VUW Frog Group
Research on the native and introduced frogs has been carried out at Victoria University for many years. The research programme ran through Victoria’s Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, under the leadership of Assoc. Prof. Ben Bell. Ben has recently retired and worked closely with Prof. Charles Daugherty (particularly on Leiopelma systematics), Prof. Shirley Pledger (particularly on demographics and capture-recapture analysis) and Assoc. Prof. Nicky Nelson.Ben has collaborated with tadpole maestro Prof. Richard Wassersug on Leiopelma larvae, in a study of the implication of their anatomical features for anuran evolution, and more recently with Abbey Trewenack and Assoc. Prof. Kerry Landman on mathematically modelling dispersal and settling of translocated populations, using the Maud Island frog as a case-study. With Prof. Phil Bishop and Dr Jen Germano, Ben contributed to an item on Leiopelmatid frogs for the recently published Lynx Ediciones Threatened Amphibians of the World, and also has a section on New Zealand frogs in the forthcoming Chordata section of the Species 2000 publications.
Although recently retired, Ben continues his long-term studies of populations of L. pakeka on Maud Island, including monitoring the success of a translocation there – which gave Paulette Dewhurst the opportunity of successfully completing her M.Sc. study on the topic. Paulette continues to join Ben and his team on their annual sampling visits to the island. The other long-term study that Ben initiated is of Archey’s frog (L. archeyi) and a few Hochstetter’s frogs (L. hochstetteri) in the Coromandel Ranges. Observations there over 1996-2001 alterted us to the dramatic decline of Archey’s frog in the area, and implicated the pathological chytrid fungus in that decline. As part of a Department of Conservation research contract, Dr Nicola Mitchell and Scott Carver joined the investigative team studying the decline, Scott successfully gaining his M.Sc. as a result. These long term studies of Archey’s and Maud Island frogs rank amongst the world’s longest-run population studies on frogs, and have revealed that the frogs can survive at least 2-3 decades, the eldest being two Maud Island frogs at 35+ years.