Every summer, thousands of people wander through swamps and ditches in search of frogs. They’re frogwatchers— volunteers across North America, who help scientists track the health and movement of amphibians. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly caught up with one group and found they’re no longer just watching frogs, but rescuing them:
Every summer, thousands of people wander through swamps and ditches in search of frogs.
they’re frogwatchers – volunteers across North America, who help
scientists track the health and movement of amphibians. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly caught up with one group and found they’re no longer just watching frogs, but
(sound of frog, “I think this one’s talking now…”)
11-year-old Tyler Degroot shows off two bullfrogs in the plastic
terrarium he’s carrying. He struggles to keep the lid on as they try to escape.
He’s spent all morning combing for frogs in this swampy ditch on
Petrie Island. Not far from Ottawa, Canada’s capital.
It’s pouring rain. But he and his friends have no time for jackets or umbrellas. They run from log
to log dipping their nets in the water.
(“Holy smokes! Look at them all!”)
It might sound like fun, but they’re here on serious business.
The bulldozers in the distance are a constant reminder. Soon, this ditch – the frogs’ home – will be
turned into a parking lot.
11-year-old Ingrid Weinhold says they’re here to save as many
frogs as they can.
“We want to make sure the frogs stay on Petrie Island
and we want to make sure that people can see frogs later and so
that they don’t all die when the ditch gets filled with sand.”
Weinhold is a member of the Amphibian Conservation Club. It’s a group of homeschoolers who
meet once a month to study and discuss amphibians. They started visiting Petrie Island last year
to conduct frog watches.
It’s part of an annual census of frogs led by Environment Canada,
a government agency. The students count the number and species of frogs to find out how
many are in a given area. And that’s when they discovered that some of the resident
amphibians were in danger.
(“I just saw a whole bunch of frogs over here, okay? They went in all different directions.”)
11-year-old Gabrielle Felio is the club’s founder.
She hesitates to leave the ditch until every frog has been picked
As she talks about them, her eyes look worried behind her
“It’s just that they help the environment a lot. That’s
probably why we like them a lot and we want to help them. Because
it’s going to help the area and it’s going to help a lot of other
animals if we help the frogs.”
With their terrariums full, the frogwatchers hike through the woods to a pond that they’ve
adopted. They’ve saved more than 30 frogs today. There are green frogs, bull frogs and leopard
When they reach the pond, the rescuers open their terrariums.
(“There they go!”)
Some reach in and pull the frogs out one by one. Others just tip the terrariums upside down.
(“Woo! He’s a slippery one. I’ll get him. You did a cannonball!”)
Tyler DeGroot watches his bullfrog kick away from the shore.
He looks satisfied.
“I feel good…I think the frogs feel good, too, cause
they’ll probably have a nice little happy pond that’s not polluted
so they can just swim around and have fun.”
Each student carries a notebook to keep track of how many frogs
they moved from the ditch to the pond. Then, at the end of the summer, the group will compile
all their observations. They’ll send them to Environment Canada’s Frogwatch.
Elizabeth Kilvert is the director of the program. She says the reports from these amateur
scientists are invaluable.
“When we have people out there observing in their backyards
at different locations, we’re getting really good geographical
coverage that Environment Canada could never provide by going and
working out in the fields.”
Kilvert says it’s important to track frogs. That’s because they’re sensitive to changes in the
environment. And researchers see them as an early warning system.
Frogwatcher Ingrid Weinhold says she’s happy to help.
“I feel pretty good cause then they can figure out stuff with
the information… like if there’s too much pollution in one spot
and if the frogs have too many legs or something they can figure
out if there’s something wrong with the water.”
Before long, the frogwatchers are catching frogs again – in the
same pond where they just released them.
(“Let me see him!”)
This time, it’s just for fun.
Soon, they’ll head back to a classroom to compare notes… and make plans for their next rescue
effort – before the bulldozers move in.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.