Hop to It and Help Amphibians with FrogWatch USA

Posted by Trish Riley, February 16, 2011

FrogWatchWhat is making that sound in your backyard? The Santa Fe College chapter of FrogWatch USA is looking for fellow amphibian lovers to come out for a training session at the Teaching Zoo Feb. 26 where you will learn to identify frogs and toads by learning their breeding calls and sounds. The training is open to everyone, including families.

The data you collect will be scientifically gathered and recorded on a national level. FrogWatch is a “citizen science” program.

“It’s science that’s relevant, but in laymen terms. You don’t have to be a rough-and-tumble biologist to understand it,” explains Joshua Watson, a professor in SF’s Zoo Animal Technology program and co-coordinator of FrogWatch.

Nature lovers and humanitarians alike should be interested in FrogWatch, because amphibians are known as an indicator species.

“The health of the frogs shows us the health of the environment,” says Tarah Jacobs, conservation education specialist at the Teaching Zoo. “It’s important to understand the trends and keep a census. We especially have large species diversity here in Florida.”

An indicator species gives us signals about climate change, pollution issues, or even an outbreak of disease.

“We’re experiencing a global amphibian crisis,” continues Watson. “One third of all amphibians could go extinct in our lifetime. People imagine it as this faraway thing, like in the Amazon — but no, it’s affecting us here in Alachua County.”

Training details

Green Squirrel Tree FrogThe upcoming training session is from 1-5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Teaching Zoo and is free. Particiapnts will learn what the program is about and will be instructed on the different species of frogs and their calls.

“By the end of the first session, you should well be able to recognize the calls, but it does take some practice,” says Jacobs.

Some of the local amphibians you can expect to hear at the Teaching Zoo, and in your own yard, are southern toads, spade foot toads, bull frogs (“berum“), green squirrel tree frogs (pictured), and Cuban tree frogs.

“Cuban tree frogs are actually an invasive species displacing the other native tree frogs,” says Watson. “They’ve slowly spread throughout Florida and are even moving up into Georgia.”

Scientists aren’t the only ones who will benefit from your work with FrogWatch.

“It is so fun!” says Jacobs. “You’ll start identifying frogs in your everyday life, wherever you go, and this heightens your awareness.”

Watson concurs.

“It proves that there’s nature all around you, even in retention ponds,” he says. “There’s been a big community effort on behalf of amphibians. We’re lucky to have so many people who love animals.”

CONTACT: