Our Research

For Science!

This years team for extremely passionate and enthusiastic for the projects we will be carrying out this summer. As well as there being a continuation of previous work we also have new and exciting projects. Our main focus is on leatherback turtles, bats and amphibians. We are also proud to support Prof. Roger Downie, Dr Patrick Walsh, Dr Paul Hoskisson and Prof. Malcolm Kennedy in their work on the island. Want to know more? Visit our contact page – we would love to hear from you.

 

Bats

In Trinidad there are 69 species of bats that all play a crucial role in ecosystems. They range from pollinators, seed dispersers and controllers of insect pests. Despite this, all 69 bats are on the government’s vermin list. By working with the organisation Trinibats we are working towards changing the public’s opinion of these wonderful animals.

Last year the expedition surveyed different habitat areas in the Northern range and we caught 30 of the 69 bat species that are found on the island. Some of the species caught have not been seen in over a decade on the island.

This is the second year of our long term bat research project. Once again we will be carrying out a bat diversity study in the northern range of the island. There will be a focus this year on comparing the diversity and abundance of bats in primary, secondary, disturbed and urban areas.

It is vital that this work is carried out in order to document and monitor the locations and habitat requirements of these rare and important bats.

 

Amphibians

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Turtles

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The use of environmental DNA (eDNA) to evaluate and monitor the Golden Tree Frog (Phytotriades auratus) population

 

For this project we will be assisting Dr Paul Hoskisson who is a microbiologist from The University of Strathclyde.

The extraction and identification of DNA from environmental samples has recently shown great potential for the monitoring of endangered and elusive species. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism in to the environment. Sources of eDNA include faeces, mucous, gametes, shed skin and carcasses. In aquatic environments eDNA is dispersed within the water and can persist for between 1 and 21 days depending on the prevailing environmental conditions.

The endemic Trinidad Golden Frog is considered critically endangered based on its restricted geographical range (Two peaks in the Northern Range of Trinidad) and decline of its habitat. The distribution of this species is intimately linked to the epiphytic bromeliad and are the only known habitat of this species and its larvae. Current surveying methods for this species require the sacrificial survey of the bromeliadto ascertain the presence or absence of the adults or larvaewhich is clearly undesirable given the limited range and habitat of this species.We would like to develop a non-invasive, non-destructive survey method for this species using eDNA as a template.

 

We would like to develop a two-year study to develop a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based assay for the Golden Tree Frog using eDNA as a template. We would therefore like to use the 2014 field season to collect water samples (20 ml of water) from 40 bromeliads as a proof of concept study, to assess if it is possible to identify Trinidad Golden Frog DNA from such samples. If this approach is successful, we would like to use 2015 field season conduct a more thorough search and systematic assessment of the Bromeliads to estimate their populations.

Physiology and Behaviour Study of the Emerald-eyed Tree frog, Hypsiboas crepitans

 

Over previous years these frogs have been observed regularly on the side of a soil and stone embankment in the Caura Valley of Trinidad’s Northern Range during the day.The embankment is near vertical and the frogs appear quiescent and undisturbed by human approach. They are found at a range of heights and shade conditions (though with the majority in direct sun).

We are interested to know why they show this behaviour and why they do not dry out! Is it linked with their breeding behaviour or is it in fact to aid the digestion of their food from the night before?

Through behavioural observations and physiological measurements such as weight and temperature we hope to find out.