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Christmas wishes

Most of us are dealing with the effects Covid has brought in one way or another, and at this time of year many of us will not be able to spend time with the ones we love.

One thing’s for sure, everything changes in time, and good and bad are all par for the course. Recently, a wise man I respect sent me the gift of some words, by William Blake, a poet I like very much. I thought them apt to share with you and hope you may get something from them too.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.

All of us here wish you a Peaceful Christmas and Good Wishes for the New Year

With Love from the Vivarium Team

12 Frogs of Christmas (2020)

What we do in life…


Ignition in Greater Manchester

Green wall with biodiversity enhancing planting © Matthew O’Donnell

The University of Salford’s Living Lab is a fantastic example of an urban green space. Launched in June 2021, this transformation has taken shape under the cloud of the pandemic, turning a somewhat unassuming site into a marvellous and thriving ecosystem in the heart of Greater Manchester. Through combining technology and nature in really innovative ways, Salford University has bloomed into life becoming a living model to measure the impact of works of this kind. The Living Lab, however, is only one component of a large ambitious new initiative led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Ignition Project.

The Ignition Project, announced in March 2019, looked to nature to provide answers to the complex questions that socio-environmental pressures present in urban environments around the world. Nature Based Solutions (NBS), work with the environment rather than against it, harnessing the power of the natural world to help mitigate some of the issues that our ever-changing climate and societal structure present.

Sustainable drainage trees at the University of Salford © Matthew O’Donnell

In recent years problems such as flooding, air pollution and over-heating have become increasingly common across Greater Manchester. Historic land clearance and development stretching back to the industrial revolution and continuing to the present day has left us with a legacy of concrete jungles, large areas devoid of green spaces that have exacerbated these issues. GMCA identified the dire need to tackle these problems head on; not only to tackle the looming climate crisis, but also to provide opportunities for people living and working within the combined authority to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that green spaces deliver.

This project is backed by a £4.5 million investment from the EU’s Urban Innovation Actions (UIA) initiative and comprised of 12 partners including the University of Manchester, local government, NGOs and business. The Ignition Project has aimed to facilitate the funding of model NBS such as rain gardens, street trees, green roofs and walls. Through its use of modern technology and novel funding methods, whilst measuring impact and lessons learnt, this is far more than an attempt to green wash urban spaces.

Rain garden at Salford University © Matthew O’Donnell

My personal experience of working in the Cockcroft laboratory, before and since the installation of the Living lab infrastructure, has been significantly improved. The planting around the outside of the building has already transformed the space that is now teeming with an array of wildlife. Lunch and tea breaks are now something to cherish; enjoying the sight and smells of biodiversity on my doorstep. The pandemic and associated lockdowns rekindled our collective appreciation of wildlife, walks and the natural world in many ways. It is encouraging to see projects such as Ignition that will help to blend this appreciation, its value to society and combatting climate impacts into our urban environments.

As COP26 in Glasgow gets underway, it is more important than ever to celebrate the positive and successful applications of NBS to illustrate ways of tackling the climate crisis head on.

COP21 – the time is now

All about otters!

Whilst working with a pair of Asian small clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus) for four years previous to my work here at the vivarium, I developed a keen interest and a soft spot for the species, so when at the start of the year I came across an opportunity to get involved with the work of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group I grabbed it, and have since been a part of a team of volunteers helping to produce content for their Facebook and Instagram pages.

The Otter Specialist Group (OSG) is part of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The objective of the group is to coordinate and bring together researchers all over the world to promote global otter conservation.

Source: Mersey Rivers Trust

Like amphibians, otters are present in almost every continent and are also at high risk of extinction, some species more than others. Only 50 years ago, the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), Britain’s only species of otter, came close to extinction and although faring better than many other species of otter, they are still classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN today, and although a rare sight, an otter was spotted in the River Irwell in Salford last year!

The OSG are working to make news and information readily available regarding global otter situations through their Facebook page, Instagram feed and website. We like to have a little fun too! On our Instagram feed, we celebrate otters, championing individuals, organisations and even whole countries that succeed in aiding otter conservation, research and education.

We explore the presence of otters in folklore, art and literature, and share sightings of wild otters across the world, so there’s something to interest, educate and entertain everyone! If you don’t love and appreciate otters already, you will after exploring the below links:

OSG Instagram


OSG Facebook

Call of the Wild

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How can listening to the sounds of nature be a way of sharing and developing our understanding of biodiversity and conservation?

A partnership between Cucusonic https://cucusonic.net/cucusonic a collective of Colombian biological scientists, anthropologists and musicians, the University of Manchester’s Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology and the charity In Place of War is aiming to do just that. The project and network was formed to record a bank of natural and bioacoustic sound recordings from the Neotropical forests of Colombia which were then shared with a team of internationally renowned electronic music producers who were invited to create incredible new music. A resulting new album has been produced and is being released any day now on 31st October from The Vinyl Factory https://thevinylfactory.com

The album features artists, including Bræv, Brian Eno, Coldcut, Fer Isella, Fingathing, Iggor Cavalera, Kate Simko, Laima Leyton, Martyn Ware, Matthew Dear, Mexican Institute of Sound and Osunlade

Call of the Wild: A collaborative project for understanding Biodiversity in Colombia through recording natural sounds and making music.

As part of the upcoming University of Manchester’s Festival of Climate Action – arts/environment event, we will discuss the idea behind the work, that the sounds of habitats and species such as birds, bats and frogs can be heard in different ways: as a measure of biodiversity, as a feature of the cultural imagination of local communities, as a creative resource for musicians to compose with and as a means of connecting to the conservation work of museums.

Join us live in conversation, and live from the Vivarium, to hear more on the project next Thursday (14 October) in the Virtual Climate Gallery (6-7pm) as part of Day 4 (Collaboration) at

The Festival of Climate Action

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