In March, the Amphibian Survival Alliance welcomed Elyssa Scheck to our team as communications intern. Elyssa completed her MSc at the University of Bristol in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation, and has since gained valuable experience at the National Audubon Society working as a School Yard Habitat Education Specialist, and as an Environmental Education Intern. She is an amphibian enthusiast who carried out research into the global coordination of amphibian conservation during her MSc, particularly examining the role of zoos. She developed social media for Audubon and has a wide interest in many aspects of conservation, including the production of communication outputs to raise awareness.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I have a Master’s of Science in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation from the University of Bristol and a Bachelor’s degree in Evolutionary and Behavioral Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. Most recently I worked as an Environmental Education Specialist at Audubon Greenwich, part of Audubon Connecticut and National Audubon Society. During my time with Audubon, I worked primarily with the Schoolyard Habitat Program but was also involved in communication efforts and eventually I stepped in as the Interim Public Programs Coordinator.
What are your earliest memories of interacting with amphibians? Do you have any funny stories to share?
I remember, when I was nine or ten years old, catching toads outside my house. There were small semi-circle spaces in the ground next to the b basement windows and they would fill with toads every time after it rained. My neighbors and I would go around all the spaces and other areas trying to catch and collect as many toads as we could. Looking back, I feel bad because the poor animals must not have been too thrilled with being handled by a bunch of over-excited children but we did always let them go. I just thought they were interesting to look at. They were a dull brown color and had lumpy skin, not very exciting, but I thought they were interesting to watch. I was particularly interested in the range of sizes I think; some were massive!
When did you learn that amphibians were in trouble, and how did this make you feel?
It was while I was studying for my Master’s degree. I had known that amphibian populations were decreasing but I didn’t understand the extent of the decline until I began studying it. I was shocked by the extent of the threats facing them and by how suddenly and drastically their numbers had dropped.
What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions? Do amphibians face a bright or a gloomy future?
I think that whether amphibians face a bright or gloomy future is dependent on what we do next. I believe that if we continue to take away amphibian habitat or turn a blind eye to their decreasing numbers, then I think that their future would be a gloomy one. That being said, I do think that there is growing interest in amphibians and conservation efforts. I believe that if we continue to advocate for amphibians and garner support for conservation efforts and research, then I think that they can have a very bright future.
Can you tell us a little about your current work and focus within the ASA?
I am going to be helping to implement ASA’s communication strategic objectives, contributing to FrogLog, social media, and other outputs. I will also be helping identify and refine ASA’s target audiences for different communication outputs, including FrogLog, Instagram, and other social media platforms. I will also be re-launching the ASA’s Instagram channel with the goal of raising awareness of amphibians, reaching novel audiences, promoting the work of our partners, and trying to increase overall engagement and interest in amphibians.
What keeps you personally motivated and dedicated to saving amphibians?
I have always loved animals and from a young age I was eager to help animals in any way I could. I still want to do all I can to help and I think I have an interest in amphibians because I feel like they are often disregarded because of their size and association with being slimy or covered in warts. I also happen to think that, not only are they incredibly diverse and stunning, colorful creatures, but they are also fascinating and have a range of amazing capabilities that I would have thought impossible if I didn’t already know they existed.
What is your favorite amphibian, and why?
Spring peepers! I remember when I first discovered them in my backyard and was amazed by how small they were. After that I would go out and try to find and photograph them whenever I could. It was a bit like an adorable scavenger hunt.