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The CIB Annual Research Meeting 2019

15 November 2019

CIB ARM 2019

Another year has gone by, and it is time for another Annual Research Meeting (see some previous years here: 2018, 2017. Following directly on from the frameworks workshop, the ARM featured all the usual Core Team Members, and all of the wonderful CIB post-docs and students. 

This year, the post-docs decided on a theme of pictures in pods for the students to present on. Each student talk was 5 minutes, and was composed of pictures (photos, graphs, conceptual frameworks, etc.) with a legend. The talks were arranged into themed pods, and each pod was led by a post-doc.

As usual, the students raised to the challenge with excellence. The MeaseyLab had excellent talks from Natasha Kruger and Carla Wagener, as well as excellent pods led by James Baxter-Gilbert and Nitya #MohantyMagic. 

It was a special day for Nitya, as not only was he staring in the proceedings of the ARM, but it was his last day in South Africa. He has now flown to Bangalore to start his new post-doc position on December 2nd. We are hoping that it won’t be the last we see of Nitya, and hopefully soon we’ll be seeing some more publications from his productive post-doc in the MeaseyLab.

Once again, the entire ARM was an uplifting experience. The CIB students do such a great job. I was especially pleased to see Nathi Ntuli receiving a commendation from the judges for his MSc presentation on feral pigs in South Africa. Go Nathi go!

  Lab  meetings

Another stimulating CIB workshop

12 November 2019

Framework workshop

Every year, the CIB hosts a workshop on a particular theme in invasion biology. The workshop is timed to coincide with the CIB Annual Research Meeting (ARM - more on that later). Regular readers of this blog will remember workshops on Functional Response (see here), urban invasions (see here) invasion syndromes (see here) and BRICS networks (see here). This year the theme of the workshop was frameworks in invasion biology.

If you’ve not noticed yet, invasion biology has an awful lot of frameworks, and some folks just love constructing and refining them. John Wilson got a whole bunch of these framework lovers together for a workshop with several aims over 3 days at Spier wine farm, near Stellenbosch.

The first aim was to have everyone contribute a paper on some aspect of frameworks for a special issue of the journal NeoBiota. The MeaseyLab contribution is aimed at calculating the cost of making impact studies that can be scored with EICAT and SEICAT. I hope that you’ll be seeing some more of this study as time goes by. The special issue should be out toward the end of 2020… watch this space.

The second aim was to create a framework for all of the other frameworks out there, and to see how they all fit in. This was a task that took most of our time over the workshop, and was very challenging trying to get what are large multi-dimensional concepts onto sheets of 2 dimensional paper. But it was also fun to see how different people could see this happening, and it’ll be even more interesting to see what comes out of this.

Lastly, the workshop aimed to streamline some thoughts on existing frameworks to make them more workable in terms of policy, management and implementation. See if you can see some familiar faces from MeaseyLab days gone by...

  Lab  meetings

18th AAWG in George

08 October 2019

18th African Amphibian Working Group (AAWG)

My first AAWG was back in 1996, when I was still finishing my PhD at Bristol University. It was the only conference that I attended during the entirety of my PhD studies, and it happened in Bristol - yes, that exotic far flung location that I had been saving myself up for…

This year, the 18th AAWG was held in the town of George, in the Western Cape, South Africa from 7-8 October 2019. The venue was the Garden Route Botanical Gardens, George. George is close to the Outeniqua Mountains, and is the home to a range of interesting frogs includingBreviceps fuscus,Afrixalus knysnae(pictured above) andHeleophryne regis.

We had a lot of fun listening to lots of different talks about amphibians from all over the continent. The CIB was well represented with talks from Anneke Schoeman, Natasha Kruger, John Measey, Mac Mokhatla and Sarah Davies (see pic!).

There were a bunch of talks from the MeaseyLab. See below for titles:


Natasha Kruger, Jean Secondi, Louis du Preez, Anthony Herrel, John Measey 2019. The local adaptation of development and survival of nativeXenopus laevistadpoles in different climatic regions in South Africa.18th African Amphibian Working Group, George, South Africa.

Mohlamatsane Mokhatla, Dennis Rödder, John Measey 2019. Using physiology and performance to predict climate driven distribution range shifts in three temperate African anurans species: a hybrid modelling approach. 18th African Amphibian Working Group, George, South Africa.

Sarah Davies, Dean Impson, Jonathan JA Bell, Clova Jurk-Mabin, Marco Meyer, Chandre Rhoda, Louise Stafford, Kirstin Stephens, Mfundo Tafeni, Andrew A Turner, Nicola J van Wilgen, John RU Wilson, Julia Wood, John Measey 2019. Coordinating invasive alien species management in a biodiversity hotspot: The CAPE Invasive Alien Animals Working Group. 18th African Amphibian Working Group, George, South Africa.

