Social networking to save frogs

Brian Gratwicke

A powdered glass frog, Cochranella pulverata, from Panama is shown here. A new social-networking website allows citizen scientists to upload their photos of frogs to help conservationists track frogs around the world.

By John Roach

Budding naturalists armed with a camera and an Internet connection can help save the world's frogs from extinction thanks to a new social-networking site that links up information on their froggy finds with scientists who are racing to conserve the amphibians.

Of the 6,814 known species of amphibians, about 2,000 are considered threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, the chyrtrid fungus, and other factors. In the last two decades, 168 are thought to have gone extinct. 

To participate in the Global Amphibian Blitz, citizen scientists take a photo of a frog they encounter in their backyard, at the park, on a hike, or anywhere else one leaps into view. They can upload it to the iNaturalist.org website along with the date and GPS location (there's an iPhone app for that).

Once posted, the species is identified by scientists who are keen to learn the whereabouts and population status of amphibians.

"By being in the right place at the right time and armed with a camera, amateurs can provide information that scientists could never dream of collecting on their own," Scott Loarie, co-director of iNaturalist and post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University, said in a news release.

Since the Global Amphibian Blitz was launched May 25, reports on more than 290 of the known species of amphibians have been posted to the website.

Project scientists view the social-networking site as a wise use of limited conservation funds to locate rare species and collect data on out-of-range occurrences. The precise whereabouts of the rare frogs will be closely guarded by the scientists to thwart collection by wildlife traders.

This is the latest campaign to collect data on the world's amphibians. The Search for Lost Frogs, a global effort to account for amphibians feared threatened with extinction, wrapped up in 2010 withmixed results — several frogs thought already lost were re-discovered, but many more appear gone forever.

To learn more abouth the Global Amphibian Blitz, check out the video below.

In addition to iNaturalist, the Global Amphibian Blitz is sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley's AmphibiaWeb; Amphibian Ark; the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; the Amphibian Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission; and the Center for Biological Diversity.

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