My name is Marta Gaworek-Michalczenia. Straight from the start I want to thank Helen Meredith for giving me the opportunity and privilege to blog about my experience on the EGDE website. She has been very friendly and supportive towards me and actually helped me to get a grant from Vodafone. Very briefly, the Vodafone World of Difference Programme is an initiative that provides people with funds to work for 2 months for their dream charity. But my story is even more complicated.
I come from Poland, I am a biologist and I am working at London Zoo in the Catering Department. I have always had a passion for wildlife and conservation biology. My dream is to get an interesting job in the field of conservation and develop a meaningful career of which I can be proud. I took the catering position at ZSL because I wanted to get closer to my dream job as a conservationist and since my first day I have had strong ambitions to help the charity with their conservation work. Then the Vodafone opportunity appeared and after being chosen from many applicants finally I got my placement.
I have a Masters degree in Environmental Biology and my interests lie, amongst other things, in amphibian conservation and environmental factors responsible for recent amphibian declines (and/or environmental factors supporting the emergence of infectious diseases). The idea of my project was to work ‘behind the scenes’ with Living Collections in the Reptile House and, step by step, explore all of the aspects of amphibian husbandry, daily tasks like maintaining the enclosures and general up-keep of the department, and also to actively help with conservation breeding programmes of Critically Endangered species, such as the Dominican Mountain Chicken frog (Leptodactylus fallax), which is almost extinct in the wild. I also have the opportunity to meet ZSL scientists working on different amphibian conservation issues and spy on them during their work . This allows me to get a comprehensive view of all aspects of the conservation of these animals.
Why did I choose to work with amphibians?
I love all animals. Without any exception. But I also realised that the more you already know about a group of animals the more you want to know. I have some previous experience with working on amphibian projects and they definitely stole my attention.
Amphibians are an ideal subject for many kinds of ecological studies that can throw new light on fundamental questions in the natural sciences, and at the same time they exemplify the plight of wild creatures suffering declines all over the world. Because of their thin, moist and permeable skin, they are poorly protected from harsh environments and are especially susceptible to any changes in the environment and extremely sensitive to environment pollutants. It is not surprising then that they manifest proportionately high extinction rates and more severe declines than most other organisms. They are especially important to study as they work as an early-warning system portending changes that may soon influence more resistant species.
In my blog I will try to show you my journey from the Reptile House, with all the keeping tasks and responsibilities of working with Living Collections, to visiting and chatting with scientists in IoZ who are doing everything to make sure that these little creatures will survive for future generations.
To learn more about amphibians on the EDGE of Existence visit the EDGE Amphibians homepage.