I want to thank Lauri Fortino, children’s book author and library assistant, who writes a blog called Frog On A Blog for nominating Frogs Are Green for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! Starting 2015 off right! Her book, The Peddler’s Bed is coming in the Fall!
The award rules:
Display the award on your blog
Link back to the person who nominated you
State 7 things about yourself
Nominate 15 bloggers, link to them, and notify them about their nominations
Seven facts you didn’t know about me:
In high school, I was torn between music and art and finally decided my path would be art (I sing, but only around here).
I’m allergic to chocolate. (Sad, I know!)
I wish I could have more animals… dogs, fish, birds. (Maybe I should move to the country?)
I read almost every night, clears the mind of other thoughts.
I truly love helping people and so glad that I get to everyday.
Movies are my favorite pastime, old or new, just tell me a great story.
I collect children’s picture books and yes, FROG things!
My sixteen nominations for the Very Inspiring Green Blogger Award (check them out!)
Blogger awards are a great way to spread the word about blogs that you enjoy. We can all use a bit of help getting the word out. If I’ve nominated you and you’d rather not participate, that’s fine, but do consider giving a shout-out for some of the blogs you follow. Those bloggers will appreciate your support.
Two weeks ago I was asked to talk about environmental issues on the Techno Granny’s radio show along with Tamar Cerafici, an environmental attorney based in New Hampshire. This show covered many topics under the title “10 Plus Technologies that will help you go green and conserve the environment.”
Some things we discussed:
Why frogs are threatened with extinction and the number of issues they’re facing
How industries such as paper mills are polluting the water which is affecting frogs and possibly humans
Tomorrow morning (11.18.2013) we will meet for round 2! Tamar and I will join the broadcast again at 10 am EST, after the Techno Granny (Joanne Quinn-Smith) received so many comments asking us to talk about additional topics.
Some of the topics to be discussed:
The effect pesticides have on the environment (pollution): water, animals, soil, humans
Atrazine: The 21st Century’s DDT (Roundup)
Chlorothalonil is the most commonly used synthetic fungicide in the USA, commonly applied to peanuts, tomatoes and potatoes. (what are we eating?)
Alternatives to using Pesticides, Green Farming?
Organizations talking about this and trying to spread awareness. (Save the Frogs, National Pesticide Information Center, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency and Frogs Are Green)
Guest blog by Matt Ellerbeck, founder of Save the Salamanders
Although they are rarely given much thought, and often overlooked when they are, salamanders are in a terrible crisis. Around half of all the world’s salamander species are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These species are all facing a high risk of extinction. A further 62 species have been designated as near-threatened with populations rapidly dwindling. This means they are quickly getting closer to threatened status and to the brink of extinction. Sadly for some salamanders it is already too late, as both the Yunnan Lake Newt (Cynops wolterstorffi) and Ainsworth’s Salamander (Plethodon ainsworthi) have already gone extinct.
Salamanders have been on the earth for over 160 million years, and the terrible state that they now find themselves in is due to the detrimental acts of humans. Even those species that are not experiencing population declines deserve attention and conservation to ensure that they remain healthy and stable.
One of the biggest issues affecting salamanders is the loss of their natural habitat. Many areas that were once suitable for salamanders to live in have now been destroyed for developmental construction and agriculture. Habitats of all kinds are being lost at an alarming rate. Wetlands are drained, forests are logged and cut down, and waterfronts are developed. Salamanders are literally losing their homes and they are losing them rapidly. The expansion of urban areas threatens the suitable habitats that still remain.
Where natural habitats do still exist, they are often fragmented or degraded. Fragmentation occurs when healthy areas of habitat are isolated from one another. These fragmented areas are known as habitat islands. Salamander populations are affected since gene flow between the populations is prevented. This increases the occurrence of inbreeding, which results in a decrease in genetic variability and the birthing of weaker individuals.
