[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][text_output]In 2014 we initiated a study on the single celled parasite Amphibiocystidium in collaboration with the Dutch Herpetological Society (conservation and research), RAVON and the University of Zurich (department evolutionary biology). Little is known on this parasite let alone in the Netherlands. After we found an infected smooth newt in 2014 (Lissotriton vulgaris) our interest was sparked and we began our study.

We focused on geographical distribution in the Netherlands, host range, life stages that get infected, histology, temporal occurrence and for the future we strive to monitor several populations. To gather data we soon realized that we needed help from the people in the field – the eyes and ears of this study. An informative folder was created; an article was published in the magazine of RAVON and via various means we reached out to the people in the field. The nature program (both on television and radio) “Vroege vogels” – translated Early birds – contacted us for a radio interview in the field about this parasite (Carlijn and I were interviewed). We were delighted that our subject received so much attention! On Sunday morning our item was broadcasted and that is when some amazing things started happening.

The observations in the field of diseased and wounded amphibians started pouring in! Not all were of the parasite we studied but we got an enormous amount of data on various ailments that affect amphibians in the wild. But something even better happened: an eleven year old boy listened to the radio show with his grandfather. And that’s what this story is all about…

Mats Zwetsloot, eleven years of age, attends the primary school in Wageningen, in the centre of the Netherlands. After listening to the radio show Mats was concerned about the amphibians he loves and decided to do a presentation in his classroom for his fellow students. He felt that people have to know about the diseases that threaten the worlds’ amphibians! Before he presented his concerns Mats did a thorough study on what the disease exactly is and he asked us a lot of questions. Really a future conservationist and scientist in the making. After he got all the information he needed he made a wonderful presentation that was very well received by his classmates! At RAVON we decided that this was an extraordinary feat that needed to be celebrated. Mats his story was published in the digital magazine of RAVON named “Scales and Slime.” Since Mats story is unique we felt that we had to reach a larger, international audience.

Stories like Mats is what it is all about. Conservation Biology is a wonderful profession but it tends to be riddled with heartbreak. The enormous declines amphibians suffer, the biodiversity crisis and the Sixth mass extinction, we all know and live with these topics. But hope is always on the horizon! The fact that a very young individual is not only concerned about this world but engages his fellow students is not only extraordinary but a source of hope. There for we applaud Mats, his parents and grandparents for their achievements so far and we hope he will continue to inspire and educate people in the future!

By Tariq Stark

Photos of the infected Palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus) © Jelger Herder. Photos of Mats and his classmates © Maud Hulshof.[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″]

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