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Sirkelsvlei - Xenopus in the mix

10 May 2024

Sirkelsvlei - there's more than meets the eye

For many years, the MeaseyLab conducted monitoring of Xenopus gilli in Cape Point. We also conducted a lot of research during that period and, thanks to the excellent work of Andre de Villiers, learned a lot about the biology of this species.

Now, Sue Matthews, has written up some of this information in a feature article for the magazine Water Wheel.  In the article Sue tells the story of this special vlei that occurs in Cape Point. She also takes the opportunity to tell her readers a lot more about the story of Xenopus gilli  conservation. It's well worth a read!

Further Reading:

Matthews, S. (2024) Sirkelsvlei - Taking a stroll through Cape Point’s largest permanent waterbody. Water Wheel.  pdf

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Navigating the student-advisor relationship

09 May 2024

A new chapter on the student-advisor relationship

A couple of weeks back, I read a review of "How to write a PhD in Biological Sciences: a guide for the uninitiated", where the author was critical of the book for not having any information on how to navigate the "tricky topic of the student-supervisor relationship". I had never really thought that this was part of the book, but on reflection, the book has advice on how to write emails, and the other book ("How to publish in Biological Sciences") has a chapter on bullying, so perhaps it is a good topic for a new chapter in Part 1 of "How to write a PhD in Biological Sciences: a guide for the uninitiated". 

It turns out that there is quite a lot of literature on this topic. 

Usually, I paste the entire new chapter into this Blog, but it turns out that this chapter is quite large, and of course all you have to do is click on the above image and you can read it in situ

Instead, here I will provide some highlights:

4.1 Expectations

4.1.1 Keep your expectations real

4.1.2 Student-advisor agreements

4.1.3 Other students and postdocs in the group

4.2 Power imbalance

4.2.1 Relationships between advisors and their students

4.2.2 Conflicts of interest

4.3 Communication

4.4 Meetings

4.5 Responsibilities

4.5.1 Time-management

4.6 Respect and Professionalism

4.6.1 Take advice

4.6.2 Personal problems

4.7 When things do go wrong

4.8 Having more than one advisor

4.9 Celebrations

4.9.1 Share the down times

As ever, if you spot that there is something missing or something wrong, please get in touch and let me know. 

There are other updates to other chapters too, including:

On reflection, it seems I've been quite busy with the book and that there is quite a lot of new content. Of course, this is the real advantage to bookdown and having the book as a living project. 

  Lab  Writing

Red Listing the amphibians of southern Africa - again

10 April 2024

The first GAA3 meeting for Red Listing the amphibians of southern African 

The first Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA) took place in various workshops around the world from 1999 to 2002 (see Stuart et al 2004). I got involved by helping to assess the South African pipids while at University of the Western Cape (Measey 2004), and later at a workshop in Watamu, Kenya in April 2002.

I hosted the first re-assessment of South African amphibians in 2009, a process that incorporated the published strategy for conservation research on southern African amphibians. Together with other members of the workshop, we turned the results of this meeting into a book (Measey 2011), which I edited, and was published by SANBI in early 2011. The book is available as a free pdf to download, and you can get your own copy here

We repeated the Red Listing process again in November 2015 (see here) as well as appraising the results of the previous meeting (Measey et al. 2019), and these results were carried into the second Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA2), one of the outputs of which was published last year (see here) (Luedtke et al. 2023).

The assessments should be updated every five years, and so it was high time to do it again. This time we got together at the Calders Hotel in Fish Hoek.

It’s quite fun to see the faces in these images ageing. There has been a loss of a few of the older faces too. But the really great thing was to see the large number of new faces who brought with them some excellent expertise that amazed me. The workshop was hosted by Josh Weeber and current IUCN southern African Amphibian Specialist Group (IUCN-SSC) Chair Jeanne Tarrant.

This is officially the first workshop of the GAA3!

Although we spent four days solidly assessing the amphibians, we didn’t finish. Lots more work to do before we can submit the updates and have them published on the Red List site. Stay tuned for this update.

Further Reading:

Luedtke, J.A., Chanson, J., Neam, K., Hobin, L., Maciel, A.O., Catenazzi, A., Borzée, A., Hamidy, A., Aowphol, A., Jean, A., Sosa-Bartuano, Á., Fong G, A., de Silva, A., Fouquet, A., Angulo, A., Kidov, A.A., Muñoz Saravia, A., Diesmos, A.C., Tominaga, A., Shrestha, B., Gratwicke, B., Tjaturadi, B., Martínez Rivera, C.C., Vásquez Almazán, C.R., Señaris, C., Chandramouli, S.R., Strüssmann, C., Cortez Fernández, C.F., Azat, C., Hoskin, C.J., Hilton-Taylor, C., Whyte, D.L., Gower, D.J., Olson, D.H., Cisneros-Heredia, D.F., Santana, D.J., Nagombi, E., Najafi-Majd, E., Quah, E.S.H., Bolaños, F., Xie, F., Brusquetti, F., Álvarez, F.S., Andreone, F., Glaw, F., Castañeda, F.E., Kraus, F., Parra-Olea, G., Chaves, G., Medina-Rangel, G.F., González-Durán, G., Ortega-Andrade, H.M., Machado, I.F., Das, I., Dias, I.R., Urbina-Cardona, J.N., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Yang, J.-H., Jianping, J., Wangyal, J.T., Rowley, J.J.L., Measey, J., Vasudevan, K., Chan, K.O., Gururaja, K.V., Ovaska, K., Warr, L.C., Canseco-Márquez, L., Toledo, L.F., Díaz, L.M., Khan, M.M.H., Meegaskumbura, M., Acevedo, M.E., Napoli, M.F., Ponce, M.A., Vaira, M., Lampo, M., Yánez-Muñoz, M.H., Scherz, M.D., Rödel, M.-O., Matsui, M., Fildor, M., Kusrini, M.D., Ahmed, M.F., Rais, M., Kouamé, N.G.G., García, N., Gonwouo, N.L., Burrowes, P.A., Imbun, P.Y., Wagner, P., Kok, P.J.R., Joglar, R.L., Auguste, R.J., Brandão, R.A., Ibáñez, R., von May, R., Hedges, S.B., Biju, S.D., Ganesh, S.R., Wren, S., Das, S., Flechas, S.V., Ashpole, S.L., Robleto-Hernández, S.J., Loader, S.P., Incháustegui, S.J., Garg, S., Phimmachak, S., Richards, S.J., Slimani, T., Osborne-Naikatini, T., Abreu-Jardim, T.P.F., Condez, T.H., De Carvalho, T.R., Cutajar, T.P., Pierson, T.W., Nguyen, T.Q., Kaya, U., Yuan, Z., Long, B., Langhammer, P., Stuart, S.N., 2023. Ongoing declines for the world’s amphibians in the face of emerging threats. Nature 622, 308–314.

Measey, G.J. (2004). The Genus Xenopus (Wagler 1827). In:  Atlas and Red Data Book of the Frogs ofSouth Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, 258-259. Minter, L.R. et al. (eds). Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. pdf

Measey, G.J. (ed.) (2011). Ensuring a Future for South Africa's Frogs: A Strategy for Conservation Research. Biodiversity Series 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria. pdf

Measey, J., Tarrant, J., Rebelo, A.D., Turner, A.A., Du Preez, L.H., Mokhatla, M.M., Conradie, W. (2019) Has strategic planning made a difference to amphibianconservation research in South Africa? African Biodiversity & Conservation - Bothalia   49(1), a2428. pdf

Stuart, S.N., Chanson, J.S., Cox, N.A., Young, B.E., Rodrigues, A.S.L., Fischman, D.L., Waller, R.W., 2004. Status and Trends of Amphibian Declines and Extinctions Worldwide. Science 306, 1783–1786.
  Frogs  Lab  meetings

New guide for the identification of Xenopus in the EU

04 April 2024

Helping the EU with an identification guide

Today the EU published an identification guide to Xenopus laevis in the European Union. I was asked to help create the text for this guide and to provide consistent differences for identification of Xenopus laevis in comparison with other anurans that occur there. An artist was asked to provide the images. 

This was a challenging task. Although many people have previously described these frogs, imagining oneself either in the field or in a customs building, coming across these frogs for the first time, I had to ask: what are the easiest and most simple means to identification? I think that the results are good and comprehensive. 

But don't take my word for it, download the identification guide (here) and judge for yourself. 

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus

Bullfrogs for sale

03 March 2024

American Bullfrogs, Lithobates catesbeiana for sale in supermarkets

I have long been fascinated by the behaviour of American bullfrogs, Lithobates catesbeiana, sold in supermarkets in China. Anyone familiar with these species in their native North America will know that they are easily spooked and quickly disappear at the first sign of movement by jumping into nearby water. Individuals in invasive populations are no different and this causes a lot of issues for those who attempt to control their numbers, as I found out when I was hunting them in San Diego (see here).

Even invasive populations in China act just the same and are very flighty. But the animals that you see in the supermarket are completely sedate, not jumping at all. Usually, these animals are sold in plastic string bags, and they seem to sit very quietly. Nothing like what I’d imagine if I put wild-caught animals into a bag.

But in a supermarket in Kunming, I came across bullfrogs in a wide-open container with a very low wall that all of them were capable of jumping out of. They were not restricted in any way, yet they just sat and I did not see any individuals moving.

What other behaviours have changed for these farmed animals? Are there many other traits of domestication? Are these same domestication traits shared by the turtles in the adjacent tank?

There are some great questions to investigate with these frogs, especially as there are many local invasive populations to sample nearby.

  Frogs  Lab
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