Fragmented populations where inbreeding occurs often ends in a genetic bottleneck. This is an evolutionary event where a significant percentage of the population or species is killed or otherwise prevented from reproducing. Habitat fragmentation is also harmful because it often eliminates crucial requirements in the area which are critical to the survival of salamander populations. Such areas include spaces that can be utilized for thermoregulation, prey capture, breeding, and over-wintering. Without such habitat requirements populations dwindle.
Breeding sites, often in the forms of vernal pools are particularly important. The loss of such areas in the form of habitat destruction can negatively affect the entire population and its reproductive output. According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), there is some evidence that certain salamander species have individuals that return to the pond in which they were born once they reach maturity. Therefore, destruction of a breeding pond may result in loss of the entire population returning to that site. Habitat complexity is also important as it offers shelter to salamanders from both predators and human persecution.
Degradation occurs when the natural habitat has been altered and degraded to such a degree that it is unlikely that any remaining salamanders species would be able to survive. Developments and agriculture near fragmented habitats put salamanders at serious risk. As amphibians, salamanders have extremely absorbent skins. Industrial contaminants, the introduction of sedimentation into waterways, sewage run off, pesticides, oils, and other chemicals and toxic substances from developmental construction sites and human settlements can all be absorbed by salamanders. This can quickly lead to deaths. They can also cause widespread horrific deformities to occur. A study conducted at Purdue University found that out of 2,000 adult and juvenile salamanders 8 percent had visible deformities.
According to Save The Frogs, Atrazine (perhaps the most commonly used herbicide on the planet, with some 33 million kg being used annually in the US alone) can reduce survivorship in salamanders. Many products are sold with the claim that they are eco-friendly. However, these should be viewed with caution. For example, according to N.C Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Roundup and many other surfactant-loaded glyphosate formulations are not labeled for aquatic use. When these formulations are applied to upland sites according to label instructions, the risk to surfactant-sensitive species is considered low. While this may be the case for fish it does not necessarily apply to amphibians. Salamanders that breed in water also routinely use non-aquatic areas and could easily be exposed to glyphosate formulations that contain harmful surfactants through direct application and not just incidental drift.
Habitat destruction and degradation can also effect the availability of prey items, causing unnatural declines in appropriate food sources.
Habitats are often isolated and cut off from one another by the roads and highways that now run through them. Countless numbers of salamanders are killed on roads and highways every year when they are hit by vehicles. Salamanders that are migrating to breeding and egg-laying sites often must cross over roads to reach such areas. Here many of the mature members of the breeding population are killed. Removing members of the breeding populations greatly limits reproductive output, this makes it incredibly hard for salamander numbers to rebound.
Roads present an additional problem because they represent a form of habitat loss. The roads that run through natural areas also fragment the existing populations, drastically making them smaller in size. This limits the gene flow and genetic diversity between the isolated populations on either side and this greatly increases the chances of extirpation. When salamanders attempt to cross roads to travel between the populations, or to critical breeding/birthing sites it greatly increases their chances of being hit and killed by vehicles.
The Wetlands Ecology and Management (2005) population projections for spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) life tables imply that an annual risk of road mortality for adults of greater then 10% can lead to local population extirpation. Unfortunately, it is estimated that mortality rates can often be as high as 50 to 100%, which means populations are at extreme risk of extirpation and extinction due to road mortality. Wyman (1991) reported average mortality rates of 50.3 to 100% for hundreds of salamanders attempting to cross a paved rural road in New York State, USA. Given that this figure pertains to a rural area from over a decade ago, it is fair to assume that even higher mortality rates occur as their has been in increase in cars and roads over the years. Reducing road mortality is paramount to preserving salamander species.
Being hit and killed by vehicles is not the only threat that roads create for salamanders. Chemical run-off from vehicles contaminate roadside ditches and pools. These sites are often utilized by salamanders for breeding and birthing. According to Steven P. Brady (2012) survival in roadside pools averaged just 56%, as compared to 87% in woodland pools. Thus, an average of 36% fewer individual embryos survived to hatching in roadside versus woodland pools.
