Frogs VIC Launch Report
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!