The start of Term Four for schools in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) marks the start of over 1,500 tadpoles’ journeys, as they are handed out to teachers participating in the Frogwatch Tadpole Kits for Schools Program.
For the past two days, I have assisted Anke Maria Hoefer of the Ginninderra Landcare Group with preparing and issuing tadpole kits to over thirty early learning centres, pre-schools, primary schools and high schools in the Canberra and Queanbeyan region.
Not all tadpoles will survive this journey, but for the next ten weeks, teachers and students will try their best to raise as many tadpoles as possible through the process of metamorphosis.
Each kit was carefully prepared to contain all the necessities for keeping a tadpole alive long enough to metamorphose into a frog. Such necessities include a tank with ventilated lid, gravel, water conditioner, native aquatic plants, spirulina (yes, tadpoles eat this superfood too!), and of course, the tadpoles. Approximately 6-10 tadpoles were pipetted from a large container into a ziplock bag for each kit.
Over the next ten weeks, the tadpoles in each kit will grow into Spotted Grass Frogs (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis). This species is widespread across the east of Australia.¹ Eggs and tadpoles are found in many waterways such as dams, ponds, lakes and swamps, while adults are terrestrial and can be found in a range of habitats of varying disturbance levels including woodlands and grasslands.²
Tadpoles are not cared for by their parents and have a low survivorship rate due to predation by larger individuals from the same species, or by other aquatic life.³ It is illegal across most of Australia to collect or release tadpoles and frogs into the wild without a permit. The ACT Frogwatch program allow tadpoles to be legally raised so that they have a greater chance of surviving to ‘froghood’ when they can be released back to their place of origin.
Frog species across Australia are declining due to habitat loss and degradation, water pollution, introduced species, salinity and climate change.⁴ While the Spotted Grass Frog is not itself threatened, all frogs play an important role in wetland conservation. Frogs have moist, permeable skin that absorb all of the nutrients and the impurities in our waterways.⁵ As such, they detect and provide vital information on ecosystem health. Frogs also control algae and insect levels through feeding, and are an important source of food for other species.⁶ Frogs that are raised in this program are released back to the collection site and provide lasting benefits for its habitat.
The best part of the ACT Frogwatch Program, however, is that it is a powerful community education tool that promotes awareness about the importance of caring for our waterways. Through the exercise, students and teachers gain an appreciation of the life cycle of amphibians, the complexity of our ecosystems and how our actions in daily life affect the environment around us.
– Phoebe Worth u5801333
³ Wilson, N., Seymour, J. & Williams, C. 2015. Predation of two common native frog species (Litoria ewingi and Crinia signifera) by freshwater invertebrates. Australian Journal of Zoology, 62(6):483-490.
⁵ Burkhart, J., Ankley, G., Bell, H., Carpenter, H., Fort, D., Gardiner, D., Gardner, H., Hale, R., Helgen, J., Jepson, P. & Johnson, D. 2000. Strategies for assessing the implications of malformed frogs for environmental health. Environmental Health Perspectives, 108(1): 83.
⁶ Campbell, A. 1999. Declines and disappearances of Australian frogs. Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia.