Froglife is currently running several evidence based conservation reptile and amphibian research projects.
Toads on Roads
Froglife has managed the national Toads on Roads project for many years and in 2016 published research findings indicating a 68% decline in populations of the common toad across the UK over the past 30 years. The press release for the publication “Goodbye Mr Toad?”. The full research paper can be found here. This important research has enabled Froglife to take further positive action to help conserve this species. We immediately launched the Year of the Toad campaign as a result of the findings to raise awareness of the issue. Alongside this campaign we developed two large scale Tails of Amphibian Discovery (T.O.A.D) projects, in London and Yorkshire.
For the fifth anniversary of this research we are working with the original authors to analyse the Toads on Roads data for the subsequent 5 years to see what has happened to the population trends.
We are also working with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology on their project to model the best locations and size of woodlands for different species. We will be focusing on the models for Common Toads and other amphibians. The researchers will be using data collected from Toad Patrol Managers to inform the model.
Effectiveness of under-road mitigation tunnels for amphibians and reptiles
Froglife have developed an automated monitoring system for monitoring amphibian and reptile movement through under-road wildlife tunnels. We are currently undertaking monitoring of three sites in England, one in Scotland and one in France, totalling 26 tunnels. This research has expanded in recent years and we have currently just started monitoring six tunnels in Scotland. This five-year research project will determine whether great crested newts, as well as other amphibian species, use these large mitigation tunnels. In addition, we have projects in development for Portugal and Slovenia. Our research is revealing important aspects of amphibian and reptile ecology which will be useful for understanding the effectiveness of road mitigation measures and how to improve habitat connectivity for UK and European species. A publication by Froglife and collaborators can be found here.
Amphibian diseases in the UK
Froglife has been involved in citizen science projects and research relating to amphibian diseases since the 1980s. This area of work has grown as the conservation community has become increasingly concerned about the threats faced, particularly by frogs, due to disease. Our work has included involvement in research into ranaviruses including several projects with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the University of Exeter. We work with members of the public finding dead or diseased frogs in their gardens, offering advice and linking them in to wider research into disease. We are partners in the Garden Wildlife Health project with the ZSL, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Froglife are also developing collaborations with the international Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) and Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG). It is hoped this will lead to research and conservation projects with international partners.
Ecological and evolutionary resilience of iconic amphibian species to environmental change.
Understanding the ecological and evolutionary resilience of species to the challenges associated with long-term environmental change is a cornerstone of effective conservation and management strategies. Environmental stressors such as the salinisation of freshwater environments, as a result of climate change induced sea water inundation or from road de-icers, can have a catastrophic effect on amphibian populations. Salt resilience in amphibians has only been reported in a few species, with very few of these studies investigating the genetic mechanisms behind amphibian salt resilience, the adaptability of amphibian populations to saline or brackish environments is largely unknown. With reports of UK amphibian species such as the common toad, Bufo bufo, and palmate newt, Lissotriton helveticus, larvae being observed in coastal environments, the capacity of UK amphibian species to tolerate salt inundation is believed to be widely underreported.
Froglife is co-supervising a CASE studentship project sponsored by MASTS SUPER-DTP alongside The University of the West of Scotland (UWS). The PhD aims to:
- Identify the distribution of UK amphibians and which species are typically being found in saline environments through eDNA barcoding analyses. Samples of pond water from coastal sites provided by citizen science volunteers will be analysed using species specific primers, devised through the PhD, capable of identifying all UK amphibian species alongside the invasive alpine newt, Ichthyosaura alpestris.
- Utilise RADseq genotyping to elucidate the demographic history of populations and identify signatures of selection in the amphibian species identified in saline environments raised under differing salinities.
- Use RNAseq to identify genes differentially regulated under hyper saline conditions and identify genotypic differences within the genes in saline versus non-saline populations
- Analyse through laboratory exposure experiments the physiological effects of salinity on individuals raised from eggs and larvae in hypersaline environments.
For information on our conservation projects, click here.
Froglife also works to increase the evidence base for conservation focused public engagement activities.
An evaluation of the impact of the work of The Froglife Trust on the lives of disadvantaged young people
Froglife have been awarded funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to work with the Open University on evaluating our Peterborough & Fenland Green Pathways Scheme. The research will set up a control group and a group of young people that will take part in the scheme and will, over a three month period, evaluate the impact on those taking part compared to the control group. The Open University team will produce an open access published paper and will fund an ‘easy to read’ version. They will also set-up an evaluation database and train Froglife staff in how to analyse the evaluation.
For information on our education projects, click here.