Frog guru turns 60
A very big special birthday wish to Prof Neville Passmore.
Mandy Dyson, pictured on the left building her 'marm' enclosure under the close supervision of Neville at the Twinstreams field station in Mtunzini. After her PhD Mandy went on to continue her research overseas and increase her own reproductive success. She is now working with Tim Halliday (another Frog Guru) at The Open University in the UK. Pat Backwell (senior lecturer) and Michael Jennions (associate professor) are now employed at ANU and continue their research in behavioural ecology giving rise to their own generations of graduate students.
Neville (pictured below) has very high standards and was intent on only using the very best equipment available - from beautiful French AIGLE thigh waders (hey Nev, I still have mine! - click here to see them in action in NZ) to the very best in recording equipment with a range of exquisite Nagra tape recorders (remember the SN, the little one that fits in your pocket?).
And then onto the AUT - a mean-machine that was a purpose-built mobile lab and in this picture on the right we can see the infamous 'Horny Harned' writing frantically to one of his girlfriends overseas! Garry Harned was world famous in South Africa for licking his plates clean, playing his banjo and trying to get into everyone's sleeping bag except his own!
"Wreckless Eric" in the field was renowned for expressions like "I'm not here to horse around" and "Watch the F*ck out" (or was that mine?) and many of us have fond memories of him being dragged across a newly burnt cane field by his new found passion for paraglider kites. Nev and Mandy (in red) are demonstrating the professional way to photograph frogs in their 'natural' habitat (unknown person with blonde hair - don't recognise her from that position - assisting!). Thanks to Mandy for this compromising photo and for reminding us of Mtunzini terms that are not often heard anymore, like oeufs, penisbutter, rocking horse shit, silk stockings and zola and many, many more! (And we mustn't forget Chris, our gay assistant, who managed to get Nev to lose his cool by plunging his finger into the peanut butter jar, and also Dan the Muscle Man who lived on eggs and tuna and was very much in love with his body, and Phaedrus the baboon spider that liked to hang out above the caravan door - but these are all stories for another time!). Nev couldn't sit still for a minute and was always frantically building boats, fixing equipment or some of the field station or dispatching an unfortunate snake with a shovel, all in between tuning into the World service radio!
And then there was the theodolite experiment (Nev picture above with Debbie - now my wife - and perhaps his son Jerome?). This was an extreme team experiment - we followed a population of over 250 'marms' (Hyperolius marmoratus) for a month, up the trees, throughout the night, and mapped their every movement. By the end of the four weeks, Mandy and I hated the very sight of every frog that we had come to know individually (some with names such as 'caterpillar turd' and others named by our visiting French frog parasitologist Benoir Delvinquier, who made us realise that its very difficult to ID a frog with no back legs!). It was a great study and a real team effort - but never to be repeated.
And then in 1995 we got together with Paddagang Wines and had the first SAFAP (South African Frog Atlas Project) meeting at their wonderful restaurant in Tulbach (pictured below with James Harrison, Phil Bishop, Mervyn Mason, Alan Channing, 'Dick' Boycott, Les 'Breviceps' Minter, Someone whose name I forgot, Ernst Baard, NEV, Marius Berger, another forgotten name, Jerry Theron and Atherton Devilliers).
This was the start of a new era - we launched the Frog Atlas project and shortly after I moved on to greener (or should I say browner frog) pastures to study the interesting frogs of New Zealand. Just to prove to everyone that I did have hair in those days, in the photo below you can see me hard at work in Mtunzini.
I hope you will all join me in wishing Neville 'Wreckless Eric' Passmore a very happy birthday (BIG Six OH) and I would like to thank him for guiding me into a career that enabled me to pursue my love and passion for amphibians.
Happy Birthday Nev!
Phil Bishop (aka Boyo)