2015: Year in Review

The HSI Committee. From L-R. Collie Ennis, JP Dunbar, Cat Hendry, Rob Gandola, and Rob O' Sullivan.
The HSI Committee. From L-R. Collie Ennis, JP Dunbar, Cat Hendry, Rob Gandola, and Rob O’ Sullivan.

For a society run entirely by volunteers, it can seem like the work is never ending. For this reason, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on what we have achieved, and to remind ourselves that all the long nights in front of a computer, wet days rambling around in ponds, and early mornings setting up displays, are all worth it. We’re immensely proud of the work we’ve done this past year, and we look forward to building on it in 2016.

The Joint Herpetological Scientific Meeting was a significant highlight for 2015, and the first event of its kind to be held in Ireland.  Delegates from all over Europe attended the meeting in Trinity College Dublin. The meeting was a resounding success and will hopefully pave the way for future events. You can read more about the JHSM here:

Editor, Rob O' Sullivan
Editor, Rob O’ Sullivan

Outreach is an integral component of The Society’s aims, and our website is an incredibly important tool. So we were of course delighted when we were awarded a Silver at the Blog Awards Ireland in the category of Best Science/Education blog.

2015 was a great year for science in social media, with #CuteOff, and #JunkOff taking Twitter by storm. The Society were heavily involved in both,coining the term CuteOff and doing our best to represent #TeamHerpetology as scientists on Twitter got competitive about their respective study animals. This was a huge victory for outreach across several biological disciplines, and received a great deal of media attention, including in outlets such as National Geographic.


We are always delighted to participate in Dublin Comic Con, and this year was no exception. The convention provides an excellent opportunity to interact with the general public in a way that is both fun and educational. A particular highlight of this year’s convention was meeting The Walking Dead’s, Michael Rooker.

The HSIs Emma Lawlor with Michael Rooker.
The HSIs Emma Lawlor with Michael Rooker.

We have been performing ongoing herpetofaunal survey work on the North Bull Island Biosphere Reserve. This work has been made possible by our tireless volunteers and we wish to take this opportunity to thank them all. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to our very own Collie Ennis, amphibian hero, for overseeing the project. The work to date led to the production of the following report: 2015 Gandola, R., Ennis, C., “Monitoring Native Herpetofauna on North Bull Island, Dublin”. Final Report to Dublin City Council

Searching for lizards on Bull Island
Searching for lizards on Bull Island

The HSI remain committed to monitoring amphibian health and to investigating potential threats to our native species. We have performed a number of surveys this year of key habitats, including a camera trap survey which we detailed here.

The Society engaged in a number of educational displays over the course of the year. Some of the larger events included Pets in the City’ for Dublin City Council, and the Science Foundation of Ireland‘s display tent for the St. Patrick’s Week festival. Science Week is always a huge success, and as ever we were delighted to participate by delivering a talk at NUI Maynooth.

Science Officers Rob Gandola and Collie Ennis
Science Officers Rob Gandola and Collie Ennis

The Society endeavours to support students whenever we can. Our science officers took on a supervisory role in Meg Doyle’s  Masters dissertation, “Genetic analysis of urban frog (Rana temporaria) populations in Dublin City – the role of civilian translocations in assessing their success, and effective habitat creation”. 

Science Officer Rob Gandola on “Living the Wildlife”

Public engagement is an important element of The Society’s work, and we often do so via the media. Science Officer Rob Gandola featured on RTE’s “Living the Wildlife” to explain the significance of the discovery of a population of non-native toads in Ireland. He also engaged in several radio interviews to discuss the dumping of pet turtles and to provide an update on the mass die-off of frogs observed in Kildare. Society Editor, Rob O’ Sullivan also engaged in radio interviews to explain the importance of frogs in Irish habitats, and to defend the allocation of funds to the protection of Natterjack Toads in Kerry.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who have made all this work possible. To the students who help us perform fieldwork, to the writers and photographers who produce content for our website, and to our members, without whom there would be no society – Thank you!

Publications of note:

2015 Gandola, R., O’Sullivan, R., Ennis, C., Doyle, M., and J.P, Dunbar. “Slippery, Scaly and Sandy: Surveying herpetofaunal diversity in an Irish coastal habitat”. Sand Dune and Shingle Network

2015 Gandola, R., Hendry, C.R., Ennis, E., and J.P., Dunbar. “The contribution of citizen scientists to amphibian disease monitoring in Ireland” FrogLog | Vol 23 (1) pg 34-35  ISSN:1026-0269