Salamanders are also threatened when they are harvested from the wild. Salamanders are taken for the pet trade, for food markets, and for use as fishing bait.
There is much about salamanders that scientists do not know. Aspects of the biology, ecology, and lifestyles of many species is a mystery. This undoubtedly means human interference is negatively affecting salamanders in ways in which we don’t even know. The intricate relation between all species and the vital roles they play within eco-systems is also being altered. Such alterations can have serious consequences to not just salamanders, but many other animals as well (including humans).
Over the years he has observed hundreds of salamanders in their natural habitats. This interest eventually led to Matt becoming a Salamander Advocate and Conservationist.
Matt also has considerable experience and expertise in regards to salamanders and their care. He has cared for and observed numerous species. These include forms belonging to the genera Plethodon, Ambystoma, Necturus, Notophthalmus, Hypselotriton, Pleurodeles, Taricha, Salamandra, Hemidactylium, Eurycea, Pseudotriton, Amphiuma, Siren, and Paramesotriton. Matt is also in possession of a license to keep Specially Protected Amphibians in Captivity for the purpose of education, which has been granted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Along with wildlife preservation, Matt also believes in the ideals of Environmentalism, Deep Ecology, Biocentrism, Ecocentrism, and anti-Speciesism; and draws from these various movements to help salamanders.
Matt is committed to continuing his efforts to help salamanders. His love and concern for these animals is second to none!
When was your organization founded? Please tell us a bit about its mission, goals…
Save the Frogs is the first and only public charity devoted to amphibians. It was founded in May 2008. Our mission is to save and protect amphibians, as well as to respect and appreciate nature and wildlife.
I founded Save the Frogs because frogs were rapidly disappearing around the world. About one-third of amphibians are on the verge of extinction. At least 2,000 species are threatened and if nothing is done, will likely go extinct. Most of the work previous to Save the Frogs was done by scientists helping amphibians, but educating the public about the issue is also very important.
Save the Frogs has education programs and works to get laws in place, for example, to get frogs legs out of restaurants, provide schools with alternatives to dissecting frogs, and prevent non-native frogs from being imported.
The biggest thing is environmental education so I created Save the Frogs Day, an event which comes around each year. This April 28th will be the 4th annual Save the Frogs Day and there will be 200 events in 30 countries, which will top last year’s 143 events in 21 countries.
The events bring awareness around the world, especially on that particular day and it receives significant publicity in the media.
What is your educational background and what lead to creating this organization?
I was always interested math and science and studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, but soon realized I wanted to pursue environmental science. I went back to school to study biology in preparation for graduate school.
I spent a summer in Hawaii volunteering with PhD students who were studying birds. It was then that I knew environmental science was my path. I loved hanging out at streams, so thought about what types of animals live in streams and then found out that frogs were disappearing. I thought frogs would be great to study for my PhD, so I went to Australia and came across Mark Hero in South East Queensland, who became my supervisor. I studied frogs, and the disease, chytrid fungus, which is driving amphibians to extinction.
I finished my PhD, came back to the United States and founded Save the Frogs. I love my work because it’s a combination of communicating awareness, educating the public and science.
What are some challenges you have faced and how did you deal with them?
The first challenge was funding, because we founded in 2008 during the economic recession. Raising funds for a non-profit is hard in the best of times, plus saving frogs is still somewhat of an obscure topic. Most people still don’t know why we should protect frogs.
Save the Frogs works hard on awareness by using the web and speaking to the public directly.
I try to get publicity through newspapers and for-profit corporations involved. Some of them have practices that are harmful to the environment. Many companies when approached don’t necessarily care about what they are doing and only care about making money.
At least one billion frogs are taken out of the environment for use as food in restaurants (frogs legs) and farm-raised frogs carry diseases and if you approach restaurants and ask them to stop selling them, they only see it as a monetary loss.
