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Coming Up...


Dr Laura Brannelly

Laura is a research fellow at the Melbourne veterinary school at the University of Melbourne. She is a conservation biologist and disease ecologist primarily focusing on how frogs are affected by chytridiomycosis and will be presenting:


"The Effects of Climate Change on

Frog Development, Physiology and Immunity"

 Please join us at 7:30 pm

Thursday 2nd June 2022

Elgin Inn, Hawthorn


Amphibians are declining worldwide, and the impacts of climate change are largely unknown. For animals that require freshwater aquatic habitat, such as frogs as tadpoles, climate change and its influence on water availability poses a huge risk.


Laura will give an overview of her recent work investigating how climate change (through pond drying and larval density) impact larval development and frogs later in life. Understanding how climate change influences frog development, survival, physiology and immunity can help us predict the direct impacts of climate change on frogs.

Event commences from 6 pm for dinner and drinks (available for purchase), talk starts at 7:30 pm.  

Laura Mesocosms.jpg

Steph is senior animal keeper at Melbourne museum after spending nearly 7 years at the Amphibian research Centre breeding crickets and endangered frogs. Steph's talk is about how she grew up loving frogs, turned it into a career and the journey she went on to get there.

Stephanie Versteegen is currently a senior keeper at Melbourne Museum, but she has spent her career looking after endangered and less endangered frogs and we were lucky enough to hear about the wonderful animals with which she has worked.

Steph’s frog story began as a child with an early memory of a frog she found in her grandparent’s garden. Like so many of us, she didn’t forget her first encounter with an amphibian and it shaped the person she is to this day, declaring as a child that a herpetologist seemed like an excellent job title! Fast forward to 2006 and Steph scores herself a work experience placement with the Amphibian Research Centre in Werribee. Steph distinctly remembers the “banana box frogs” – all manner of lost frogs accidentally shipped around via the fruit and vegetable trade. At this point, there was no looking back and Steph was full bore on the path to becoming a herpetologist and through her degree at Deakin, she constantly steered her coursework towards the frogs she loved.

At the end of her degree, Steph was back at ARC, this time at Pearcedale, the move obviously not far enough to escape Steph’s passion. There Steph learnt a lot about trophic levels. No crickets = no frogs. So Steph spent many hours intimately involved in the breeding and care of crickets. Some, she says, of her career’s most valuable lessons.

The highlight of Steph’s talk though, was her regaling her stories of breeding, raising and releasing endangered species. Spotted Tree Frogs (Litoria spenceri) was the species with which Steph was most involved. To begin with it sounded easy –like most tadpoles, even endangered species eat frozen lettuce. But releasing frogs into the wild where floods and chytrid posed real risks to the populations mean that not every release was rewarded with a happy ending. But often the results were positive and indeed the work continues with breeding Spotted Tree Frogs and Southern Corroboree Frogs (Pseudophryne corroboree) in large outdoor enclosures that exclude chytrid, in the hope that they can be released in the future. Steph also worked on the the Baw Baw frog (Philoria frosti) project that was then very much in its infancy. Zoos Victoria has just announced that they have successfully bred Baw Baw Frogs in captivity and Steph, along with the audience couldn’t contain her excitement. Steph hasn’t just worked with these endangered species. She told us that she has worked with some 50 species of Australian frogs. All of which I’d reckon were lucky to know her.

Both speakers protested their labels of frog experts, but we disagree – they gave us wonderful insights in their respective careers in frogs from the common to the critically endangered and the audience enjoyed both talks from our esteemed colleagues.

For the frogs, Lynette Plenderleith Chair, Frogs Victoria.

P.S. If you’re hungry for more, visit the frogs at Melbourne Museum:

James Frazer, Coordinator, Melbourne Water Frog Census talks about the community engagement and citizen science-based frog monitoring program that has run since 2001. Learn how volunteer-collected frog data have been used to inform waterway planning and monitor the impact of on-ground interventions such as habitat creation and environmental watering. James has a background in natural resource management, threatened species recovery programs, and community engagement.

On a warm night in Melbourne’s suburbs, many people of a froggy persuasion met in the upstairs room of Public House, Richmond. Due to successful RSVPing by attendees, all in the room took a seat for the November 2018 Frogs Victoria event. We promised a double bill of speakers engaged in the professional frog world, by which I mean the frog-related professions, not the world of gainfully employed frogs.

Melbourne Water Frog Census

First up was James Frazer, co-ordinator of Melbourne Water’s Frog census. James’s introduction was accompanied by some delightful background musical bangers accidentally provided by the venue, but soon after Mr. Frazer began, we were able to hear him a lot better as he treated us to froggy-data tales from the Melbourne area.

James explained to us why Melbourne Water is interested in frogs. Happily, the answer is at least in part because Melbournians are interested in frogs. Additionally, frogs are of course excellent indicators of waterway health, in which Melbourne Water is very interested. Frogs are, as we know excellent ambassadors for engagement and environmental custodianship, which James uses to spread the message that the future of amphibians is currently looking dire, but the people of Victoria can help.

