Peabody on the lookout for frogs

The Peabody Museum opened its frogwatching program, a chapter of FrogWatch USA, to all Yale affiliates for the first time this year.
The Peabody Museum opened its frogwatching program, a chapter of FrogWatch USA, to all Yale affiliates for the first time this year. Photo by Maria Zepeda.

This spring, members of the Yale community have the chance to hunt for frogs as part of the Peabody Museum’s frogwatch citizen scientist program.

The Peabody program — which is open to members of the Yale community for the first time this year — is a chapter of FrogWatch USA, a national effort by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to track amphibian populations by reporting local frog and toad calls, said James Sirch, the Peabody’s public education coordinator. Although citizen scientist programs focusing on amphibians are not new to the state of Connecticut, Sirch said the Peabody’s frog watching initiative is the first to use male frog calls to estimate population sites in the New Haven area.

“Frogs are really important indicators of environmental health,” Sirch said, adding that they are sensitive to pollutants, habitat-loss and, in some cases, climate destruction. The data collected, he said, can be used to examine any trends in frog populations over time, and serve as indicators of how healthy local wetlands are. Citizen scientists will select a local wetland to monitor frog calls twice a week, Sirch added.

The Peabody hosted two training sessions — one on March 16 and the other on Tuesday night — to teach potential citizen scientists the protocols of amphibian watching, such as how often and what time to listen for frog calls. Participants also learn to distinguish among the calls of the ten frog species typically found in Connecticut, Sirch said.

The frogwatch program, he said, has received “a great response” not only from “gung-ho,” experienced frogwatchers but also from interested newcomers. Participants have primarily been families with children, Sirch said, although several adults attended the training sessions as well.

New Haven resident Maria Gomez said her interest in natural wildlife led her to participate in the program. She said the frogwatching initiative provides citizens with an opportunity to involve themselves in the community and understand the surrounding natural environment, and it also provides parents with an opportunity to bond with their children.

Like Gomez, local resident Simon Doss-Gollin said his love of nature drew him to attend the frogwatch training sessions. The program, he added, allows citizens to learn more about local wetlands and wildlife while helping the scientific community collect data to help the frog population in the United States.

“The sheer amount of data that can be provided by this program is incredible, and hopefully it will be useful to scientists worldwide,” he said.

The Peabody’s frogwatching program was created in spring 2011, said Sirch. At first, he added, participation was restricted to Peabody member families and individuals, but the program has since expanded to include members of the Yale community who wish to get involved.

This year, the program has expanded to include 25 different parties of either families or individuals, an estimated total of 40 people, Sirch said.

FrogWatch USA launched in 1998.

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