In order to raise money for the Trinidad Expedition the team and I are climbing Ben Nevis, which for those who know how much of my time I spend horizontal is a tough ask! Any donations will be much appreciated! Please read the infomation below for details of what the expedition aims to achieve and the good cause that donations will go towards.
About the Trinidad Expedition
Trinidad is a hub for biodiversity, with many endemic species found nowhere else on earth, such as the golden tree frog. The expedition aims to undertake research in Trinidad to enhance the knowledge and understanding of tropical ecology and biodiversity, the problems it faces and possible solutions to these dilemmas. Specifically, the expedition will undertake research regarding threatened amphibian species, the general biology of amphibians, and turtle biology.
The golden tree frog is an alluring amphibian endemic to Trinidad, where its range is limited to the summits of the El Tucuche and Cerro Del Aripo mountains. It is known only to inhabit the bromeliad plant, the leaves of which are used by the frog to lay its eggs. Due to this lack of available habitat and the presence of the chytrid fungus, the golden tree frog population is in sharp decline and is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list.
Chytrid fungus infects the skin of amphibians, making it the only known species to act as a parasite for a vertebrate. The spread of the fungus has proved fatal to many amphibians.
While in Trinidad we will ascend the El Tucuche Mountain, where we will sample water from the bromeliad plants which the golden tree frog inhabits. This will be used to determine whether golden tree frog DNA can be identified from these samples, and if so a new and non-destructive way of sampling from golden tree frogs will have been found. This could be possible as animal DNA can persist in an environment for many days, which could be very helpful when monitoring the populations of elusive and endangered species, such as the golden tree frog, which are difficult to count through visual evidence.
This technique of environmental DNA sampling to monitor animals is not widely used and during this project we hope to develop the methods and therefore make them more available to others in the future.