Portrait of Professor Richard Griffiths

Professor Richard Griffiths

Professor of Biological Conservation

About

Professor Richard Griffiths’ research and teaching activities revolve around the conservation of threatened species, with a particular focus on population ecology and amphibians and reptiles. Current projects include: researching amphibian declines and extinctions; evaluating actions to reduce developmental impacts on great crested newts and other species; developing survey and reintroduction protocols; wildlife trade and long-term population monitoring. This work is carried out in collaboration with a wide range of partners around the world, particularly in the UK, Europe, Latin America and Madagascar. 

Within DICE, Richard’s research group utilises a well-equipped ecology laboratory and an on-campus field-trials area. They also maintain a small collection of amphibians and reptiles that provide the ex-situ components for a number of ongoing conservation programmes. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in captive management methods, and to participate in surveys of local amphibian and reptile populations.

Professor Richard Griffiths is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

Research interests

Professor Griffiths is currently involved in the following research projects:

Assessment and mitigation of threats to amphibian populations

Although it is widely acknowledged that amphibians may be declining faster than other vertebrate classes, the threats that they face are diverse and complex. Understanding these threats and their impact on population dynamics is an essential first step in designing effective tools to neutralise them. In Britain, the effectiveness of current strategies to mitigate development threats to great crested newts is being investigated in combination with long-term population studies of this fully protected species. In addition, the use of amphibians as indicators of wider biodiversity is being tested. Related projects are investigating the role of captive breeding and reintroduction in species conservation planning, and analysing the impact of amphibian conservation programmes.

Species recovery programmes on islands

Some of the world's most threatened amphibian species occur on islands. In addition to their conservation importance, islands often provide natural laboratories for testing hypotheses about species declines and potential species recovery following threat mitigation. Current projects are focusing on endemic species on Indian Ocean islands (particularly Madagascar and the Seychelles), and how landscape change and habitat fragmentation are impacting on declining amphibian and reptile populations on Jersey.

Design of survey and monitoring programmes for reptiles and amphibians

Assessing the abundance and distribution of species is fundamental to conservation planning. However, simple counts of individuals or occupied sites may bear little relationship to actual population sizes or site occupancies because of variation in how easily individuals or populations are detected. Reptiles and amphibians pose particular challenges in this regard as a wide range of variables may affect how easily they are observed and detected. Current work is exploring how mark-recapture and site occupancy models can be used to account for variation in the detectability of reptiles and amphibians, and how survey and monitoring protocols can be designed to provide more informative data on population status and distribution. In addition, the responses of animals to different types of sampling devices – such as traps and cover objects – are being compared with a view to optimising sampling strategies. Work is particularly focusing on newts, slow-worms, grass snakes and adders.

Teaching

Undergraduate

  • DI303: Survey and Monitoring for Biodiversity

Postgraduate

  • DI836: Integrated Species Conservation and Management (convenor)
  • DI883: Special Topics in Conservation (convenor)
  • DI884: Research Methods for Natural Sciences (convenor)

Supervision

A scholarship is currently available to work with Professor Griffiths as secondary supervisor on the project 'Patterns and process in population trends of UK herpetofauna'. Further details can be found here.  

Current PhD students

  • Steven Allain: Population drivers, demographics and disease in wild snake populations
  • Gemma Harding: The best laid plans? Evaluation of ex situ components within species conservation action plans
  • Anna Jemmett: Conservation of Mongolia's Wild Camels (Camelus ferus)
  • Aidan MacKay: Assessing the impact of the introduction of marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) on native anurans in Kent
  • Helen Pheasey: Methods of, and motives for, laundering a wildlife commodity beyond captive farms
  • Jack Slattery: Feasibility of reintroducing the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) to Kent
  • Helena Turner: Population status and conservation of the critically endangered Bermuda rock lizard (Plestiodon Longirostris)
  • Sophus zu Ermgassen: Are No Net Loss policies effective? Evaluating the outcomes of biodiversity offsetting and No Net Loss initiatives around the world

Completed PhD students (and where they are now)

Professional

BBC1 One Show – May 2012

BBC1 Great British Wildlife Revival – September 2013

National/international activities

  • President, British Herpetological Society
  • Member, Executive Committee of the World Congress of Herpetology
  • Member, IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group
  • Member, Editorial Board of Conservation Evidence
  • Member, International Review Panel of African Journal of Ecology
  • Honorary International Conservation Research Fellow, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey
  • Honorary Life Member, British Herpetological Society
  • Trustee, Amphibian Conservation Research Trust
  • Trustee, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust
  • Trustee, Wildwood Trust
  • External Examiner: MSc Ecology and Management of the Natural Environment, University of Bristol; MSc Wildlife Management and Conservation, MSc Species Identification and Survey Skills, University of Reading
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