This year, AZA celebrates the 20th anniversary of its citizen science program, FrogWatch USA™! Since the program began, FrogWatch USA has given individuals, groups, and families the opportunity to learn about wetlands in their communities as they listen for the calls of local frogs and toads. The data collected about these important animals can be used to monitor species and ecosystem health and to inform conservation and management efforts. In recognition of two decades of this valuable volunteer program, here are 20 fun facts about FrogWatch USA.
1. The first FrogWatch USA chapter was informally established in 2002 by the Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks in Columbia, MD. The Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI was the first chapter established at an AZA-accredited organization.
2. As of March 2018, FrogWatch USA has 149 chapters across the nation! Over half of these chapters are at AZA-accredited facilities.
3. Between 1999 and 2017, nearly 3,000 volunteers have submitted species observations, engaging in an important citizen science activity. Data are collected and available online and can be explored or downloaded for free, thanks to our partner, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS).
4. Frogs are fascinating! They are considered a “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to monitoring wetland ecosystem health, and their decline or absence might indicate an imbalance or problem in the ecosystem. Because they spend part of their life on land and part in the water, they are indicators for the health of both types of habitats. Frogs also serve an important role in the food chain – they prey on insects and are food for birds, snakes, and other animals.
5. FrogWatch USA volunteers have reported hearing 118 frog and toad species, subspecies, and species complexes. Each frog species has its own unique call, enabling volunteers and researchers to tell one species apart from another.
6. Volunteers have monitored approximately 4,300 wetland sites across the country as part of FrogWatch USA. Volunteers have mostly commonly monitored at wetland ponds - occasionally even those in their own backyards!
7. FrogWatch USA inspires a lasting connection to the environment. 35 volunteers have monitored consistently over the past five years (2013-2017).
8. Karen G. from Franklin, IN, has submitted over 4,600 species observations between 2003 and 2017, more than any other volunteer!
9. Over 112,000 species observations were submitted between 1999 and 2017. In this case, an “observation” is defined as a single species being heard, identified, and logged. Volunteers often observe multiple species calling during their wetland visits.
10. The spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) has been the most commonly heard species. This tiny frog is widespread throughout the eastern United States and has a characteristic call – usually heard in a chorus of high-pitched “peeps”.
11. FrogWatch USA volunteers learn about the relationships among the species calling, seasonality, and weather conditions. Observations are collected during the peak breeding season (February 1 to August 31), and only on nights when the air temperature is warmer than 35ºF.
12. The most species observations were made in 2015 when over 13,600 were reported.
13. New York holds the record as the state with the most volunteers with nearly 900 submitting their observations.
14. All FrogWatch USA volunteers register the wetland location where they listen for frogs and toads. Virginia boasts the most monitored sites with more than 400 wetland locations.
15. Between 1999-2017, over 14,000 species observations were collected in Maryland-more than any other state!
16. AZA offers three online courses to help people participate in FrogWatch USA: one for prospective volunteers, one for prospective chapter coordinators, and a free one focused on the data – both how to submit observations and how to explore and make meaning from the dataset.
17. Volunteers and local FrogWatch USA chapters are the most critical components for FrogWatch USA’s success. Over the years, the program has also benefitted from other important partnerships, including with the US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Federation, the Citizen Science Academy at the Chicago Botanic Garden, National Geographic Society, Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), PBS KIDS' SciGirls, and Wild Republic's Educational Frog Toys.
18. FrogWatch USA is active on social media with nearly 4,000 Facebook followers, a Flickr group, a YouTube channel, and a SoundCloud channel.
19. Anyone, regardless of age, geographic location, or prior amphibian knowledge can become a FrogWatch USA volunteer! In 2014, FrogWatch USA saw the most active volunteers – over 500 volunteers submitted observations that year.
20. To celebrate FrogWatch USA’s 20th anniversary, AZA is challenging current and potential volunteers to increase engagement by 20%. Help us meet our challenge of having 500 volunteers log 13,800 species observations over 8,000 monitoring visits at 1,100 wetland sites!
Thank you to the AZA-accredited facilities, staff, partner institutions, supporting organizations, chapter coordinators, and countless volunteers who make FrogWatch USA possible every year!
To learn more about FrogWatch USA, visit https://www.aza.org/frogwatch.