FrogID, an AM citizen science initiative, is rapidly gathering the information we need to help understand and conserve Australia’s frogs.
FrogID is the Australian Museum’s national citizen science project which allows anyone in Australia to record frog calls through the free FrogID app to figure out how frogs are tracking, and where they are distributed across the country. To create an annual snapshot of frogs over time and help better understand trends, FrogID Week was created – Australia’s biggest frog count. Now in its third year, FrogID Week is helping make giant leaps in frog conservation.
FrogID Week 2020 making a difference
FrogID Week is an annual highlight of the FrogID project, creating a focused point in time with the mission of recording as many frogs from as many places in Australia as possible. Running between 6 and 15 November in 2020, the third FrogID Week saw record numbers of people submitting recordings through the FrogID app. Over 10,000 submissions were received, resulting in over 20,000 frog records. The 14th of November 2020 received the highest number of FrogID records per day to date, with 2,246 frogs recorded in just 24 hours – more than one frog record per minute!
Every FrogID submission is identified by a frog call expert and this time, a team of more than 10 FrogID validators were on the ready, ears primed to listen to the hundreds of frog calls being submitted each day. Some recordings included a single frog from one species, while others included multiple frogs from up to eight different species! These expert-verified, geo-referenced frog calls are now part of a national collection of frog records of high scientific accuracy available to science. This data also connects Australians to their local biodiversity, helps identify how Australia’s frog populations are changing and how we can help frogs and their changing environments.
FrogID Week gathers information on frogs across Australia in a very short amount of time. In the 10 days of FrogID Week 2020, 103 of Australia’s 242 frog species were recorded across the nation - an increase from FrogID Week 2019 (71 frog species) and FrogID Week 2018 (97 species).
Understanding the impact of drought
Australia has experienced a prolonged period of below average rainfall, spanning several years. The impact of this drought on frog species is unknown, but recordings submitted to FrogID are helping us better understand how they are responding. While frogs were noticeably quieter during the hot and dry conditions across most of the country during 2019, rains fell prior to FrogID Week 2020, and at the same time the Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña, which typically signals a wet spring and summer for northern and eastern parts of Australia.
Impacts of the drought were evident during FrogID Week 2019, not just in lower numbers of calling frogs overall, but also in the types of frogs calling. In 2019, we had noticeably fewer records of burrowing frogs such as the Eastern Banjo Frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii) – a species that burrows underground and emerges after rain to breed. For FrogID Week 2020, results for Banjo Frogs were more optimistic - 813 records of the Eastern Banjo Frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii) were received, with the species detected in 8% of all submissions, compared to 4% in 2019. This is a positive indication of our burrowing frogs faring better during years of increased rainfall; however ongoing FrogID submissions from across Australia are needed to help understand whether these frogs have been successful in their breeding attempts.
Understanding the impact of fire
The unprecedented 2019-2020 “Black Summer” bushfires that devastated our biodiversity also made 2020 particularly important for collecting FrogID records and understanding how frogs are hopefully recovering. It is a great achievement that FrogID Week 2020 received 4,540 frog records from priority fire-impacted Local Government Areas across Australia. Utilising national spatial layers of where all fires burnt last summer, these records were approximately 10% of all FrogID Week 2020 records. Notable records came from burnt areas in Victoria, such as the Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea) recorded in East Gippsland by Tim Bawden. It is through these FrogID submissions that we can help understand how our frogs are faring after these devastating fires.
FrogID Week 2020 has provided some good news for our frogs. This snapshot of Australia’s frogs illustrates the potential persistence of many species following drought and fire and provides valuable information on how we can better protect them. We are extremely grateful for the data that Australians have helped us collect during FrogID Week, particularly across such a vast area. If it were not for these collective efforts over the last three FrogID Week events, Australia would have 32,824 fewer records contributing to frog ecology and conservation. Thank you to everyone who has helped FrogID Week become the most rapid data collection on frogs anywhere in the world. While FrogID Week may be over, please keep your FrogID submissions coming to continue to help save Australia’s frogs!
…and congratulations to go:
We would also like to congratulate Brian Davies from the Central Coast of NSW for winning our Top Frogger competition for FrogID Week 2020. Brian submitted a total of 323 submissions, resulting in 918 verified frogs! Thanks to our partner Bunnings Australia, Brian has won a Bunnings Warehouse gift card and a video conference with FrogID Lead Scientist, Dr Jodi Rowley. It’s through the amazing efforts of individuals like Brian that can help us better protect frogs.
Nadiah Roslan, Project Coordinator: FrogID, Australian Museum Research Institute.
We would like to thank the Citizen Science Grants of the Australian Government for providing funding for the FrogID project; the Impact Grants program of IBM Australia for providing the resources to build the FrogID App; Bunnings, Fyna Foods for supporting FrogID as project partners; the generous donors who provided funding for the project including John T Reid Charitable Trusts; the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Museums Victoria, Queensland Museum, South Australian Museum, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and Western Australian Museum as FrogID partner museums; the many Australian Museum staff and volunteers who make up the FrogID team; and, most importantly, the thousands of citizen scientists across Australia who have volunteered their time to record frogs.