The 2016 launch of the Frog Census app created, or at least measured, a spike in the interest of human residents in their amphibian neighbours. James used a convoluted flow chart to demonstrate with some impact, the previous methods of collecting Frog Census data – paper reports that required writing (sometimes with a pen!), scanning and emailing back to the office. Thankfully those methods are long gone and the replacement app is user-friendly and fun, with pictures, IDs and electronic buttons.

Every Frog Census report is used to influence management and strategy. I say all… apparently not every report is perfect and some of James’s work seems to be somewhat like that of a detective – finding out what the report is supposed to be. But once the reports are verified a good picture of Melbourne’s frogs is created. At least some of this goes towards “big data” and is available to people outside of Frog Census for others to use. The data can inform wetland monitoring, management and creation.

The Frog Census also provides curriculum tools, a frog pond guide, monitoring and ID guides. James works closely with other conservation groups in strategic partnerships to further the frog message and support like-minded individuals and groups. The Frog Census is a great way for anybody to get involved in frog science and conservation.

For the frogs, Lynette Plenderleith Chair, Frogs Victoria.

P.S. If you’re hungry for more, check out:

Melbourne Water Frog Census:


@melbournewater, @jim_feather

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Words by Lynette Plenderleith; Photos by Teisha Sloane-Lay

Many thanks to all of you who came to our launch party last week. I hope you had as much fun as I did!

If you missed it, or if you want to reminisce, please read on…

Frogs Victoria is launched! Last Thursday, on what promised to be an excellent night for frogs both inside and out, amphibian aficionados of all morphs arrived at the Elgin Inn, Hawthorn. Some were there to learn about frogs, some where there to meet friends (old and new) and some were there to listen to their hero, the celebrated Murray Littlejohn.

The first few of the frog-inclined leapt through the door a little after 5:30 – straight from the stress of work to the warmth and comfort of an open fire, a well-stocked bar and local frog lovers. As darkness fell and rain rolled in, the committee welcomed scientists, conservationists and frog enthusiasts through the door and directed them to the bar where the diligent staff did their best to keep up with the ever-increasing crowd. After a moderate amount of responsible drinking and a bite to eat, more than sixty people fit any way they could in front of the projector screen.

The Frogs Victoria inaugural committee –

Teisha Sloane-Lay, Nick Clemann, Lynette Plenderleith with Patron Murray Littlejohn

After consuming more than my share of pumpkin pizza, I welcomed the crowd and introduced the inaugural committee – myself, Teisha Sloane-Lay and Nick Clemann. Nick took centre stage and spoke of the desperate situation of frogs in Victoria and highlighted decreasing numbers of the Baw Baw frog. One of the reasons we were all there. He then introduced another reason we were all there – Murray Littlejohn. Nick’s slides listed Murray’s career highlights, but he didn’t read them out. After all, we did all need to get home eventually. But Nick did mention a few personal things about Murray – he is to Nick as he is to many of us, a mentor and an inspiration.

Frogs Victoria Patron Murray Littlejohn came forward and took the microphone in the humble and warm way that he does. He says it’s been at least five years since he last did a talk, but you wouldn’t know it. Murray is the consummate professional. Erudite and articulate, entertaining and illuminating. The keynote address, “Zonal Hybridization between Geocrinia laevis and G. Victoriana (Smooth Froglets) in Western Victoria” began.

The audience were treated to photos of the species in question, including egg masses, the breeding site and an amplectant pair of G. victoriana. We also saw photographic evidence of Peter Rawlinson allegedly borrowing Murray’s favourite mug without prior permission. Decades of bioacoustics research have not dulled Murray’s sense of humour.

A master at work: Living legend Murray Littlejohn

The data stretched as far back as 1961, at the beginning of Murray’s studies when he didn’t even have enough data to publish. Murray told of how their first missive declaring the discovery of the hybrid zone was buried at a secure location for future additions upon excavation and we saw a photograph of Murray doing as such in 1973.

One of the most exciting and memorable moments for the audience was listening to recordings of the two species and their hybrids calls. Geocrinia laevis and G. Victoriana have very different advertisement call signatures and the hybrids were a portmanteau more perfect than one would imagine. It was almost comical. Maps of the range of the species precisely delineated the hybrid zone and Murray presented supporting evidence from protein syntheses. The resulting hybrid delimitation fit exactly Murray’s earlier definition.

After a few questions from the audience, Murray was encircled by his fans eager to further discuss his work and life. More discussions were enjoyed by the attendees. Some serious, some not, some by friends and some by people who were meeting for the first time.

The massive number of people that turned out is testament to the dedication, passion and affection that we have for native Victoria fauna, particularly our marvellous frogs. We are excited to see what the future holds and hope you’ll join us for it. A million thanks for your support.

For the frogs, Lynette Plenderleith Chair, Frogs Victoria.

P.S. We have plans afoot for remote access to future meetings for all of you who contacted us to let us know that you live too far away to attend events in Melbourne. Watch this space!

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