Last weekend I travelled down to London for the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium (ACRS) at the Zoological Society of London. Rachael Antwis from the University of Manchester, who I have been very lucky to work with over the last year, founded ACRS in 2012 along with Chris Michaels (University of Manchester and now at ZSL) and this year was the third annual meeting, co-organised by Helen Meredith (DICE and ZSL) and Jade Newton-Youens (University of Manchester). In 2012, Rachael saw the need for a platform where students can share their work and meet with other researchers in the field. This coming together of people from the academic, zoo, veterinary and commercial backgrounds meant that over the two-day symposium I saw several different sides to important issues. People had travelled a long way to make it to the ZSL for the meeting and the mixing of different cultures and backgrounds stimulated many thought provoking, positive and interesting conversations. It’s always important to consider the opinions of others, especially from people who see first hand the problems affecting amphibians in their natural habitat.
The conference kicked off with a great talk from ASA founder Dr. Jaime García-Moreno outlining the issues that sparked the formation of ASA and the goals the group aim to achieve. The talks that followed over the weekend were both insightful and encouraging. I think we all can despair at times due to the multitude of issues effecting amphibians worldwide, but the overall feel of the weekend was one full of hope. Helen Meredith, who was excellent at keeping everyone entertained, encouraged this positive atmosphere as the weekend progressed. The vast array of topics covered was certainly food for thought, from cryoconservation to the importance of studying the amphibian fossil record in order to understand current declines. We also enjoyed a documentary by Darren Williams on ZSL’s collaborative Chinese giant salamander conservation project. All the speakers and the posters had my mind racing with exciting possibilities for the future.
Everyone I spoke to over the weekend was clearly dedicated to his or her cause. What I found especially uplifting was the sense of responsibility from some of the more senior attendees. Their willingness to help my fellow students was pointed out to me several times. With many obstacles in the way of new graduates, it is a relief to know that there are people out there who want to help! I would highly recommend future ACRS meetings to any students who want to work in amphibian conservation, as well as more experienced members of the amphibian conservation community. Not only was I lucky to hear from great speakers such as Professor An Martel and Professor Frank Pasmans, who delivered excellent talks on emerging infectious diseases in Europe, but I have also come away feeling like I now belong to a very special community of people. I only wish I didn’t have to wait a whole year in order to see where everyone’s research has taken them.
For more information about ACRS or to get involved please email Rachael.Antwis@gmail.com