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July 19, 2024

Countdown to one million frogs!

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FrogID lead scientist Dr Jodi Rowley with a Green Tree Frog. Photo Salty Dingo.

Can you help find a Growling Grass Frog, a Screaming Frog or a Tusked Frog? How about a Green Stream Frog, a Peppered Tree Frog, or a Giant Burrowing Frog? Australians are being asked to help capture croaks for FrogID Week.

The Australian Museum is calling on all Australians to help reach 1 million frog calls. 965,000 frogs have already been recorded by everyday people across the country.

Now the team hopes to reach a million by the end of the year – a welcome Christmas present for Australia’s 259 native species.

FrogID is the only project of its kind in the world. It was the brainchild of Australian scientist Dr Jodi Rowley, and Australian Museum Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, who founded the initiative in 2017.

Dr Rowley is Curator of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Biology at the Australian Museum and UNSW. FrogID quickly became a core part of the AM’s Citizen Science Centre which has set an international standard.

Dr Rowley’s charismatic authority and unwavering commitment to saving frogs has seen her in demand as a public speaker and frequent media guest, helping FrogID become a flagship program for the AM.

Frog ID Week 2023Counting and saving frogs

In only six years, FrogID has become a multi award-winning conservation initiative that’s yielded over 20 scientific papers, helped introduced 5 new frog species to science, and even inspired an ARIA-nominated album.

It’s also provided vital data to help shape environmental policy, including how the Black Summer Fires of 2019-20 impacted frog populations, and how threatened the Davies Tree Frog and Sphagnum Frog have become.

Dr Rowley’s simple concept of enlisting everyday people to help find, record and save frogs has won supporters ranging from international science luminaries to Australian school kids.

NSW Minister for Arts, Music, Night-time Economy, Jobs and Tourism, the Hon John Graham, said, ‘FrogID shows Australians at their best – coming together to help save one of our most threatened native animals. Dr Rowley has inspired so many people to care about frogs.

‘The NSW Government is proud to have supported FrogID from its inception as a tech innovation, through to the incredible community outreach. It’s a true Australian success story.’

FrogID Week. Photo Salty Dingo.

How does it work?

A sophisticated but simple-to-use smart phone app makes it easy for everyday people (citizen scientists) to contribute to conservation. They find and record frog calls on the app, which sends these directly to the Australian Museum scientists who identify each frog species calling. The in-built GPS makes it easy to identify exactly where each frog is from.

The Australian Museum is working with tech partners to enhance FrogID’s platform even further through the introduction of artificial intelligence.

‘AI has the capacity to be a huge benefit to FrogID by taking on some of the workload of processing the recordings submitted by our FrogID users through the App,’ said Paul Flemons, Head of the Australian Museum’s Centre for Citizen Science.

‘We’re currently training AI to identify frogs from the submitted recordings. It’s very exciting working with technology that’s evolving at such a pace. We are hoping to use it to help reduce the costs of the project and increase the output. But of course, AI can’t go out and record frogs in the countryside. That’s irreplaceable,’ he said.

Dr Rowley said, ‘Together with our citizen scientists we’ve helped identify 5 frog species new to science, some with amazing calls like the Western Laughing Frog, the Screaming Tree Frog, the Slender Bleating Frog, the Spalding Rocket Frog and the Otway Smooth Frog.’

Northern Flinders Ranges Froglet. Photo Stephen Mahony.

FrogID has also discovered some amazing new facts about frogs since it began in 2017 including:

  • that some frogs have accents.
  • some breed for longer in cities than in the country.
  • the Striped Marsh Frog is our most urban tolerant species.
  • around 40% of Australian frogs live near farm dams.
  • and that the Tusked Frog – previously feared extinct from the New England Tablelands of NSW – still persists near Tenterfield.

More frogs needed

‘We’ve mapped frogs across much of the country,’ said Dr Rowley, ‘but we are still keen to have help gathering calls particularly from The Kimberley across to the Top End; from Sydney down to the South Coast; the far southwestern point of WA, and remote parts of South Australia to name a few.

Litoria bella frog. Photo Jodi Rowley.

‘We’re still looking for the missing Peppered Tree Frog (on the New England Tablelands of NSW) and a rare sub-species of the Giant Burrowing Frog (on the South Coast) too. Please join us this FrogID Week for an extra push!’ she said.

‘It’s so wonderful to have people across Australia be part of the mission to help better understand and conserve frogs. With one in five frog species in Australia threatened with extinction, they need us and by working together we’re already changing their fate!

‘You only need 20 seconds and a smart phone to make your mark on science and contribute to frog conservation.’

Ambitious undertaking

Kim McKay AO, Director and CEO of Australian Museum said, ‘It’s easy to forget what an ambitious undertaking FrogID was and still is. Jodi and I got together and brainstormed how we could use smartphone technology to record frog calls.

FrogID Week 2023 priority frogs

‘It was uncharted territory, but we are all delighted by the wonderful way FrogID has been embraced right across Australia’.

Professor Kris Helgen, Chief Scientist at Australian Museum said, ‘We’re so proud of what Dr Rowley and her team have achieved with FrogID.

‘Everyday Australians, together with the Australian Museum scientists, have gathered FrogID data that now covers 36 per cent of the entire nation. This is an extraordinary outcome.

‘Every recording helps and it’s a powerful way to get families and kids engaged with conservation efforts. I encourage everyone to download FrogID and join in. Please help Australia reach the one million frog record milestone – every call counts.’

Participants in FrogID Week 2023 will be in the running to win the Top Frogger Award. Submit the most verified frog submissions during FrogID Week (3-12 November) and win a FrogID prize pack valued at $235. Details at www.frogid.net.au.

The FrogID app is free and can be downloaded from the Australian Museum website here: www.frogid.net.au

Below is a simple How to Use FrogID video on YouTube:

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