By Amy Loughlin
A mobile app which allows users to record frog sightings in Melbourne has greatly improved researchers’ knowledge of local and at-risk frog populations, according to Melbourne Water Waterwatch co-ordinator James Frazer.
Speaking at an International Save the Frogs Day event, Frazer explained that the Frog Census involves people, “getting out in the field, recording frog populations, building our understanding of where they are and how they’re doing…we need that data.”
“Historically, participants used their own devices to record frog calls, digitise them and submit them to Melbourne Water with an accompanying datasheet…The new Frog Census app allows users to complete this process within a matter of minutes on their phone.”
According to Mr Frazer, the introduction of the app in September 2016 has allowed researchers to increase the range of their survey effort.
“Last financial year, before the introduction of the app, Frog Census volunteers monitored 80 sites…volunteers using the app have monitored over 600 sites,” said Mr Frazer.
“Importantly, increased numbers of people are engaging with Melbourne Water in the scientific process – becoming ‘citizen scientists’, collecting fit-for-use data, and connecting to their local waterways.”
More than 80 people attended the Save the Frogs Day event held at the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands on Sunday the 30th of April, organised and run by Mr Frazer.
Attendees learned about the current risks to frogs, how to build frog friendly habitats and how to get involved with the Frog Census.
“[Edithvale-Seaford Wetland Education Centre] is a Melbourne Water facility, it’s a very family friendly facility and we can showcase the wetlands here which are themselves…globally significant, so this is, to me, a logical place to hold it,” Mr Frazer said.
Save the Frogs Day is an international campaign which has seen volunteers host educational events in over 60 countries.
In an interview with Mongabay in 2008, the campaign’s founder Dr Kerry Kriger said, “Our mission is to prevent an imminent mass extinction of amphibians that is already well underway. One-third of the world’s 6,485 species of frogs, toads, newts, salamanders and caecilians are on the verge of extinction, and 200 species have completely disappeared in recent years.”
According to the Save the Frogs website, frog conservation is a global issue, stating, “Unless we act quickly, amphibian species will continue to disappear, resulting in irreversible consequences to the planet’s ecosystems and to humans.”
Echoing this concern, James Frazer said, “Without a doubt [this is] a globally significant event in the sense that, frogs are very sensitive organisms, they breathe and drink through their skin so they can tell us a lot about environmental change, whether it’s pollution, climate change…so they’re our canary in a coal mine.”
There are six major threats to frogs globally and are all due to human activity, including habitat loss, climate change and pollution, according to Save the Frogs.
In Australia up to six species of frog have gone extinct since the late 70’s, and in Melbourne at least three species are threatened, most notably the Growling Grass Frog, said Mr Frazer.
There are several ways to help local frog populations including getting involved with the Frog Census, using frog friendly gardening techniques, using less pesticides in gardens and getting involved with local land-care groups in order to help restore the habitats for frogs.