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Final year frogs

IMG_3304Hi! I’m Ben and throughout the final year of my Zoology degree at the University of Manchester I have been volunteering two days a week at the vivarium. This has supported my studies and has allowed me to get hands on with a live collection of amphibians and reptiles. The chance to make a difference in conservation and to work within a great herpetological collection has been second to none. Following on from my second year University field course in Costa Rica, I have had the pleasure of partnering my work here at the Museum with completing my final year project by filming and directing this short video.

I’m super excited to share with you the Vivarium’s brand new Variable Harlequin Toad Project in collaboration with the Panama Wildlife Conservation Charity (PWCC). This video spotlights the threats currently faced by amphibians and these special Atelopus toads and highlights our conservation work both here and in Panama. The film also provides rare and fascinating footage of our new toads, alongside the reasons as to why our work here at Manchester Museum is key to their survival. This has been a great opportunity and pleasure to make and I’m very grateful to everyone involved.

Click here to hear our male Atelopus varius calling:



The Variable Harlequin Toad Project: Benedict Wilson 

If you feel inspired by this video and new project then head to sponsorafrog.com to see how you can get involved too.


Aces at ACRS


Matthew O’Donnell presenting 2019 © Adam Bland

Last weekend I had the pleasure of presenting my current research at the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium – 2019 at Manchester Metropolitan University. A great conference which has a focus on early career researchers and future leaders representing exciting research from all around the world. A big thank you to all those involved in organising it!


My talk entitled – eDNA metabarcoding as a conservation tool for monitoring endangered amphibians, explored the work I have been conducting as part of my MSc Wildlife Conservation at the University of Salford, supported by the University of Manchester’s staff learning and development. This project is an exciting collaboration between the Molecular Ecology Group (MEG) at Salford, the live amphibian collections at Manchester Museum, Manchester Metropolitan University, London Zoo (ZSL) and our partners in Costa Rica – including Juan Abarca.

This incredible collaborative project is working towards optimising cutting edge environmental DNA research to use it for identifying populations of several of Costa Rica’s most endangered species. Developing techniques using collections here in Manchester has helped us to do this, so when we go to Costa Rica later this year we will have a better chance of getting some very exciting and valuable results. Stay tuned as I will be updating the blog over the coming months about this exciting research!


Inspiring researchers from around the world © Angel Favazza

Become an i-Naturalist – your City needs you!

Everyone’s observations of nature can contribute to biodiversity science – observations ranging from the rarest frog to the most common weed, can all contribute in more ways than you know!  When describing Sylvia’s Tree Frog last year I was able to reference a public observation in Panama that was most important – of a frog someone had simply uploaded a picture of onto i-Naturalist. It really helped support the scientific identification of the species’ range, and I bet the person who took and uploaded it didn’t know its significance or that i-Naturalist share their scientific data with repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility which helps scientists find and use the data.

Its really cool how everyone can contribute can make such a difference. Here at Manchester Museum all our Natural History curators are big fans of i-Naturalist. Dmitri, our Curator of Entomology, also recently identified a new spider to science from Hong Kong, all thanks to i-Naturalist and particularly the City Nature Challenge.


Tomorrow marks the start of the new City Nature Challenge, where cities around the world will be competing to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the 2019 City Nature Challenge. Its a great initiative, invented by citizen science staff at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Lila Higgins) and California Academy of Sciences (Alison Young). The City Nature Challenge is a  bioblitz-style international competition for people to find and document plants and wildlife in cities across the globe.

All you have to do is become an i-naturalist and observe:

Become an i-Naturalist

City Nature Challenge

Evening Event

J185DF-153I would like to give a huge thanks to all who attended our Panama Wildlife Evening and to all the staff and volunteers who supported it.

It was such a wonderful evening and one we all won’t forget here in hurry. It was also such a pleasure to welcome the Ambassador of Panama to the University and to have him open our collaborative Harlequin Frog conservation initiative.


Amphibian Ambassadors



Save the date!


PANAMA WILDLIFE EVENING  – THURSDAY 18 APRIL, 2019 – A amazing night of Panamanian frogs and festivities not to be missed!

Manchester Museum welcomes Critically Endangered Harlequin Frogs, Atelopus varius, to its collection and is the only institution in the world to house these striking animals outside Panama. These are the true form, and not a sub-species. We would like to mark the launch of the Harlequin Frog Project with a celebration of Panamanian culture and wildlife. The project is a unique collaboration with the Panama Wildlife Conservation Charity (PWCC) and the Ministry of the Environment in Panama. Come and enjoy the taste of Panamanian drink with latin music, see the wealth of rare frogs from behind the scenes, and find out more about the impact our research, environmental education, and conservation work is making in Latin America.



Iracambi internships

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of meeting with Binka La Breton, Director of Iracambi, an inspiring lady with a great passion for rainforest conservation. She visited us here at Manchester and gave a great talk to our students about the work being conducted at Iracambi and how they may get involved.

Iracambi is a community of people around the world whose vision is to see the beautiful Brazilian Atlantic Forest restored, with prosperous communities living in a flourishing landscape. At their headquarters in Minas Gerais, the Iracambi Research Center spearheads their work in managing natural resources, educating for sustainability, and researching ecosystems and how we impact them.

IracambiLogo_EN_Ver_ReverseThe Iracambi logo explains what they are about. The indigenous story tells that the forest is on fire, and all the animals are fleeing to safety. All except the humming bird. She is flying towards the fire with a drop of water in her beak. “Silly little bird,” shouts the eagle, looking down at her. “Don’t you see that you’ll never put out the fire all by yourself?”

You’re right,” says the humming bird. “I’ll  never put it out all by myself. But I’m doing my part.

At Iracambi they’ve been doing their part since 1999, and offer an opportunity for all those interested to be a part of the change.