I have and will continue to approach tech firms in nearby in Silicon Valley for funding. Many of them have no environmental program.
How is climate change effecting amphibians?
Climate change is a huge problem, so it’s good that it gets a lot of attention. We need more people in the government looking seriously at climate change and what to do about it. It’s very important to amphibians because they are very connected to precipitation levels.
“Amphibian” means two lives, one on land and one in the water. Frogs either lay their eggs in water or in leaf litter and the ones who are not in the water are in cloud forests in tropical countries. As the temperature rises, the cloud level rises and the leaf litter dries up. This means that the frogs must continually move up and eventually will run out of space. Many of the frog species live on a particular mountain and only that mountain, so if something happens to that species it can go extinct.
It’s not just tropical forests that are in trouble, Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. has had droughts. About one fourth of the ponds have started to dry up and many frog species are on the decline.
Save the Frogs had five posters up in airports around the country and the one in O’Hare is still up and has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people.
How do you reach your targeted audience? Is it through your website, advertising or social media or another route? Which is most effective and why?
The best way I can reach people is through our Save the Frogs website which has helped make it a worldwide organization. Our e-newsletter is also a great tool because whenever we need help and send it out, we can reach tens of thousands of people. We recently sent out an email with a free download of “The Wild World of Frogs” and it got 40,000 downloads in the first day! Many of those downloads were from friends forwarding the newsletter to their friends.
We create a variety of flyers people can post around their towns. Most things we do are free and up on our website and if you give people the tools they will help spread the word.
Some of the other ways we reach people is through our Facebook page with frequent updates, as well as through Twitter.
I give live presentations and did 65 this year. I believe you can get more people involved by interacting with them face-to-face. I’m trying to get more teachers involved and Save the Frogs Day on April 28 is a great way and to get lots of people talking about it.
What can people do to help?
There are lots of ways to help Save the Frogs! Our website has over 250 pages of information. I feel that educating yourself on the issues is the first step and then subscribing to our newsletter to stay informed.
Learning how you can change your ecological footprint is a great way to help. Everything you do effects the environment.
There are lots of ways to volunteer and many things can be done through the internet so you can be from anywhere! There is a form on our website you can fill out. We have various campaigns and also need help writing letters to the government, for example, the campaign to ban Atrazine. Visit our “take action” page.
Save the Frogs is a 5013C public charity and has a wish list of things we need which is also posted on our website.
Tell us about your events around the world and some of the campaigns you have started.
Save the Frogs is an international organization because amphibians are disappearing all over the world. A few years ago I was asked down to Panama to give a five day talk on molecular biology and also taught the scientists there how to detect the chytrid fungus disease. If you cannot detect the disease, how can you do any research on it. The materials and information is available on the Save the Frogs website. “QPC” is the technique for detecting the disease and the materials have been downloaded by scientists in over 30 countries.
Last year I got invited to Korea and was the representative for the 1st Amphibian International Symposium. I traveled around Korea for 10 days doing environmental work. Seeing what types of problems they had, coming up with solutions and giving presentations to communities, groups and schools. We have applied for a $50,000 grant that would go to helping Korea’s amphibians.
In September, 2011 I spent a month in Ghana and helped them start Save the Frogs Ghana. We are registering it as a NGO with the government of Ghana. It will be an independent Save the Frogs working on it’s own. We have written a proposal to help the Squeaker Frog (Arthroleptidae: Arthroleptis) and also to make the Atewa Hills a national park. We are trying to save the Togo Slippery Frog (Conraua derooi) which lives in only two streams and are threatened by mining. They are a fully aquatic frog and swim as fast as a fish.
What is in the works for the future?
Save the Frogs is coming to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in March 2012. I will be looking for schools and community groups for presentations.
Save the Frogs Day is April 28th and we have a 5k race planned in Seattle and another event in San Francisco. There will be “Ban Atrazine” rallies and we will be raising awareness about it.
