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Science as Leisure

Liz Marchio

I am a trained ichthyologist interested in what gets people interested in natural history, biological sciences, and science careers. My passion is to find out what fuels curiosity for the natural world.

Biology-related serious leisure activities can impact people's interest in ecology, biology, and natural history. Do these activities promote biological understanding? If so, how does that progress and to what level does it progress to? 

If you're interested in a starting a dialogue, please feel free to contact me. If you're curious about how I got here, my story can be found on the About Me page.


Cane Toad Confliction

I've heard about the invasiveness of cane toads (Bufo marinus) and their terrible effects on native Australian fauna. These past few days I have seen the invasiveness of cane toads on the landscape. From the "outbush" to the rainforest to the coastline... They are absolutely everywhere. 

The cane toad, Bufo marinus. I've seen several about the size of my iPad mini.

The cane toad, Bufo marinus. I've seen several about the size of my iPad mini.

If you aren't familiar with invasive species, they are human introduced species to areas where they are not native. Some of these species die off, or remain innocuous (thus being called non-native rather than invasive), but some find a place where they can consume prey and live in a habitat where nothing can deal with them. They are not intimately fit into the habitat and upend the food web. This has huge consequences on the native plants and animals- a bottom up and top down cascade occurs. These are invasive species.

Invasive species can be introduced intentionally or accidentally. Cane toads were introduced specifically target and consume cane beetles. They call this biological control. However, cane toads took over and have been eating just about anything that will fit into their very large mouths. They are also toxic and no animals will consume them (though some have learned to invert the toad and eat the belly). They are most definitely "invasive".

In school, I learned about the cane toad and how they needed to be removed from the entire continent of Australia. They epitomize invasive species. Basically, they need to be killed on sight.

A few days ago I came upon a toad, about 2" long. I wasn't sure if it was a cane toad so I looked it over, tried to identify it in my field book, and thought about "dispatching" it. I wasn't 100% positive about my identification so I let the toad go. I later learned it WAS a cane toad. I had, and still have, very mixed feelings about dispatching them. I grew up with frogs and toads practically in my pockets. I have a very soft place for them.

I realized my cand toad conflict when I felt my responsibility as an educated citizen was to do the right thing and remove them through, well, killing them. 

So, of course, that same toad crossed my path the next morning and I caught it. It urinated on me, as they do, and I looked at it and felt sick. I felt absolutely terrible at what I was going to do to it. It was innocent, it didn't know it wasn't supposed to be in Australia, it was just a terrible misunderstanding!  

In the end, I was responsible and dispatched the cane toads I have come across in the most humane way possible. Although I know it is my biological and ecological responsibility to remove these animals, it has been extremely trying and eye opening. From invasive toads to feral cats, I now know why people are so unwilling to do the right thing. It is terribly hard to come to terms with hurting the "innocent" and "playing god".

Here is some more information on cane toads in Australia:


Thanks for following and all my biological best. 



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