By Jenny Shelton
Following on from a very successful 10 day trip in April 2016, I am excited to say that I will be returning to Taiwan in two weeks’ time as a National Geographic Young Explorer!
Last year I accompanied Dr. Dirk Schmeller, Guest professor in Conservation Biology at National Taiwan University; Lin Chun-Fu, head of amphibian research at Taiwan’s Endemic Species Research Institute; and his field assistants, Lin Yi-Lun, Lin Chun-Fu and Ye Ta-Chun, in collecting samples and toe clips from a range of sites and altitudes in Taiwan. The aim of our trip was to ascertain the prevalence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) in frog populations and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) in salamander populations on the island, and to collect Bd isolates cultures from toe clips if possible.
During our trip we were fortunate to encounter 19 of Taiwan’s 38 amphibian species, including the IUCN endangered Harpist Frog (Babina okinavana), only found in Taiwan and the Yaeyama Islands of Japan, as well as two species of Asian salamander (Hynobius formosanus & Hynobius sonani). We visited a diverse selection of sites, from popular tourist spots such as Sun Moon Lake and Xitou Forest Recreational Area to military camps and snow-capped mountains, ranging from sea level to 3100m asl. My highlight was visiting a swamp during one night-time excursion and turning off our torches to see a multitude of fireflies and listen to the beautiful trilling call of the Harpist Frogs surrounding us; audible but well-hidden inside their cleverly disguised nests. In eight days and nights of sampling we collected an impressive 679 swabs, from all 19 amphibian species previously found to be Bd positive, such as Hylarana latouchii, Buergeria japonica and Babina adenopleura. No toe clips were taken from frog species considered as threatened by the IUCN Red List or from salamanders, as no comparable non-invasive method has yet been found for the isolation of Bsal.
This year, Dirk, Lin Chun-Fu (known to us as Spring) and I will be visiting all of the same sites as last year, as well as several new sites discovered by Spring in the meantime. Time is on our side as I have extended my stay to two weeks and hope to collect even more swabs and toe clips than last year. I am intentionally visiting during the rainy season this year – it may make my work harder but it should be good for frog catching – so top of my list-to-pack is definitely my umbrella and waterproof notebook! We will also be joined on this trip by keen photographer Matthew Richards so we look forward to photos that are closer to National Geographic standard than my hastily snapped and blurry iPhone pictures from last year! Learn more about National Geographic Young Explorers here and keep track of our progress on Twitter by following the group @ChytridCrisis and me @jenmgshe.