Portrait of

Western toads

My name is Rosanna Gamlen-Greene, I'm a National Geographic Explorer, and a PhD student at UBC in John Richardson's lab. I'm researching the only indigenous amphibian on Haida Gwaii, the Western toad. Locals are concerned because they don't see it around as much, and I want to figure out why.

I'm also doing a project to try and figure out if the toad is genetically distinct from mainland populations. My favourite research memory is the first time that something really tangible happened as a result of the research that I'm doing. I met some locals on Haida Gwaii who really cared about toads; they had seen lots of adult toads on their property, and always gotten off their tractors to help get them out of harm's way. I asked if I could look on their property to see if there was a breeding site, and I found one, and they were really excited and they wanted to know what can we do to help save the toads. I said, “Well, if you can delay harvesting around your pond and leave a buffer.” And then I was driving past at the end of the summer and I saw this giant buffer that they'd left around the pond and I knew that that was saving thousands of baby toads.

You may have guessed by now but my favourite organism is the Western toad. It has a fascinating life cycle where hundreds of adult toads come together en masse to the exact same spot on a pond at the same time of year and have a giant party. The females lay thousands of eggs and the males make this release call when they're trying to get a mate, and that's why they're my favorite organism.

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