The Erasmus Darwin Barlow Fund aims to give conservationists of the future new skills and experiences, by funding two places each year to join a ZSL EDGE of Existence expedition. The expeditions are named in tribute to the late Dr Erasmus Barlow, a Founder Fellow and key contributor to ZSL in his role as Secretary from 1980 to 1982.
The two early-career conservationists chosen this year were Alice Litchfield and Freya Marshall who will join EDGE Conservation Biologist Davi Teles to travel to Guatemala, and study the highly distinct Central American river turtle.
What will we be doing in Guatemala?
Our aim in Guatemala is to track the Central America River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii). Our intention is to deploy nets to capture the species, tag them and try to identify individuals including sex and age to gain an understanding of the population remaining. During our expedition we aim to document the work we are completing, so we can later inform conservationists and others regarding the population of turtles in Guatemala.
Meet the awardees
My name is Alice Litchfield and I am one of this year’s Erasmus Darwin Barlow awardees. I was instantly drawn to this expedition as I am an early career conservationist with a focus on reptile and amphibian species. I studied a BSc Geography degree at Manchester Metropolitan University with a year in industry with the Wild Planet Trust, based at Paignton Zoo. Whilst working with the Field Conservation and Research Department, I learnt the importance of strong evidence-based research to support conservation efforts both in-situ and ex-situ. I learnt an incredible amount and concluded the year at the BIAZA Research Conference presenting my research.
After graduating university, I moved to Bristol to continue to work in the zoo environment and am now completing my second season as a ranger communicating animal biology and conservation to the general public, whilst also volunteering in the reptile department to gain hands-on experience and further knowledge. I believe now is the most crucial time in our planet’s history to act for wildlife and every individual can be helping to save ecosystems, whether this is active field research or being conscious of the products we consume. This expedition is a fantastic opportunity for me to understand early scientific research and the actions needed to take to conserve species in the wild.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work to help animals. At aged 5, in school, we were asked to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up and I drew myself as a vet. I grew up in a rural village in Scotland, surrounded by farms so was no stranger to wildlife.
As I got older, I spent as much time as I could with animals, working at the local cat shelter or helping with lambing on local farms. I’d worked to raise money for animal conservation charities, but it wasn’t till I got to university that my dream job changed from a vet to becoming a conservationist.
In 2017 I funded my own trip to Vietnam to volunteer at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife Rescue Centre with the goal of working with Pangolins, a species which I had grown to love and find incredibly fascinating. After spending 3 weeks helping with the rescued pangolins and then when I got back being asked the question “What exactly is a pangolin?” so many times I lost count, I was determined to help raise awareness of the many species which are so often forgotten.
After graduating with my BSc, with my final research project focusing on Scottish Wildcats, my goal was to get my first job in wildlife conservation. After learning about EDGE and the important work they do I was so happy to be part of this expedition. I am so excited to work with the Central American River Turtles and look forward to all the challenges and rewards which come from field research such as this.
Make sure to keep up to date with Alice and Freya’s field work by following the ZSL and EDGE social media pages!