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Connecticut’s Only Zoo Invites Public to ‘Spring Forward’ for Amphibians with FrogWatch USA

Mon, 03/10/2014

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. and SILVER SPRING, Md. – March 10, 2014 – Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo invites Connecticut residents to take advantage of Daylight Savings Time, and “Spring Forward” for amphibians through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) FrogWatch USA™citizen science program. The zoo, in collaboration with Yale University’s Peabody Museum, will teach families, students, and others how to be citizen scientists through both classroom and experiential learning. Working with experts, volunteers will learn about local frog species, travel into wetlands throughout the region, and observe and record the frog and toad calls they hear. While at the zoo, volunteers also will have a chance to get up close and personal with amphibian education animals.

“FrogWatch is a terrific way for us to engage a new generation of people interested in conservation,” explained Jim Knox, education curator, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. “This program brings conservation to life and shows how we all can play a part in protecting these animals.”

FrogWatch USA™is dedicated to collecting information about frog and toad populations, raising awareness about amphibians and wetlands, and engaging the public in science. Since 1998, FrogWatch USA™ volunteers have collected data on the frogs and toads heard calling in their local wetlands during evenings from February through August. Together, these volunteers contribute to a long-term, nationwide effort to gather information on species presence, habitat use, and changes over time.

Why frogs?

Amphibians play an important role in the health of ecosystems, but more than one third of the world’s amphibian species are currently facing the largest mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. Even in the United States, previously abundant amphibian populations have experienced dramatic declines.

“Frogs, toads, and other amphibians are sensitive to changes in the environment and therefore act as environmental indicators for factors that could negatively impact ecosystem and human health,” explained Rachel Gauza, AZA’s education and outreach coordinator. “The data collected by FrogWatch USA™ volunteers can be used to help understand the scope and geographic scale of amphibian declines and inform conservation and management efforts.”

Volunteers do not have to be a frog or toad expert to make an important contribution. More than 100 FrogWatch USA™ chapters across the nation are available to train and support interested volunteers. In southern Connecticut, AZA-accredited Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo leads a chapter in conjunction with Yale University’s Peabody Museum. Visit the zoo’s website, BeardsleyZoo.org or Facebook page for details about local FrogWatch events.

This season, FrogWatch USA™ unveiled a new web platform developed in partnership with the National Geographic Society so volunteers can register and enter data online, as well as use maps and graphs to explore their observations alongside those of volunteers throughout the country.

“Seeing your observations reflected online in real time and comparing them to others adds a whole new element to what was traditionally an outdoors-only program,” said Shelly Grow, AZA’s director of conservation programs. “We are thrilled with what the National Geographic Society has done for FrogWatch USA™ and think volunteers will be, too.”

By moving to an online system, FrogWatch USA™ data are now readily accessible to anyone with an interest in frogs and toads. Volunteers may more about FrogWatch USA and how to participate by visiting www.aza.org/frogwatch. Volunteers are invited to post their amphibian photos, experiences, and videos by “leaping” into the FrogWatch USA™ online community on Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr.