FrogID is an Australian app that uses audio of frogs’ unique calls to identify various species and their locations. We can use it in Aotearoa New Zealand to record the location of introduced frogs.
There are only seven species of frog in New Zealand. Four are native – Hamilton’s frog, Maud Island frog, Archey’s frog and Hochstetter’s frog – and they are very difficult to find in their natural environments. The other three species are introduced from Australia – the brown tree frog, the southern bell frog and the green and golden bell frog – and they are much noisier than the natives. Scientists think that native frogs communicate via chemicals rather than through sound. They can make chirping sounds, but they do not croak like other frog species.
Reach: New Zealand, Australia
Nature of science focus: Online citizen science (OCS) projects can be used to develop any of the Nature of Science (NoS) substrands. What is important is to identify aspects of NoS that your students need to be better at or understand more fully and then frame your unit to be very clear about these things when you do them.
Science capability focus: Gather and interpret data, Engage with science
Science focus: ecology – introduced frog identification and species distribution
Some suggested science concepts:
- Frog species can be classified as being native, endemic or introduced.
- Native frog species can be listed as threatened or endangered.
- Unique adaptations – due to Aotearoa New Zealand’s long isolation, our native frogs have adaptations that are unique and they are quite different to introduced frogs.
- Habitat loss, disease and competition from introduced frog species pose a threat to native frog populations.
Many concepts could be learned – focusing on a few can often be more powerful. Develop your learning outcomes and success criteria from these concepts as well as the Nature of Science strand and the science capabilities.
Some examples of learning outcomes:
- accurately gather and log data
- use evidence to convey the status of introduced frogs in their own locality
- compare animals’ adaptive features and explain their role in survival.
About the FrogID project
The FrogID app allows users to record frog calls and upload the audio. In Australia, this information helps to map the location of frogs around the country. In New Zealand, the information helps to record the location of introduced frogs.
Users record calls they believe are made by frogs and upload the audio to the FrogID site. A team of specialist scientists and frog experts will assess the audio to confirm it is a frog and to identify the species.
The NZFrogs website has information on the locations and habitats of each introduced frog species and when they are most likely to call.
This OCS project lends itself to the evolution component of the New Zealand Curriculum Living World strand. New Zealand’s native frogs have evolved to be very different to those species introduced from Australia. The three species of introduced frogs have become well established and thrive in many parts of New Zealand, whereas most of our native frogs have limited distribution due to disappearing habitats and introduced predators.
Another interesting note is that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the conservation status of the southern bell frog as endangered in Australia, yet the frog species can be found throughout New Zealand. Students can debate whether New Zealand has an obligation to conserve an introduced species.
Nature of science
Using this online citizen science project provides opportunities to discuss how New Zealand scientists might use the collected data to monitor introduced frog species and how this information may help to inform the conservation of our own native frogs. Students can also consider the challenges for scientists in collecting datasets from around the country and appreciate how involving citizen scientists makes the scientists’ findings more valid.
Saving reptiles and amphibians – introduction curates some of our resources on our unique native species and the efforts to conserve them. Further resources are profiled under the reptiles and amphibians topic.
The Connected article Kimihia Kermit describes how students and Ngāti Mutunga teamed up with an ecologist to investigate frog populations in North Taranaki. Frogs for the future? is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource. It uses the Connected article Kimihia Kermit as the starting point.
Frogs in New Zealand, Australia and the rest of the world are threatened by the chytrid fungus. Find out what New Zealand scientists are doing to control and cure the fungus in the article Investigating frog disease.
The article Conservation rankings explains the two major ranking systems recognised in New Zealand – the IUCN Red List categories and the New Zealand Threat Classification System.
Here are some planning tips for when you intend to use a citizen science project with your students.
Follow these links to learn more about the three introduced frog species and listen to their calls:
The NZFrogs website has lots of information on frogs of Aotearoa New Zealand.
See the New Zealand Herpetological Society (NZHS) website, it has comprehensive and freely available online resources about Aotearoa New Zealand’s reptiles and amphibians.
The Department of Conservation has more information on our native frogs.
Read this NZ Geographic article The truth about tadpoles and frogs that investigates the decline in frog species.