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Davis, California

Monday, June 17, 2024

Do frogs need saving?

With one-third of all amphibians – over 2,000 species – listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s official list, Save The Frogs, a non-profit organization devoted to amphibian conservation, has been educating people on the declining frog populations and increasing awareness of the current dangers to frogs.

“Many people know about the endangerment of pandas and leopards, but not about amphibians,” Michael Starkey said.

Starkey is a biologist and graduate of the Field Ecology Certificate Program at Sacramento City College, and is an advisory committee member for Save the Frogs. 

Starkey was inspired by the “woop woop” sounds of frog calls and parental care he saw within the species, Leptodactylus insularum, in a trip to Panama three years ago. He learned more about amphibian extinctions from a conservation center in Panama, which motivated him to join Save The Frogs. Currently, Starkey counsels and informs the organization about the current threats to Bay Area frogs, such as the drying up of marshes and breeding ponds.  He also gives talks to school children about “the crisis on [amphibian] species extinction.” 

Although Save The Frogs is not officially a club at UC Davis yet, Robyn Screen, a sophomore in evolution, ecology and biodiversity, is trying to stir interest in the potential club with talks to nature clubs and through tabling events. On Picnic Day, her Save The Frogs table collected 10 pages of signatures to support the ban on Atrazine – a pesticide that research has indicated can alter the sex of frogs.

The plight of frogs is not foreign to H. Bradley Shaffer, a professor in the department of evolution and ecology at UC Davis. Along with former graduate students, Shaffer has been working on a list known as Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern, to bring awareness to amphibians and reptiles that are not offered the same legal protection as species on the Federal and State’s endangered species list.

This ongoing list, which is made in close collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Game, is used as a watch list by California land managers.

“Every group of people wants [species] to not be on the list, whether you are a land developer, a conservationist – nobody likes the regulatory burden [of preventing further endangerment]. The key is to catch it early – don’t let it get any worse,” Shaffer said.

This is also the mission of Save The Frogs. Since 2010, Mike Rotkin, the mayor of Santa Cruz, where Save The Frogs is currently headquartered, has recognized April 29 as the official Save The Frogs day. The organization’s current project is to rally in Washington, D.C. on April 29 to demand a federal ban on Atrazine. Similar rallies will also take place in San Francisco and New York City on the same day.

“Even if you don’t care about frogs, helping frogs can help conserve the environment,” Screen said. “Students who are not conservationists or environmentalists may be interested in the importance of frogs to medicinal research.”

Shaffer recognizes the need to work with experts to establish what species need protection and why. He worries about the ethics of not saving species.

“With people moving to cities, and becoming disconnected with nature, they should realize that [saving frogs] is the same as recycling a plastic bottle. It’s about changing everyday lifestyles, like being water conscious – a lot of water ends up going to ponds,” Starkey said.

Shaffer also suggested buying pesticide-free produce to discourage the use of Atrazine. To learn more about frog conservation, go to savethefrogs.com.

EVA TAN can be reached at science@theaggie.org.


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