Fieldwork Sites

Fieldwork Sites

Trinidad, West Indies
Trinidad, the main island in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, lies just off the coast of Venezuela, firmly in the Tropics. It is a wonderful place to study biology. The island is not so big that travelling around it is a problem (less than 2000 square miles), but has a wide range of habitats from the Northern Range (climbing to just over 3000 feet), through the central plains to the low hills of the south - with abundant rivers and both freshwater and tidal swamps. The flora and fauna are similar to that of Venezuela, rather than other Caribbean islands.

The people are English speaking, friendly and very multi-cultural. Serious tropical diseases are rare, so that fieldwork is relatively safe. The rainy season (May - December) and dry season (January - April) offer major contrasts in abundance and activity of animals and growth of plants. The fauna and flora are exceptionally diverse: for example, Trinidad has 55 species of reptiles and 400 species of birds, compared to 6 and 200 in the U.K. respectively, despite the UK being 50 times larger in area. One deficiency: Trinidad itself has no major coral reefs; this is because of the relatively low salinity and high turbidity of the water brought to the Trinidad coast by the river Orinoco. But there are excellent reefs on Tobago.

Some aspects of Trinidad's wildlife are well known, so ornithologists and herpetologists have the advantage of excellent fieldguides by French and Murphy respectively. Visiting biologists are welcomed and can be accommodated at the Asa Wright centre or Pax Guest-house. The Department of Biological Sciences of the University of the West Indies campus at St Augustine has several knowledgeable biologists willing to give advice to visitors.

My work in Trinidad, since 1981, has been on the reproductive adaptions of Trinidad's frogs, especially the foam-nesting Leptodactylids, but is branching out to new species and new problems, especially tree-frog behaviour and predator-prey interactions.

Since 1989, I have visited Trinidad most years with large groups of staff and students in the form of University of Glasgow Expeditions (web-site on GU Exploration Society under Construction). These have allowed us to work on a wide range of topics, not just frogs! For example, leatherback turtle conservation, diversity and abundance of bats, scorpions, wildfowl conservation and fossil corals.

Ali Weir & J Roger Downie collecting frogs in the field
Ali Weir and Roger Downie checking out hidden foam nests in a Trinidad ditch

foam nest attacked by frogfly maggots

A foam nest attacked by frogfly maggots

Ali Weir collecting frogs in the field, Trinidad

Ali Weir collecting samples from a Trinidad ditch

Cyprus, Eastern Mediterranean

Cyprus, Eastern Mediterranean

The beaches of Cyprus are amongst the most important locations for the Mediterranean's nesting populations of green and loggerhead turtles. The University of Glasgow for some years maintained the Marine Turtle Research Group based at the University of Swansea.

Glasgow University has recently developed a smaller-scale turtle monitoring project centred on the RAF base at Akrotiri, Southern Cyprus.