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My talk to the Brazilian Congress of Herpetology

24 July 2019

Back in UNICAMP to attend the 9th Brazilian Congress of Herpetology

It's great to be back in Brazil, and a real honour to be asked to present at the 9th Brazilian Congress of Herpetology

The meeting has been fantastic, with more than 900 participants, Brazilian herpetology is in an amazingly good condition. I've met up with lots of Brazilian friends, old and new, including nearly everyone that I met last year when I visited Brazil in May (see blog post and here). Especially good to spend more time with Prof Marcio Borges-Martins, who kindly translated my presentation into Portuguese (although I didn't torture the audience, and stuck to English).

Measey, J. Anfíbios invasores: uma visão da África austral sobre oportunidades e insights. 9th Brazilian Congress of Herpetology Campinas, Brazil

  Frogs  Lab  meetings

Île de La Réunion visited by toad team

20 July 2019

The Guttural Toad crew starts work on Île de La Réunion


We've seen recently how Mauritius was taken by storm when the MeaseyLab #Mascarenetoadteam visited (see blog entry here). Now they have moved to another island infested with the same toads for nearly 100 years. Their sampling was concentrated in two areas: the natural island forests and urban areas.

In the forest they saw toads climbing trees, and lots of different colour morphs, including the melanistic form (above). This tree climbing behaviour was specifically tested with a standardised climbing performance test which will be repeated in Cape Town and native Durban frogs. Will they all be able to climb?

Meanwhile, Carla was carefully swabbing forest toads to contrast with the urban cousins.

Meanwhile down town toads were getting dirty, and finding them wasn't always a pleasant experience. Can you spot the unlikely toad below? Note the champaign bottle - surely not the trash of our MeaseyLab #Mascarenetoadteam? 

 The MeaseyLab #Mascarenetoadteam found some time to relax among the larva fields at high altitude on Reunion. Pictured here with guest star Sohan Sauroy-Toucouère.

AC21 Postgraduate Course

15 July 2019


In July, I spent a week leading a postgraduate course in invasion science. Here's a piece that I wrote for the AC21 magazine (here), also posted on the CIB website (here).

Invasive species offer many important challenges to society. Their presence is intrinsically linked to human actions, but their impacts are felt across a wide range of environmental and socio-economic levels. Despite the severe impacts from invasions in past centuries, new introductions continue at an unprecedented rate and we require a new generation of invasion scientists to tackle the growing range of issues that invasive species bring. To this end, the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B), with its hub at Stellenbosch University, organised the AC21 Postgraduate course: Invasions Science for society: hands-on experience of environmental, social and economic impacts of alien species. The course was designed to appeal to a wide range of participants from many backgrounds, whilst giving a uniquely African viewpoint on the issues around invasive species.

 Spectacular! The setting for the 2019 AC21 postgraduate course: Invasion Science for Society


The course took place within the breath-taking scenery of the Overberg, in South Africa’s global biodiversity hotspot: the Cape Floral Region. Although it took place in the height of winter, we enjoyed some marvellous weather, as well as a taste of Cape storms. The course also took advantage of the local environment to make outings getting a handle on the different local challenges from invasions.

The course took the form of a series of workshops conducted by C·I·B staff together with two invited international guest lecturers.

Prof John Wilson (C·I·B) challenged course participants to locate and neutralise an incursion of invading Australian Banksia ericifolia. This species had been introduced by flower growers, but after abandoning their farm, the species spread into nearby fynbos habitat. Despite removing nearly 300 individuals, the habitat still needs more follow up visits to ensure that the treatments have been effective.


Collecting data on the invasive Banksia ericifolia before removing them.

Dr Tammy Robinson (C·I·B) took the students to the local port town of Gansbaai to explain how marine invasions are transported through ocean going vessels. Large ships can carry invasive propagules in their ballast water, while smaller boats often carry invasive species as a result of hull fouling. Although these problems can be tackled through legislation, there are important economic impacts to be considered.


Dr Tammy Robinson shows students an invasive mussel attached to a kelp holdfast.