Francois Becker, Jasper Slingsby, John Measey, Krystal Tolley, Res Altwegg 2019. Searching for rare species and determining their absence for conservation applications. 18th African Amphibian Working Group, George, South Africa.

John Measey 2019. Rapid adaptation of an invasive African toad:Sclerophrys gutturalis.  18th African Amphibian Working Group, George, South Africa.

Ever felt like gettnig everyone together to strategize?

25 September 2019

Did making a strategy to work on amphibians have any real effect?

Back in 2009, we had a meeting to strategize about conservation research on amphibians in South Africa. The meeting was well attended, and consisted of a number of workshops where different groups tried to prioritise what should be done, and to which species. Together with other members of the workshop, we turned the results of this meeting into a book, which I edited, and was published by SANBI in early 2011. The book is available as a free pdf to download, and you can get your own copy here.

If you are stuck for names here, try downloading the book and going to the back page where they are all listed. There are many faces that have got older over the last 10 years!

While the book has attracted a steady number of citations over the years, its real value has been in demonstrating the agreed priorities of a community of South African herpetologists as to what needed to be done. In this way, it has leveraged funding for a great many projects and research programmes undertaken by various amphibian researchers in South Africa, both those who attended the 2009 meeting and some who didn’t.

This was the opinion of a similar group who met again in 2015 to decide whether or not the strategy had been worthwhile. For me, this was an uplifting experience as we often get so bogged down in the actual doing of something (in this case it was editing and writing much of the book, as well as conducting the IUCN red listing accounts that it also contained) that we miss or forget all about the big picture. Thus, there really is value in looking back and asking what the value was, and whether it’d be worth doing again.

Although it’s tempting to think that these meetings are all about the amphibians, they are actually all about the people. Building relationships and sharing visions for the future of research. To see who's in this photo and more about the day itself, take a look at the blog post from November 2015.

In the paper published today, together with a number of participants at the 2015 workshop, we tried to make a quantitative and qualitative assessment of research undertaken since the strategy was developed. We compared the 10 years prior to the strategy to the 10 years that followed, and we found:

  • A spike in the number of amphibian records for many species after the plan
  • A marked increase in the number of species descriptions for South African amphibians
  • The number of papers published had risen from 85 to 176,
    • with nearly a quarter of these on targeted taxa
  • An increase in the number of amphibian monitoring programs all over the country
  • The publication of a number of new amphibian books
    • Including books for children
    • And books in local languages
  • A surge in the number of MSc and PhDs awarded with amphibians as their primary subject.

In short, we found that compared to the 10 years before the strategy, the herpetological community in South Africa had resounding evidence of a profitable period, which many of those involved attribute, in part, to the existence of a common strategy document.

So strategizing does work; bringing people together and agreeing on common goals within a research community can aid both those already working in the field, but also give direction to emerging researchers. But this is not a static document, and any strategy needs refreshing with new people from within the community. Sadly, the same period has seen a number of retirements of leading figures in South African herpetology, but hasn’t seen the same number of replacements into permanent research positions. We have to hope that the large number of graduates produced will eventually find jobs where they can continue to come together to strategize for their future.

Read the Open Access paper here:

Measey, J., Tarrant, J., Rebelo, A.D., Turner, A.A., Du Preez, L.H., Mokhatla, M.M., Conradie, W. (2019) Has strategic planning made a difference to amphibianconservation research in South Africa? African Biodiversity & Conservation - Bothalia 49(1), a2428. 10.4102/abc.v49i1.2428

  Frogs  Lab  meetings

BRICS countries call for invasion networks

19 September 2019

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South African (BRICS) authors all call for action to build capacity in invasion science

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South African) countries are rapidly developing economies, with a large proportion of their populations having subsistence livelihoods. Their rapid development means that they are exporting ever increasing amounts of goods to the rest of the world, and with them are likely to be propagules of invasive species. Not only this, but these countries are increasingly importing goods from around the world, and are suffering from an ever growing list of similar invasive species. 

When problems are shared, such as invasive species in BRICS countries, a network is an attractive solution to share experiences and solutions in a meaningful way. South Africa already has an exemplary example of a facilitated network in invasion biology: the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology (or CIB as we are more commonly called). 

Last November, the CIB hosted a workshop on facilitated networks in Invasion Science (see blogpage here). As was said back then, we were formulating a policy piece, which is now published as a perspective piece in PLoS Biology.

Measey, J., Visser, V., Dgebuadze, Y., Inderjit, Li, B., Dechoum, M.S., Ziller, S.R. & Richardson, D.M. (2019) The world needs BRICS countries to build capacity in invasion science. PLoS Biology

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