Ribbiting stuff: museum app gives people chance to help in frog researchAustralian Museum teams up with IBM to monitor the country’s native frog population by having their calls recordedAn Australian Green Tree frog is shown during the launch of the Australian Museum’s FrogID app in Sydney
The Australian Museum has teamed up with IBM to count the country’s native frog population via a world-first app that records their calls and sends them to experts for identification.
App FrogID will give the public the chance to carry out Australia’s first such national count, which begins on Friday and is intended to support researchers’ efforts to save endangered native species. Australia has 240 named native species of frog, but the museum wants to identify what it believes are dozens more still ribbiting under the radar.
Frog populations are in decline around the world, but Australia’s frogs are especially vulnerable because of a combination of climate change, pollution, introduced species and urban development, the Department of Environment and Energy has said.
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According to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, four frog varieties are extinct, five critically endangered, 14 endangered and a further 10 are considered vulnerable.
Dr Jodi Rowley, curator of amphibian and reptile conservation biology at the museum, said: “One of the cool things about this [app] is you can survey frogs just by listening. It’s actually a lot more accurate than photos, and photos encourage people to handle or disturb frogs.”
People will be able to record frog noises for 20 seconds on their phones and then send the results to the museum, where experts will match the sound to known species. Users can also have a go at guessing the species themselves.
The presence of frogs in an ecosystem is a sign of good environmental health, but the small amphibians are highly sensitive to changes in their habitat. Rowley said she hoped campers, hikers and other nature lovers would help with the research, but noted that even the humble backyard fishpond could provide valuable data. “It might allow us to figure out which areas of suburbia are really good for frogs, why they are good and hopefully help create more frog-friendly habitats in suburbia.”
She said enthusiasts might even help discover a new type of frog or determine if any introduced species had gone unnoticed. “All these things will help us – and help Australia – make sure that frogs don’t croak.”