The FrogID dataset: the first year of expert-validated occurrence data has now been published!

Frogs are amongst the most threatened groups of animals on the planet. Globally, hundreds of species are thought to have already been driven to extinction, and in Australia alone, we’ve already lost at least four species. A major obstacle in conserving frogs is our lack of knowledge - frogs are often hard to find, and most Australian frogs remain very poorly-known. We need everyone's help to understand where our frogs are and how they are doing! Enter FrogID, a national citizen science project led by the Australian Museum. Launched in November 2017, people across Australia have recorded calling frogs on the FrogID app with their smartphones. We’ve now released the first year of frog records – representing over 50,000 records of 172 species. This data is a step towards better understanding - and hopefully conserving - Australia’s unique frog species.


Southern Corroboree Frog

Southern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree). The localities of Critically Endangered species like this are not revealed in the public FrogID database so as to not further threaten the species, but may be provided at request.

Image: Jodi Rowley
© Jodi Rowley

Frogs and other amphibians are often highly sensitive to changes in their environment, and partly as a result of this, almost one-third of the 7,000 frog species known are at risk of extinction. The implications are far-reaching. Declines of frog populations are shown to have large-scale, long-term ecosystem-level effects. Frogs are individually small, but together they are a large and important part of most healthy ecosystems- we really need frogs!

Effective conservation relies on accurate knowledge of where species occur, but frogs can be incredibly difficult to survey. This has resulted in a lack of detailed knowledge of broad-scale distributions, occurrences, and habitat associations. Without this knowledge, informed conservation prioritisation for frogs is impossible!


FrogID app in the Northern Territory

FrogID app.

Image: Jodi Rowley
© Australian Museum

FrogID is a national citizen science project led by the Australian Museum. Launched over two years ago, FrogID collects data via a smartphone application allowing participants from across Australia to submit recordings of calling frogs. These recordings are then listened to by experts and the frog species heard calling are identified. The first year of FrogID occurrence records has just now been published- representing an enormous effort from people across Australia!


Throughout the first year of the FrogID project, 179 species of 6 families and 23 genera were recorded, accumulating to 55,003 biodiversity records. The top-six most recorded species were the Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera), the Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peronii), Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii), the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) and the Brown Tree Frog (Litoria ewingii). These six species accounted for almost half of all records!


Top six species in year 1 of FrogID

The top-six most recorded species in year 1 of the FrogID project were (top to bottom, left to right): the Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera), the Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peronii), Peron’s Tree Frog (Litoria peronii), the Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) and the Brown Tree Frog (Litoria ewingii).

Image: Jodi Rowley
© Australian Museum

There are a number of species that we haven’t revealed exact localities of, and three that we haven’t included at all in the public database (but may be requested). Why? Open locality information has resulted in the poaching of wildlife, and particularly in the age of social media, access to precise locality data for certain species may also drive people to locate, photograph or even remove species, and disturb habitat. For threatened frog species, or frog species with highly restricted distributions, revealing exact FrogID localities may therefore have serious, unintended negative consequences.


Mountain Frog (Philoria kundagungan).

The Mountain Frog (Philoria kundagungan), a threatened species sensitive to habitat disturbance. Exact localities for this species are not revealed in the public FrogID database but may be requested.

Image: Jodi Rowley
© Australian Museum

The FrogID database of expert-validated records of frogs across Australia represents a significant and growing contribution to our understanding of frogs in Australia. The first year of FrogID has resulted in the collection of over 55,000 expert-validated records of frogs across Australia. As frogs call almost exclusively from breeding sites, localities of calling frogs also provide vital information on their breeding habitats and times.

FrogID data provides a valuable resource aimed to help enhance our knowledge of frog distribution and occurrence in Australia. Publishing biodiversity data advances our collective knowledge on global biodiversity, and our ability to make informed conservation decisions. We hope that by making this occurrence-data openly accessible, others will find it useful, ultimately contributing to increased knowledge of Australia’s frogs, translating to increased conservation action.


Dr Jodi Rowley, Curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum Research Institute & UNSW Sydney.

Corey Callaghan, Postdoctoral Researcher, UNSW Sydney.


More information

  • Rowley JJL, Callaghan CT (2020) The FrogID dataset: expert-validated occurrence records of Australia’s frogs collected by citizen scientists. ZooKeys 912: 139-151. full text.
  • Data published through GBIF: https://doi.org/10.15468/wazqft
  • Data published through Atlas of Living Australia: Coming soon!
  • Data published through Zenodo repository: https://zenodo.org/record/3612700

Other FrogID publications

  • Mitchell, B.A., Callaghan, C.T., Rowley, J.J.L. (2020). Continental-scale citizen science data reveal no changes in acoustic responses of a widespread tree frog to an urbanisation gradient. Journal of Urban Ecology 6(1): juaa002. full text.
  • Callaghan, C.T., Roberts, J.D., Poore, A.G.B., Alford, R.A., Cogger, H., Rowley, J.J.L. (2020). Citizen science data accurately predicts expert-derived species richness at a continental scale when sampling thresholds are met. Biodiversity and Conservation. full text.
  • Rowley, J.J.L., Callaghan, C.T., Cutajar, T., Portway, C., Potter K., Mahony, S, Trembath, D.F., Flemons, P. & Woods, A. (2019). FrogID: Citizen scientists provide validated biodiversity data on frogs of Australia. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 14(1): 155-170. full text.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Citizen Science Grants of the Australian Government for providing funding for the FrogID project; the Impact Grants program of IBM Australia for providing the resources to build the FrogID App; Bunnings and Fyna Foods for supporting FrogID as project partners; the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Museums Victoria, Queensland Museum, South Australian Museum, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and Western Australian Museum as FrogID partner museums; the many Australian Museum staff and volunteers who make up the FrogID team; and, most importantly, the thousands of citizen scientists across Australia who have volunteered their time to record frogs.