Herpetofauna Workers Meeting 2019

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Last weekend, I attended the 32nd Herpetofauna Workers Meeting, in Stoke-on-Trent: this conference, organised by ARG UK and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, is to share information on the latest work in UK amphibian and reptile conservation. While I wasn’t able to attend the Saturday lectures, I did arrive in Stoke in time for the conference dinner on Saturday evening. This was a great opportunity to talk to other attendees: some people I already knew were there, including a party from Bangor University; but at the dinner and during the following day, I was able to make new acquaintances, talking to some very interesting and friendly conservationists.

The lectures covered a wide range of projects and focus species. These included conservation-based scientific studies: Dr Naomi Ewald talked about PondNet’s study monitoring the presence of great crested newts by detecting their environmental DNA (eDNA); while Dr Silviu Petrovan talked about evidence-based conservation, measuring how successfully amphibians use tunnels built under roads. I was also particularly interested in Sophia Ratcliffe’s lecture on using data compiled from the NBN Atlas to examine long-term reptile population trends, and Louise Sherwell and Mariya Tarnavska’s project on using ladders to help amphibians escape from gully pots on kerbsides.

There were also a couple of Q&A panels: I attended one that covered general herpetological conservation questions. The panelists gave their opinions and knowledge on whether restrictions on animal trade can help prevent the spread of disease, whether Brexit could be an opportunity to strengthen conservation legislation, and what can be done regarding the decline of native species (public outreach and monitoring local sites were encouraged).

Thank you to ARG UK and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation for organising this event – I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Gems in the Dunes

Today, I went down to Ainsdale – close to where I’ve done some habitat management volunteer work in the past – to do some volunteering for the Gems in the Dunes project. This project, led by Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, aims to preserve the sand dune habitat on the Sefton Coast, home to several species which are rare in the UK, such as natterjack toads, sand lizards and northern dune tiger beetles.

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Before…

This habitat is threatened by a variety of factors, not least encroachment by humans. The problem that the other volunteers and I were addressing today was the overgrowth of sea buckthorn on the site. Native to the east coast of the UK, sea buckthorn becomes invasive when introduced elsewhere; thickets of it spread over the dunes, reducing the open marram grass habitat that the local wildlife needs to bask and thrive. Since much of that wildlife is inactive during the winter months, we could carry out the work while causing minimal disturbance.

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During…

The volunteers attacked the buckthorn with loppers and saws, burning the cuttings on a bonfire; any stumps were treated with glyphosate so that they wouldn’t grow back. Much of the last hour was then spent carrying buckets of water back and forth to make sure that the bonfire was completely put out! The weather was mild – through a combination of working and being close to the fire, you warmed up very quickly – and the manual work felt very satisfying, particularly as we made such an impact on that particular patch.

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After!

Check out the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation website if you are interested in volunteering yourself!