María Chang

María Chang is establishing an organisation which will protect amphibians and reptiles in the cloud forests of Guatemala through community conservation.

At A Glance

María Chang is a scientist with a speciality in salamanders, who conducted research on the ecology and local knowledge of the nimble long-limbed salamander in the Laj Chimel community in Quiché for her Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) fellowship.

Inspired by her research, which identified the needs for conservation in Guatemala’s cloud forests, María decided to start an organisation challenging the difficulties around lack of amphibian knowledge, harmful local myths about wildlife, and lack of protected areas.

One aspect of the organisation’s work in this region will be to establish an environmental education programme in the Uspantán municipality, focusing on the local amphibian and reptile species.

Maria holding a salamander

María holding a Nyctanolis pernix. Image © Renato Morales

As the Quiché region is home to remote communities, María has built in development opportunities and family income sources into her plan. For example, interested community members will be trained as guides in amphibian and reptile identification.

It is an important region for amphibians and reptiles, with seven amphibian species identified during María’s fellowship, two of them globally endangered. María’s organisation will continue this work exploring water sources in Quiché and surveying them to learn more about the local amphibian diversity.

During María’s research, she also identified the presence of the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis fungus (which is highly dangerous for amphibian species) in this Quiché region, so the organisation will train all field staff in biosecurity measures to reduce transmission of the fungus between habitats.