By Erica Rymer, Events & Marketing Specialist
“Hoppy” National Frog Month! Frogs and toads are an essential part of many wetland ecosystems, serving as both predator and prey for a variety of species. These unique creatures can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Unfortunately, many frog and toad populations have experienced dramatic population declines in the United States and around the world in the last several years.
To combat this problem, many people have begun to track frogs and toads at home as members of FrogWatch USA. This program is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) citizen science program that provides individuals, groups, and families with the opportunity to learn about wetlands in their communities by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads. These calls are then entered into an online database that scientists around the world can use for research and tracking. FrogWatch USA has established an expansive network of chapters across the United States, hosted at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, nature centers, and similar organizations.
Your Akron Zoo has its own FrogWatch chapter which was founded in 2015. The chapter is co-coordinated by Carrie Bassett, STEM and curriculum coordinator, and Michael Phillips, wild animal keeper. These two mentor volunteers in our community and host training sessions to recruit the next generation of frog watchers.
“This is an opportunity to take part in conservation locally,” says Bassett. “Frogs are considered an indicator species, meaning their presence or absence tells us a lot about the health of a particular wetland habitat. Unfortunately, they are disappearing at an alarming rate all over the world.”
In January or February each year, FrogWatch volunteers are trained to identify frogs and toads by the male’s breeding calls. The training is so simple that anyone can do it, making it a great activity for families and individuals alike! Once members have been trained, they are tasked to visit their sites after dark at least once a month from February to August to record the species and number of frogs calling. Sites can be anywhere from backyards to parks, as long as they have wetland access.
“Maybe it should be called FrogListen,” jokes Bassett. “We don’t actually go out to see frogs, just hear them. My personal favorite is the spring peeper. They are so tiny, but SO loud!”
The chapter currently has 75 members and would love to continue to expand. If you are thinking of getting involved, you can learn more about the program by contacting Carrie Bassett at email@example.com, or by visiting the FrogWatch booth at Party for the Planet on April 19 at the Akron Zoo. The chapter also has a Facebook page where they share fun information about amphibians and can answer FrogWatch or frog specific questions.