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From Snowy Blizzards to Frogs and Lizards: A Canadian at the Vivarium

My name is Katherine and I have the great pleasure of introducing myself as the new Curatorial Assistant at the Manchester Museum Vivarium. I recently completed my Masters of Research in Biosciences at Cardiff University where I studied the prey diversity associated with the diet of the Asian water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.

My dissertation gave me the unique opportunity to study wildlife in the tropics, however my previous herpetological experience, and indeed my roots, come from a very different landscape.

Home for me is a small city in central Canada (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), where I completed my undergraduate studies in Environmental Biology. I went on to research reptiles and amphibians on the prairies with the Canadian Wildlife Services before moving to Vancouver, where I held the position of Aquarium Biologist Generalist at the Vancouver Aquarium. In addition to field work and husbandry experience, I’ve also had the good fortune of building upon my passion for education and public engagement, both through the Saskatoon Wildlife Federation ecology camps, and Vancouver’s Science World.

I very much look forward to both working with the host of incredible animals within the Vivarium collection, and the chance to engage with students who visit the museum, and share my enthusiasm for the conservation of the wealth of diversity on our planet. Thank you Manchester for the warm welcome!

Invertebrate involvement

Swallowtail Butterfly (c) Andrew Gray

Recently I was invited to attend the British invertebrate species survival meeting, organised by Jeff Lambert and kindly hosted by Coleg Cambria in Wales. It was a super venue and great to meet up with colleagues from various UK zoological collections as well as be introduced to new people, including some key individuals from the Zoological Society of London, Natural England, and Buglife UK.

During the meeting a list of invertebrates considered to be on the very brink of completely disappearing from the UK was presented. Until then I had no idea just how many of our rare invertebrate species were truly at imminent risk of vanishing.  

Dr Sarah Henshall from the superb organisation ‘Buglife’ also highlighted a new conservation programme, ‘Back from the Brink’, being run by Natural England and the Partnership for Species Conservation – a coalition of seven of the UK’s leading wildlife charities. By working together at sites across the country, ‘Back from the Brink’ will aim to save 20 species from extinction and help another 118 species that are under threat move to a more certain future. 

Ladybird Spider (c) Andrew Gray

It was also fabulous to hear more of how the rare Ladybird Spider conservation programme was developing – with great success it seems – successfully extending new populations from only 3 sites in the UK to now more than 15 within the last few years. This is one of my favourite spiders and I am very much hoping that in the future Manchester University can also support conservation research with the species. We also discussed several very rare beetles found in the UK, including the beautiful Tansy Beetle, Chrysolina graminis, and also Pot Beetles (Genus Cryptocephalus).

These really interesting beetles urgently require public involvement in their monitoring in order to help evaluate their current UK status and thus conservation requirements. Programmes that involve such valuable public involvement across Europe are already proving hugely successful, such as for the European Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)

Ladybird Spider

Back from the Brink

Buglife UK