New campaigns include a petition to Governor Gerry Brown to stop the importation of American Bullfrogs. About 3 million are imported to the state of California each year. Being native to the east coast, when they come to California, they eat the native wildlife and they are primarily for pets, dissection and frogs legs in restaurants. They carry the chytrid fungus so are spreading the disease.
Nathan’s Famous is now selling frogs legs and I want to get this to stop. The executive and CEOs have refused to address the issue. They need to take some environmental responsibility.
Helping Save the Frogs Ghana
Ghana is a poor country and frogs are in trouble because of illegal foresting. There are now programs in place to teach mushroom farming and bee keeping which can change a family’s life. We will be working to get the Atewa Hills a national park.
To learn more about Save the Frogs visit the links below:
Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a freshwater organism that might help in fighting the chytrid fungus, which is a principal cause for the worldwide amphibian decline. A freshwater species of zooplankton, called Daphnia magna, could provide a tool for biological control of the deadly fungus whose impact, one researcher has called “the most spectacular loss of vertebrate biodiversity due to disease in recorded history.”
Daphnia magna is a variety of water fleas of the genus Daphnia, some species of which are commonly used as food for aquarium fish. It was known that the zooplankton could devour some types of fungi. Oregon researchers wanted to find out whether Daphnia magna could also consume the chytrid fungus that has been devastating amphibian populations worldwide, including Colorado’s endangered boreal toad.
Through extensive research, scientists confirmed that Daphnia magna could consume the free swimming spores of the fungal pathogen. According to lead researcher Julia Buck, an OSU doctoral student in zoology, in an Oregon State University press release:
We feel that biological control offers the best chance to control this fungal disease, and now we have a good candidate for that. Efforts to eradicate this disease have been unsuccessful, but so far no one has attempted biocontrol of the chytrid fungus. That may be the way to go.
Now scientists need to conduct field studies to confirm the zooplankton’s effectiveness in a natural setting. The OSU scientists have found that Daphnia inhabits amphibian breeding sites where chytrid transmission occurs and may be able to stem the unprecedented population declines and extinctions.
For background on the chytrid fungus, please see the video below that we found on the Save the Frogs site, produced by the National Science Foundation:
The Oregon State University research was reported in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation, and was supported by the National Science Foundation. Click here for the full report.
On the morning of the April 29, I got up at dawn to watch the Royal Wedding. Because it was also the 3rd Annual Save the Frogs day, my mind was full of frogs, too. So frogs, princes, frog princes, and fairy tales were all mixed up in my mind. I was trying to find a connection between these two events. True, the groom’s father, Prince Charles, is the main spokesman for the Prince’s Rainforest Project, which has a frog as its mascot, but…
Yesterday I came across a story in the Dorset (England) Echo that tied these two events together. It turns out Will and Kate weren’t the only couple married in England on April 29. Another couple, Sabrina Laben and Simon Pittman, also tied the knot. They did not (I don’t think) arrive at the church in a Rolls-Royce, probably didn’t have a trumpet fanfare, and definitely didn’t have a billion people watching their ceremony.
Instead, they created a Save the Frogs wedding. Sabrina loves frogs and in lieu of gifts, she requested that donations be made to Save the Frogs. A “frog and frogette” stood on top of the wedding cake instead of traditional bride and groom figurines, and they sent out frog-decorated invitations. They had their reception Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, noted for its idyllic setting and multiple ponds.
courtesy of weddingandcakes.com
The more I thought about it, the better I liked this idea of an amphibian-themed wedding. In many cultures, frogs are symbols of good luck, prosperity, and fertility. They are associated with fairy tales and happy endings and transformations (the frog turning into a prince). As Susan and I know, people seem to love giving frog-related gifts. And what better place for a wedding than near a beautiful pond? If it rains, even better—frogs love rain and you might have a frog chorus accompaniment to your wedding!
For more information about other events that occurred on Save the Frogs day, and about the organization’s ongoing efforts and activities, please click here