Love Your Locals – How to Love a Baw Baw Frog


We’re publishing the crowd sourced speaker sessions over the next few weeks that formed part of the Big Science Communication Summit in June 2013. We have six in total, and we are starting with Michelle Cooper from Zoo’s Victoria – with How to Love a Baw Baw Frog.

Each speaker had 10 minutes to convey a story of their individual science communication challenge, the solution and most importantly the learnings from their experience.

What was your science communication challenge?

Zoos Victoria has committed to securing a future for 20 of our most threatened native species. The challenge is that not many people know that these species exist, so why would they care if they were lost forever? The Tassie Devil is an exception – Warner Brothers helped us out there, but what about the Baw Baw Frog, the Guthega Skink and the Mountain Pygmy-possum? Our challenge is to get the public to know and LOVE these species, so we can work more effectively towards saving them!

What was the solution?

Get creative! We have been thinking out of the box to deliver these species to the Victorian public like they have never seen them before – street art, love letters in the paper, comic strips and a team of 20 Zooperheros (representing the threatened species) called The Extinction Fighters. Zoos Victoria is calling kids and adults alike to get behind these species and help us save them!

What did you learn from the experience?

We have learnt that by changing the way we communicate, we can get the public to love a frog that they will likely never see, that lives in the mud on the top of a mountain they will never go to. We continue to learn about how to effectively connect with, AND be noticed by a mainstream audience amoungst the plethera of messages that bombard society daily. The sky is the limit – get people to LOVE THEIR LOCALS and you can conserve them more effectively!

Michelle Cooper works with the Wildlife Conservation & Science team at Zoos Victoria where amongst other things, she is charged with communicating the plight of threatened species and assisting with research and sustainability projects. Michelle has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Melbourne and a Certificate III in Captive Care. She has worked in interpretation and education across zoos and aquaria for the past decade, as well as holding various Zoo Keeping positions across a range of threatened species. In 2009, Michelle was awarded a fellowship to work in situ with the Tenkile Conservation Alliance in Papua New Guinea where she worked with the local community and conducted a protein assessment review to provide recommendations to improve food security whilst reducing hunting pressures on local species. More recently, Michelle has been appointed to the business and communications sub group of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team is working on community engagement projects for this species.

You can follow Michelle on Twitter and find out more about the Zooperman and the Extinction Fighters Project.

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