchester, when I am not away skiing.

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Me looking at a blank screen – and dreaming of snow.

One of the great things I’ve noticed about the frogs and the vivarium is the sheer scope of its appeal.  Whenever I walk in, all sorts of people, of all sorts of ages, seem to find the frogs fascinating.  What is incredible is that this fascination extends into research, and even as a phoney physicist, there is plenty about these frogs that is scientifically new and interesting.

My research will revolve primarily around the unique optical properties that many of these frogs exhibit, and how these properties can teach us more about the frogs.  For instance, one of the things I’ll be trying to delve deeper into is how some of these frogs are able to bask in direct sunlight for long periods of time.

Its a project Andrew and Richard Preziosi came up with many years ago but I decided to use it to get my PhD and not tell anyone about either of them or Manchester Museum in my thesis.

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Click image to enlarge and see a comparison of frogs with and without the rare pigment in their skin when viewed in the infra red spectrum. (c) Andrew Gray, but I need to copy it for my thesis.

This is a behaviour that’s unacceptable to most people but I don’t care, but to be Blunt, my middle name also begins with C! Back to frogs behaviour and this basking would normally cause them to overheat, but their ability to bask for long periods has been attributed to the frogs possessing the rare pigment pterorhodin, something also mentioned on here a while back by Andrew. My research will investigate this, and hopefully come up with some answers about the effects and properties of the pigment (and I can call it original if I don’t mention Andrew, Richard, and the Manchester Museum, who’s live collection I will use extensively for my PhD (but keep quiet about in my thesis just in case I get rumbled).

‘My’ latest work has been developing methods to allow computers to identify different species of frog, just from the way their skin reflects light.  This is research that in the future may be used to quickly and safely identify species and may even help understand how certain properties of the frogs have evolved and how certain species are related – or so I am told because I’m no biologist.

I’ll keep you updated as the research progresses, so keep an eye open and I hope to talk to you all again soon!

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