Movie: Dr Jodi Rowley

Dr Jodi Rowley, Amphibian Biologist, talks about how her work and how it relates to Biodiversity.

© Australian Museum
David Rawlinson
Dr Jodi Rowley
David Rawlinson


My name is Dr Jodi Rowley and I’m an amphibian biologist at the Australian Museum.

It’s an interesting time to be an amphibian biologist because about one-third of all amphibians are threatened with extinction, which makes them more threatened than both birds or mammals.

The main threat to amphibians is habitat loss, but they also face a unique threat around the world of disease, and this is something that can cause amphibian diversity loss, even in the most pristine areas on the tops of mountains.

And you get to see what happens when amphibians disappear and how important they are to an ecosystem as a whole when you get things like disease that almost wipes out all of the amphibians in an area.

You get to see all the animals that relied on amphibians for food – so, snakes and things like that – that will actually starve to death and then disappear themselves, and the streams that used to be full of tadpoles become overgrown with algae.

So, it’s only when you lose something that you realise the widespread consequences that it can have.

My work is mainly in South-East Asia. Amphibians there are relatively poorly known and they’re under a lot of human pressure.

I travel over there, climb up mountains in evergreen forest, climb up streams, don headlamps at night, and look for  amphibians in the area, trying to understand what’s there, if its abundance is OK, what kind of things are threatening it, and sort of basic biological information.

One of the most important things that I collect is actually call recordings. So, I turn my headlamp off, wait in the dark with sound recording equipment, and wait for the frogs to call. And this is so important because a lot of frogs in the area look almost identical or are impossible to tell apart in the field, so it’s difficult to know how many species are really there.

But each species of frog has a different call because they want to call specifically to their own species. They don’t want a mistake and get the wrong species. So, the call recordings are actually incredibly useful when working out how many species and describing new species of frog from in an area.


And although amphibians are a part of my daily life, even if they’re not part of yours, the consequences of global amphibian biodiversity loss are likely to have widespread consequences that will actually affect things that are part of your life.

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