I have always been fascinated by the natural world, but I must confess I was more a fan of the furry before I found my love of the amphibious. Volunteering as a tour guide at the Manchester Museum Vivarium in 2010 first made me fully aware of the plight of this wonderful class of animals. I was later given the opportunity to fulfill a placement year as part of my degree and was thrilled to do it at The Horniman Museum and Gardens Aquarium, London. I knew my project at there would be working with red-eyed tree frogs (Agalychnis callidryas) so in preparation for my placement I opted to work on a frog project during a field trip to Las Cuevas Research Station, Belize, and it was there I fell in love with frogs.

A mating pair of Agalychnis callidryas in amplexus. Photo: Kat Machin.

A mating pair of Agalychnis callidryas in amplexus. Photo: Kat Machin.

I worked on a project looking at assortative mating in A. callidryas and their relatives, the critically endangered Morelet’s tree frog, A. moreletii. Assortative mating is where individuals select mates with similar genotypes or appearance (phenotype) to themselves. I was therefore privileged to witness these beautiful animals mating in the wild. What a wonderful sight it was to see such a rare occurrence. A few hundred metres from the lab, just past the edge of the clearing was a pond only present during the wet season and it was here that the frogs came down from the trees in order to mate at night. The Chiquibul National Park is one of the few remaining strongholds for Morelet’s tree frogs, but it was hard to believe there are so few left in the wild when everywhere I looked there were males calling and couples in amplexus. Habitat destruction, chytridiomycosis and the pet trade have all contributed to the population declines seen in this species. Knowing how human activity has impacted on these wonderful creatures and seeing them in the wild has made me want to continue working with amphibians.

A cat-eyes snake, Leptodeira sp., a known predator of tree frog eggs. These guys were everywhere whilst the females were laying their eggs. Photo: Kat Machin.

A cat-eyed snake, Leptodeira septentrionalis a known predator of tree frog eggs. These guys were everywhere whilst the females were laying their eggs. Photo: Kat Machin.

Back in the UK I worked with these two species at The Horniman Museum Aquarium looking at how different commercially available diets affected the growth of their tadpoles. This was a fantastic year and I learned lots more about the threats to all amphibians. I find research that is being conducted in this field inspiring and I have met some amazingly dedicated people working towards the protection of amphibians. It’s a nerve-racking and exciting time for me as I leave university and venture into the world of research. Later this year I will join the team at ZSL, London, for a 12-week internship where I will be working with the Mallorcan Midwife Toad, Alytes muletensis. I want to study for a Ph.D. in the future, but as with most graduates in the UK there’s that brick wall called money that definitely makes studying harder! So follow me as I enter the unknown and join others in the struggle to protect amphibians. I will be posting about new and exciting research that inspires me and about my own journey into what I hope will be an interesting career!

By: Nadia Jogee