There are over 3400 species of frogs and toads in the world, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. While Michigan is home to only 13 of these species, they are vitally important to the health of the ecosystem. The unique group in Amphibia act as both prey and predator and their skin is being tested for possible anti-cancer and anti-HIV properties, however after their populations have rapidly decreased in certain areas of the U.S. and world, scientists have been left asking, why, what has caused this decline?
The answer to this question would help solve other environmental issues, as the change in frog populations are considered an indicator to environmental change. Amphibians reside in wetlands, which are affected by numerous societal factors. Many habitats have been destroyed because of water pollution, such as runoff of pesticides and chemicals. Agricultural and urban developments have also taken over habitats, in addition to the threat of acid rain.
Many scientists have recognized this as an important opportunity to study frogs and their correlation to the health of society. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is home to a citizen science program, FrogWacth USA. Chapters of volunteers are trained to listen to frog calls and the data is then used in the conservation effort. So far, data has shown the distribution of frogs in their environments and the impact climate change has had on their populations. Yearly reports are put together by the organization, summarizing the data.
Chapters are part of the national AZA organization, and any institution or organization can choose to form a chapter of volunteers. City Middle High School in Grand Rapids, is the first FrogWatch chapter formed in a high school. Students underwent training and have been monitoring and recording frog calls throughout various wetland areas in the city. Through spring and summer, members of FrogWatch report frog calls after sunset a couple times per week to contribute to the data collection. With chapters across the U.S., the annual summary gives a good indication of regional impacts across the nation.