FrogID week: citizen scientists take to the streams for frogs

People around Australia are once again being urged to head outside and record frog calls for FrogID Week, from 3-12 November 2023.

Heralded as Australia’s biggest frog count, it’s an annual push for valuable data on Australia’s amphibians.

“This is a time of year when most frog species across Australia are breeding and calling,” Nadiah Roslan, project coordinator of FrogID, tells Cosmos.

“That call that we hear is actually a male frog calling out for a female frog. A majority of species – over 90% – will be calling now. So it’s a good time for us to get a snapshot of frog health and frog distribution across the continent.”

Launched by the Australian Museum in 2017, FrogID is a free app that people can use to record frog calls. These recordings get uploaded to a Museum database, where trained listeners can identify the frogs.

It builds on decades of citizen scientist frog recordings, which are a vital tool for ecologists to assess frog populations.

It’s yielded a trove of data far bigger than any single team of ecologists could collect.

Information from FrogID has been used to track declining frog numbers, study deadly chytrid fungus, and learn how frog calls differ.

“We’re hoping to get over 4000 people involved in FrogID week this year,” says Roslan.

“We’re not sure how well we will go with it being an El Niño year. Frogs do like it when it’s more wet.”

Many frog species will only call after rainfall, and they typically need wet conditions to breed.

“So we are expecting fewer frog calls, but hopefully thousands of submissions across every state and territory of Australia,” says Roslan.

Nevertheless, fewer frog calls than the past few wet years is still very valuable data.

“It’s important to get this year-on-year data and repeat recordings from locations to understand patterns and trends over time,” says Roslan.

Roslan says that everyone, even “frog novices”, can contribute to the project. First, download the app on your phone or other smart device.

“Set up a free account so that our scientists can let you know what frog species you’ve recorded, and then go out at dusk or early evening – that’s when most frog species will call,” says Roslan.

“Find your local creek, or pond, or anywhere that you think frogs might occur and listen out for frogs.

“We do want as many recordings this week as possible, so [record] every day you can. Even if it’s the same frog calling from the same pond, every call counts.”

Developed a taste for it? FrogID can be used for the rest of the year, too. This is particularly handy for the small number of frog species that aren’t calling right now – particularly common in southwestern Western Australia.

“[Every call] puts a really important scientific recording on the map of Australia,” says Roslan.

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