Frogs and Bananas

Australian Green Tree Frogs pictured amongst bananas, where they may often stowaway

Image: Nick Langley
© Australian Museum

The findings from the first 12-months of the Australian Museum’s national citizen science project, FrogID, have been released today including data which shows the first evidence of the decline in Sydney of the iconic Australian Green Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea).

For decades, frog biologists and nature-lovers have anecdotally noted the once common Green Tree Frog was disappearing from Sydney backyards. In the first 12 months of FrogID, of the 7000 frog call records received from the Greater Sydney area, only 52 of these were of the Green Tree Frog and none were from any of the inner Sydney suburbs which have historical records of the species.

“Due to FrogID and the thousands of people recording the calls of frogs across Sydney, we have enough data for the first compelling evidence of the disappearance of the Green Tree Frog from most of Sydney. The information we have gained, and continue to gain, will now help us understand the reasons for this loss and prevent the species declining even further,” Dr Jodi Rowley, Australian Museum Curator of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology said.


Dr Jodi Rowley

Dr Jodi Rowley with an Australian Green Tree Frog

Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

One of the most surprising results from the first year of the project has been the number of records of native frog species detected calling from well outside their known range, including the Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog (Litoria fallax) found up to 400km from the known edge of the native range near the NSW/Victoria border.

“These ‘stowaway’ species are likely inadvertently hitchhiking to locations outside their range via produce and potted plants where they are establishing breeding populations, creating a likely ongoing issue, with these invasive frog populations having the potential to impact native frog populations,” Dr Rowley said.


Frogs and Bananas

Kathy Potter and Tim Cutajar, Australian Museum amphibian researchers and co-authors of the research paper

Image: Nick Langley
© Australian Museum

The data collected in the first year of FrogID has also provided information on the breeding populations of 28 globally threatened and 13 nationally threatened frog species including the Black Mountain Boulder Frog (Cophixalus saxatilis) in QLD and the Southern Bell Frog (Litoria raniformis) in SA, Tasmania, Victoria and NSW.

“The FrogID data on species that are poorly known, threatened or rarely documented has been a real success of the project, increasing our ability to make data-driven decisions for these rare species,” Dr Jodi Rowley said.

Frog ID has already engaged close to 100,000 registered volunteers and continues to attract hundreds of new frog call recordings each month, with the community of citizen scientists – or ‘froggers’ – across Australia growing daily, Australian Museum Director & CEO Kim McKay said.

“In a short time, FrogID has dramatically increased our understanding of the distribution, breeding seasons and habitats of this incredibly significant animal group, and we would like to thank the many thousands of people who have picked up their phones and literally helped put frogs on the map,” she said.

The findings from the first year of FrogID have been released today in Herpetological Conservation & Biology

More information on FrogID and how you can help save our frogs at www.frogid.net.au

In just one year, Frog ID has generated the equivalent of more than 13% of all frog records collected in Australia over the last 240 years.

From Nov 2017-Nov 2018 citizen scientists across Australia – including families, retirees, students, park rangers, farmers and even mine workers – have submitted recordings that have resulted in over 66,000 validated records of frogs and detected 175 of Australia’s 240 known native frog species, plus the introduced Cane Toad.

“These findings show the incredible impact everyday Australians, with smartphone technology in their hands, can have on scientific research. FrogID has generated unprecedented amounts of expert validated geo-referenced data on Australian frogs which will be used to inform conservation and management decisions while providing vital information about one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet - frogs,” McKay said.

Launched in November 2017, FrogID invites citizen scientists to download the free FrogID app and use their smartphone to record frog calls across Australia with each frog species having its own unique call. The frog recordings collected, together with their time and location data, provide an audio map of frog species across Australia and help identify areas and species under threat.

WHY FROGS COUNT

Australia has 240 known species of native frogs, many of which are under threat. Hundreds of frog

species have already disappeared worldwide and many more are on the edge of extinction.

As one of the first animal species to feel the impact of environmental changes, declining frog populations are a “warning call” about the impacts of climate change and pollution on Australia’s waterways, wildlife and ecosystems.

THE FrogID APP

Each frog species has a unique call, which is an accurate way to identify different frog species. Recording and uploading frog calls, via the FrogID app, will identify different frog species, along with time and location data, using GPS technology. A team of frog experts will verify calls submitted by the public. This data will help map frog populations across Australia and identify areas and species under threat.

FrogID is the AM’s flagship citizen science project, with support from the Australian Government’s Citizen Science Grants, IBM Australia’s Impact Grants program, and the Australian Museum Foundation’s donors. FrogID has also been made possible through the AM’s collaboration with Bunnings Warehouse, Fyna Foods, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Museums Victoria, Queensland Museum, South Australian Museum, Tasmanian Museum and the Western Australian Museum.

Read the full research paper in Herpetological Conservation & Biology