More than 100 people attended the fourth ACRS, Cambridge, 2015. Photo © Evie Button.

The Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium (ACRS) is the only international series of conferences devoted to sharing research and strategies to empower the future of amphibian conservation. In 2015 ACRS was adopted, through a joint initiative, by the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), the world’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation and the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), a global network of experts building a foundation for conservation. ACRS has remained true to its roots dating back to 2012 by bringing together amphibian conservationists and researchers from around the world to gain experience, learn new ideas and make contacts.

Each year individuals present talks and posters detailing evidence-based approaches and management strategies that promote amphibian conservation and this year was no different. Held between between April 11th-12th at the University of Cambridge, ACRS 2015 was the biggest yet, with more than one hundred attendees from 55 institutions in 18 countries. The atmosphere over the two days was buzzing with enthusiasm and energy as amphibian conservation practitioners and scientists discussed projects and planned for the future. With 17 presentations over the course of the symposium, there were a diverse array of topics covered including amphibian ecology, taxonomy, disease, captive husbandry and in situ management. These included talks presented by researchers like Gemma Harding (University of Kent and DICE, UK) who asked the question if amphibian reintroductions conformed to IUCN protocols and Edward Netherlands (North West University, South Africa) who assessed the effectiveness of Passive Acoustic Monitoring for determining species diversity at a locality when compared to traditional methods. The abstract program book can be downloaded here.

Three key-note presentations were delivered covering three different, but equally important, areas of amphibian conservation. Sarah Thomas from the Zoological Society of London spoke on the importance of considering social aspects of conservation issues when establishing or assessing success of conservation interventions, such as what animals people are willing to help save or what social programs actually succeed in teaching people about conservation issues. Rebecca Smith from the University of Cambridge highlighted the need for the right kind of evidence (i.e., data collected from controlled studies to show what the effect of an intervention is when compared to a scenario where no intervention was undertaken) required to make decisions about the best management strategies and showed where to find it on the Conservation Evidence website. Finally, Jennifer Luedtke, the Amphibian Red List Authority Deputy Coordinator, explained The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in detail by showing what the different classifications mean and how easy it is for researchers to make much-needed assessments on their focal species by presenting a case study on the Red List status of Helen’s tree frog (Rhacophorus helenae).

Talks were also given by three Future Leaders of Amphibian Conservation, the first cohort of a new program started at this year’s ACRS, which aims to bring in up-and-coming leaders into the field of amphibian conservation who may not have otherwise been able to attend the event, enabling them to share their innovative work in the field. This year’s Future Leaders were Arun Kanagavel from India, who presented his research as an EDGE fellow working on people’s perceptions of amphibians in the Western Ghats; Esther Matthew from South Africa, who presented her research on the use of sniffer dogs as a new method for finding elusive species for monitoring; and Karla Pelz Serrano from Mexico, who presented both the social and biological work she is doing in Mexico on the Critically Endangered Lake Lerma salamander (Ambystoma lermaense). The attendance of these individuals at ACRS 2015 was made possible through funding from Women in Wildlife, Nordens Ark and Prof. Richard Preziosi from the University of Manchester.

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ACRS Future Leaders of Amphibian Conservation 2015. From left to right, Dr. Karla Pelz Serrano (Mexico), Arun Kanagavel (India) and Esther Matthews (South Africa). Photo © Andrew Stephenson.

In keeping with the new international theme of the symposium, ACRS 2016 is likely to be held in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in late January (details to be confirmed). This university town is home to North-West University, where the meeting will be hosted, and is located about 1.5 hours drive from Johannesburg, making it relatively accessible for Europeans, Africans, and other attendees from around the world.

ACRS 2015 would not have been the success it was without the generous support of Chester Zoo, the British Herpetological Society, VetArk Professional, Nordens Ark, Peregrine Livefoods, Arcadia, and Shepreth Wildlife Park.

As we look to the future, the ACRS Steering Committee would like to continue providing an annual award to early career conservationists as Future Leaders of Amphibian Conservation from around the world. This award not only provides the winners with an ability to present at the symposium, but, more importantly, it provides them with an opportunity to network with other attendees and become Fellows of this new initiative. In addition to providing the support necessary for the award recipients to attend the symposium, it is our intention to also work with them to build a support network of experts, organizations and funders that will help them achieve their conservation goals and, most importantly, remain in the field of amphibian conservation for the long-term. We encourage you to be part of our long-term vision for ACRS and welcome your support for this initiative and these Fellows in future years. We are happy to discuss these sponsorship opportunities with you further.

We would also welcome general funding support for the symposium itself, which helps to keep the registration cost low, which is particularly important for students. Please contact the ACRS Steering Committee to start the conversation.

The future of amphibian conservation, research and education depends on what we do now as a community. ACRS provides all of us with a chance to work together and support the amphibian conservation leaders of tomorrow, helping to develop them into the confident, experienced and well-connected leaders we need to make a real difference for amphibians.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in this years symposium and we hope you will join us in the years to come.

By Candace M. Hansen-Hendrikx, James P. Lewis, Helen Meredith, Christopher Michaels, Rachael Antwis, Collin VanBuren & Che Weldon

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