Volunteering for Frogwatch was an Unfrogettable Experience

e13bcd815090c90373124c1b22c9a1038b68059952541f2c25d1f305d94f587b_1 Figure 1. A frog doing what it excels best in: Being cute

Frogs are super cute and harmless to humans (Fig 1.), but globally, they are in serious decline due to threats like pollution, introduced fish species, loss of frog habitat, and disease (Fig 2).

vbeycfmbFigure 2. How I feel about the loss of frogs

How do we stop frogs from disappearing? One strategy to mitigate the loss of biodiversity is monitoring. This is what The ACT and Region Frogwatch program (Frogwatch for short) is all about!

What is Frogwatch?

Frogwatch is a program that involves a large number of volunteers from all ages to conduct monitoring of frogs. The data submitted by volunteers is used for providing valuable information about frog populations in the ACT and region.

But why frogs?

Frogs are an indicator species. What this means is having them around can tell you stuff about the environment. For frogs, they are an indicator of environment health, and their presence can indicate if a habitat is of high quality with good quality water.

They are also useful to monitor because:

  • Frog eggs do not have a shell, and adult frogs have a permeable skin to “drink” and breathe through. Therefore, frogs are sensitive to even small concentrations of pollutants such as pesticides, detergents and industrial chemicals.
  • Frogs require water to breed. Therefore, frogs can only reproduce in waterways that are relatively free of toxic pollutants.
  • Each frog species has a distinctive mating call which is easy to learn and recognise. Therefore frogs can be monitored in a non-invasive, inexpensive way.

ar7swjtFigure 3. This picture is  just here to keep your attention.

So what does Frogwatch do?

Frogwatch has two main goals:

  1. Organising and maintaining an annual community frog-monitoring program.
  2. Delivering a range of school education products to help students learn about frogs.

I helped out with both of these goals, but I mainly helped out with goal two.

What did I do?

I went through the training seminar on how to do a frog survey. I conducted my own survey of a dam near my house. I plan on doing more surveys in the future because in science, the more data scientists have, the better the analysis will be. You can hear me conducting a survey here: http://fw.ginninderralandcare.org.au/surveys/dgp001/2016-10-09

What I mainly did was help out with goal two, which was Frogwatch’s Tadpole Kit Program (Fig 4).

f3dc871b68d88f82e0df6c38bc9e473c Figure 4. Tadpole pun.  

People want to move frogs for various reasons. However, removing and displacing tadpoles and frogs from the wild without a specific license is illegal in the ACT (Fig. 5).

dcf414153cbc37f4e54fe81a5205e31fFigure 5. Don’t move frogs around, it’s illegal!

Frogwatch wants to educate people about moving frogs but still give an opportunity for people to have a look at frogs. So Frogwatch loans out complete Tadpole kits so that students can observe the amazing process of tadpoles going through metamorphoses (Fig 6).

58dc364c9f3191f1f3b6b3500efe6ac4Fig 6. This is what I think of when I hear the word metamorphoses. Note that this is not what metamorphoses is!

Over the two days I had to assemble about 100 tadpole kits (Fig. 7 & 8) Contents included a tank, information booklets, gravel, scrub, frog food, a water treatment bottle, a bucket, and of course tadpoles.

img_20161010_105625002Figure 7. What came in the Tadpole kit.

img_20161010_123210340Figure 8. Me catching tadpoles. You can see a tadpole up in the left hand corner.

Making the kits wasn’t too bad but getting the tadpoles was very time-consuming! Just imagine trying to catch eight small and camouflaged tadpoles swimming around in a big container of water… now imagine doing that 100 times! (Fig 9.)

201603_1131_bfdcb_smFigure 9. Me being frustrated trying to catch the tadpoles

Then we had to deliver these kits to teachers from different schools. The first day of delivery was crazy because you have a swarm of north side teachers who were keen to get their hands on tadpole kits.

Day two was much worse because we had to transport these kits to the south side. Anke-Maria who is the frog coordinator of Frogwatch, had a sick child and had to go home which left me to do most of the work.

I had to fit in tons of tadpole kits in my car and catch about 50×8 tadpoles again. My car was so full of boxes, gravel, and tadpoles (I wish I got take a picture of this because it was packed!).

Turns out I misheard Anke-Maria and made way more tadpole bags then I needed, and because tadpole catching is time-consuming, and because I didn’t know what time I had to be down at south side, I ended up being late by 40 minutes (Fig 10).

1c7vvrxFigure 10. Me when receiving instructions.

Luckily for me, Anke-Maria came down to South Side for the rescue. And despite the rough start, everything turned out good in the end (Fig. 11).

feels-good-manFigure 11. How I felt after the hardships of volunteering

What did I learn?

I learnt how small the Frogwatch organisation was. Anke-Maria is basically the only person behind Frogwatch. Besides the tadpole kit program, she also conducts seminars on frog watching, she listens in to the frog recordings people send in (which I linked earlier) to verify if people have correctly identified the frogs, she does all the administration work, and top that off with being a mother.

What you can do

I can’t imagine how things would have gone for her if I didn’t offer to volunteer. Having other volunteers would have made both our lives easier in this hectic time. Anke-Maria also said that she’s always looking for volunteers because it would free her up to do other project ideas for Frogwatch.

To volunteer send an email to: Frogwatch(at)ginninderralandcare.org.au

Got any questions about what I did at Frogwatch? Comment below! Or send me an email scabe3000(at)hotmail.com

P.S. I got to take home my own tadpole kit. Can’t wait to see them grow up! (I know it looks like nothing right now but that blob right there is a tadpole tank!)


My volunteering experience occurred on  9 October – 12 October 2016.
Written by Satra Kien


Learn about how to create a habitat for frogs at the Frogwatch site: http://www.ginninderralandcare.org.au/frogwatch

Find out about frog threats and other information about Frogs http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/ThreatsToFrogs.htm

Learn more about Frogwatch: http://www.ginninderralandcare.org.au/sites/default/files/imported/res/File/PDFs/Frogwatch%20Kit/2008%20Frogwatch%20Kit/Frogwatch%20Census%20Kit%202008_PDF.pdf

About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
This entry was posted in biodiversity conservation, Volunteer work. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Volunteering for Frogwatch was an Unfrogettable Experience

  1. A great read about your experiences with Frogwatch Satra. I have added Frogwatch to the list of potential volunteer opportunities for students in our course and will contact Anke-Maria next year to see if she can take volunteers. Phil

  2. Pingback: Yellow Box Dispatch — December 2016 | Conservation Council ACT

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