Scientists are urging the public to help them investigate why the population of toads in the UK is declining.
Habitat destruction, road deaths, pollution and pesticides are all suspected to be factors which have led to dwindling numbers nationally.
Members of the public are now being asked to act as 'wildlife detectives' and collect mouth swabs from live toads or 'toe tips' from those killed on roads.
The call is part of a research project that has just started at the University of Wolverhampton, in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) and the University of Salford.
It is hoped that the project will shed light on to the reasons for the decline and enable positive conservation action to take place in the future.
Dr Simon Maddock, Lecturer in Conservation Genetics at the University of Wolverhampton, said: "Common toads (Bufo bufo) are declining across many parts of the UK, especially in England. We are unsure about the reasons for this, although factors could include destruction of habitat, road mortality, disease, pollution and pesticides. We know in some populations they have declined in huge numbers and the project will further investigate the causes and consequences of these declines."
Dr John Wilkinson, ARC’s Regional, Training and Science Programmes Manager, who is a supervisor for the PhD, said: “We will use DNA samples to look at how genetic diversity in toad populations may have changed over time or by area, how this may be affecting some populations in the modern landscape, and how declines might be addressed through conservation."
The PhD candidate, Rémi Martin, who will be working on the toad decline project, added “we are really interested in having as many people from across the UK helping to collect genetic samples as possible. These genetic samples can be in the form of ‘toe-tips’ from toads killed on roads or buccal ̶ mouth ̶ swabs from live toads. If people want to get involved then they should email us and we will send out a sampling pack”
People interested in taking part should contact Rémi Martin (R.Martin6@wlv.ac.uk) and Simon Maddock (firstname.lastname@example.org). Full protocols and sampling kits will be provided to assist volunteers with their work.
The project will compare genetic, morphological, population and environmental data to investigate geographic structuring, genetic diversity through time and the impacts of environmental change on toad populations.