Prof Karen Esler (C·I·B) explained the complicated tasks of restoring local habitats after an invasion. After 10 years, the sites visited look considerably better, but still require a lot of attention before they can be considered as restored. Different invasive species leave different impacts on the invaded ecosystem, and this sometimes results in permanent impacts that can only be mitigated during the restoration process.


At a site of habitat restoration, AC21 students look at images of the site before it was restored 12 years ago, and learn about the need for continuing work.


Special guest lecturers, Prof Jana Fried (Coventry University, UK) and Prof Elizabeth Pienaar (University of Florida, USA) introduced AC21 participants to the role of social science and economics in invasive species. The students conducted a workshop to design a questionnaire to determine the socio-economic effects of invasive species, and then visited several locations in the area to ask people about how invasive species had impacted the lives of them, their households and their communities.


Workshopping the socio-economic roles of invasive species in society, above Prof Jana Fried (Coventry University) and below Prof Elizabeth Pienaar (University of Florida).

Dr Sabrina Kumschick (C·I·B) led a daylong workshop on how to make risk assessment for invasive species. In an innovative approach, students were broken up into groups to make assessments on fictional species, and then led discussions to imaginary stakeholder groups to determine the levels of potential conflicts for introducing the species.


Assessments were made to gauge the risk of some fictional characters so that the course participants could determine feedback from different stakeholders’ groups.

All participants in the AC21 post graduate course left South Africa with a much greater appreciation for the wicked problems involved in tackling invasive species. They return to counties across the globe to cast fresh eyes on the problems within their own communities, prepared with novel insights and a new suite of tools so that they can engage and work toward solutions. They also become alumni of the Centre for Invasion Biology (C·I·B), part of a growing network of invasion scientists from around the world.


Despite taking place in the midst of the Cape winter, the AC21 course had only smiles as they teamed up to take on the problems of invasive species.

  Lab  meetings

Nitya talks at Island Biology Conference

11 July 2019

Nitya talks at Island Biology 2019

Some of you may remember that Nitya won a prize for the best popular article at the CIB ARM back in November 2018 (see blog post here). The cash prize gave him enough money to attend an international meeting, of his choice. Nitya opted to attend the Island Biology 2019 meeting on Reunion. He managed to roll some other work into the trip, by joining the mascarene toad team on Mauritius (see blog post here).

Now Nitya is presenting his talk at the conference in the symposium: Future steps to fight against invasive species on islands.

I'm sure that it will be well received. 

Read more about Nitya and his PhD thesis research here. Read my blog about visiting the Andaman Islands here.

Mohanty, NP, Hui, C & Measey, J (2019) Invasion dynamics of an amphibian with frequent human-mediated translocations on the Andaman archipelago. Island Biology, La  LaRéunion 8-13 July 2019.

  Frogs  Lab  meetings

Tadpole anti-predator strategies

10 July 2019

What do tadpoles do when they sniff a predator?

Natasha Kruger asked this question of populations of the invasive African Clawed Frog in a study conducted with Jean Secondi in France. Clawed frogs have been invasive there for ~30 years, but a number of studies are suggesting that they have already started to adapt to the local conditions (see here). 

As an invasive frog, once you’ve been moved to the new environment, not only do you have to cope with new conditions, but your tadpoles do too. This means that tadpoles should be able to respond to new predators, as well as ones that they already know. This was the basis for the work that Natasha conducted on tadpoles of the invasive African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, in France.

Natasha tested to see how tadpoles reacted to known and unknown predators. For example, she tried cues from aquatic snails and another invasive species in France, the red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii.

Tadpoles were placed into fresh water in a cup with a cross drawn across the bottom. The cue was then dropped from above and their reaction filmed. She was particularly interested in the number of times that the tadpoles crossed the lines in the cup – showing a response to the cue.

Like other tadpoles, African clawed frogs were found to decrease their activity in the presence of a predator. That is they crossed the line less often when cues were given, compared to novel cues.

The early version of the manuscript is now up online and you can enjoy reading it here:

Kruger, N., Measey, J., Herrel, A., & Secondi, J. (in press) Anti-predator strategies of the invasive African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, to native and invasive predators in western France. Aquatic Invasions

  Frogs  Lab  Xenopus
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