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Becoming part of the Amphibian Foundation team

04 August 2023

The Amphibian Foundation is home to amazing people

One of the amazing aspects to my visit to North America has been meeting with so many people that share similar interests. A particular privilege today is becoming part of the Amphibian Foundation, based in a fantastic facility in Atlanta GA. The founder of AF, Mark Mandica, is a long-term friend who I first met while he was doing his MSc at Miami University back in 2003. Mark and I have kept in touch ever since those days, and this has seen both of us move around quite a bit. Mark, and partner Crystal, has done great things at the Amphibian Foundation and are constantly building on their success.

I was greatly honoured by their request for me to become part of their affiliated faculty, to which I have happily accepted today.

The Amphibian Foundation has an amazing outreach programme with hundreds of participants from the local area learning about respect for local amphibians and reptiles as well as their global needs. When one a five minute break from their class time activities, they all rushed out to the parking lot where they immediately started flipping rocks looking for toads. These kids are very serious about having a lot of fun in the field with amphibians!

The Amphibian Foundation also has some serious amphibian conservation ambitions. For example, their plans to help the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander, Ambystoma cingulatum, include both rehabilitating habitat and captive breeding for a headstarting programme (see here).   

I'm proud to be affiliated with this team of amazing herpetologists.

Contact me at the Amphibian Foundation:  

  Frogs  Lab  prizes  Xenopus

Portant nomination au titre d'attache honoraire

26 June 2023

Using Museum National D'Histoire Naturelle as my address

Today I learned that from 1st August 2023, I will become an Honorary Attaché of the Natural History Museum, Paris. Readers of this blog will know that I have a long association with the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle  in Paris, dating back to the early 2000s when I worked at IRD, Bondy. Since 2006, my long term collaborator Anthony Herrel has held an associated CNRS position at the museum, and hence I've visited even more (see here).

Many of you will also know Laurie Araspin, who is registered both at the museum and at Stellenbosch University (see blog posts on Laurie here and here). 

For the next five years, I will be an attaché of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, which I hope will bring more opportunities to collaborate with researchers there. Looking forward to visiting in my new role before the end of the year.

Dan graduates

30 March 2023

Graduation time for Dan

Dan van Blerk has been in the MeaseyLab since his Honours project in 2019 (see here), when he conducted a literature review on the impacts of invasive lizards around the world. In late 2019, Dan and I met with Olaf Weyl to plan Dan’s MSc fieldwork over the next two years. With all three of us filled with enthusiasm for the upcoming adventure and what it would achieve, we were about to find out that fate had other plans.

Very sadly, Olaf died later that same year, and subsequently did not get to participate in any of the plans. He is greatly missed, and we continue to remember his initial enthusiasm for the project. Happily, Josie Pegg was soon on hand to take over from the SAIAB side, and in doing so saved the project. However, just as we were about to deploy Dan into the streams of the Western Cape, we were hit by another big setback. The world suddenly shut down, and with it Dan was confined to quarters and we decided that we’d have to conduct at least one of his chapters as a literature review instead of in the field as planned.

During 2021, Dan managed to get two notes published on natural history observations that he’d made during his time in the MeaseyLab (van Blerk 2021 a,b).

Eventually, Dan did get out into the field and surveyed many locations in many streams for ghost frog tadpoles and invasive fish. The work was a real advance for conservation evidence in the impacts of invasive fish on these frogs. Dan presented his work in the Conservation Symposium (see here). We got used to seeing Dan presenting online and in person (see here and here). His findings have already been submitted to Aquatic Invasions, and we hope to announce publication of his chapter soon. Watch this space. Dan defended his MSc work in February this year (see here).

It was great having Dan in the lab, even if he didn’t spend much of the three years physically with us. We wish him all the best in his subsequent career and hope that he’ll keep in touch.

Read more:

van Blerk, D. (2023) The Impacts of Invasive Fish on Ghost Frog tadpoles. MSc thesis, Stellenbosch University.

Van Blerk, D., Reissig, J., Riley, J.L., Measey, J., Baxter-Gilbert, J. (2021) Observations of infanticide and cannibalism in four species of cordylid lizard (Squamata: Cordylidae) in captivity and the wild. Herpetology Notes 14: 725-729. pdf

Van Blerk, D., Measey, J., Baxter-Gilbert, J.H. (2021) Predation by a Brown Widow Spider, Latrodectus geometricus (Koch, 1841), on a Common Dwarf Gecko, Lygodactylus capensis (Smith, 1849), with a review of the herpetofaunal diet of Latrodectus spp. Herpetology Notes 14: 291-296. pdf

  Frogs  Lab  prizes

Hybrid CIB ARM for 2022

24 November 2022

The CIB holds its final ARM as a hybrid event

Every year the CIB holds an Annual Research Meeting as an opportunity for students to present their work to an audience of peers and the CIB network of Core Team Members, affiliates and associates. This year sees the last meeting in the role of the CIB under the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence. The 2020 and 2021 events were both online affairs. 

Three MeaseyLab students presented their research findings at the meeting:

Laurie Araspin started the show by presenting a chapter from her PhD work on "Locomotor performance in Xenopus laevis" Laurie is a co-tutelle student with Anthony Herrel's MECADEV lab at the Natural History Museum in Paris.

Next Dan van Blerk presented a chapter of his MSc work on "The impact of invasive fish on ghost frog tadpoles", work that he conducted in collaboration with Josie Pegg from SAIAB. 

Lastly, Jonathan Bell presented some preliminary results from his MSc work on "Optimising conditions for controlling the invasive guttural toad". Jonathan is conducting his MSc at the CIB, but also works full time for the City of Cape Town invasive species unit.

Congratulations go to Laurie and Dan, both of whom won runners up prizes in their categories for best presentation.

Prize winning Jenicca

26 June 2020

A big congratulations to Jenicca Poongavanan who won best poster at the first virtual International Statistical Ecology Conference 2020

Some of you may remember that Jenicca did her MSc with Res Altwegg, Ian Durbach and myself in SEEC at UCT. Jenicca used aSCR (generated by Marike Louw) to investigate the spatial distribution of densities of the Peninsula Moss Frog, Arthroleptella lightfootii.  To read more about Jenicca's thesis, and aSCR in general see here and here. Jenicca has since moved to a lab in Florida where she now studies sea-birds (see here).

Poongavanan, J., Altwegg, R., Durbach, I. Measey, J. 2020 Modelling the range-wide density patterns of the Arthroleptella Lightfooti using acoustic monitoring data. (Poster) International Statistical Ecology Conference  (virtual): June 22-26, 2020.

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