Frogs: The Thin Green Line
What You Can Do to Help the Frogs

Scientists are struggling to understand why frogs are dying all over the world.  And not just frogs – but also other amphibians, like toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians.  Herpetologists are scientists who study amphibians and reptiles.  The better they understand what’s going on, the more likely they’ll be able to suggest how to help the frogs.

But everyone can be a part of the solution.  Here are some ways you can help:

Educate Yourself

Learn more about frogs at your local aquarium or zoo.  Natural history museums are also a good place to explore.  In New York City, for example, the American Museum of Natural History has an upcoming exhibit (opening May 2009) all about frogs.

The internet makes it easy to find frog news, ranging from action-oriented to more technical.  Many people have started their own frog-related websites.  Some scientists have frog blogs, like this one by Dr. Roland Knapp, a research biologist at the University of California’s Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory.

Knapp studies the mountain yellow-legged frog.  When scientists showed that trout introduced into Sierra Nevada mountain lakes decimated the native frogs, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game joined together to remove non-native trout.

Just as the frog was recovering from trout overstocking, it was hit with the amphibian chytrid fungus.   The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to add the yellow-legged frog to the endangered species list to protect them by law, but it remains only a candidate for now.

Keep informed about legislation that affects your local frog populations.  You can help frogs face threats like habitat destruction, global climate change and disease.

Protect the Environment

One of the most important ways to help frogs also helps humans -– taking care of the environment.

Frogs are particularly susceptible to changes in the environment.  Their usually moist skin helps their weak lungs by exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide with their environment – both in water and out of it.   In fact, last year scientists found a frog without lungs -– it breathes only through its skin.

Over 6,300 different species of amphibians are known – and new species are still being found.  Nearly half of the species are in decline, mostly from threats to their habitat.   Frogs lose their homes to development, but they are also harmed by garbage, non-native plants and animals, and discarded chemicals.

Watch what you throw away—and where you throw it away—to keep frog habitats trash-free.  The water that ends up in storm drains, for example, often travels through forests and grasslands and dumps into wetlands – all prime frog habitat.

On the other hand, shorelines should stay naturally cluttered with the leaf litter, rocks and logs that frogs use for cover.   Frogs evolved over millions of years to fit into specific ecological niches defined by factors like temperature and water levels.   They need clean water to survive,  but they also eat—and feed—other species.

Don’t introduce non-native plants and animals. The tadpoles that hatch from frog eggs depend on finding their favorite plants to eat and hide under.   As with the stocked trout and the mountain yellow-legged frog, sometimes even one out-of-place species can disrupt an entire habitat.

The invasive species can sometimes be another frog – like African clawed frogs and American bullfrogs that were moved outside their original habitats.  The worldwide export of some frogs may even have contributed to spreading the amphibian chytrid fungus around the world.   African clawed frogs were once exported for medical uses and are now popular as pets. Bullfrog legs are exported all over the world as food, especially from Indonesia.

If you’d like to keep a frog as a pet, look for a pet dealer who propagates his or her own animals and don’t release the frog into the wild without consulting an expert to see if it will be an invasive species.

Reduce chemical use. The water table on which we depend collects a lot of the chemicals we flush down our drains or add to our lawns (PDF), despite our best efforts to treat the water.

Chemical pesticides used in industrial agriculture harm frogs.   But declines in frog populations also show us that something is wrong with the water we drink.

Dr. Tyrone Hayes is a developmental endocrinologist at the University of California, Berkeley.  He studies how pesticides both affect amphibian development and also promote reproductive cancer in humans.

The pesticide atrazine, which is found in almost every American’s drinking water, causes hormone disruptions in both frogs and humans.

“[It] doesn’t matter if you’re a frog, a dog, a cat, a hog, or a farmer,” says Hayes.  “The hormones that are disrupted—testosterone, estrogen, thyroid hormones—those are all the same hormones.”

Hayes’ laboratory plays host to several egg-producing male frogs – frogs that were exposed to doses of atrazine a third of what’s allowed in drinking water.  Hayes says the same dosage promotes human cancers.

Don’t flush medicines down the toilet. Pesticides degrade water quality, but so do drugs flushed into our environment (PDF).  The treatment plants that process our wastewater don’t always remove pharmaceutical chemicals.  Most medicines should be thrown in the trash – sometimes mixed with kitty litter or gravel.

Conserve water. The less water you use, the less has to be treated.  And the more water stays with frogs in natural environments.

Support Conservation

Give the frogs some time. If you want to be hands-on, find a local habitat preservation or citizen science monitoring program.  Or you can take part in a 24-hour BioBlitz near you.

Put your money where it counts. Many environmental organizations (such as Amphibian Ark and Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation), zoos and aquariums, scientific consortiums, and countless community groups are already tackling the global frog crisis.  But there’s still a lot to do.  Donate or raise money for your favorite.

  • NBII

    Can you add a link to the National Biological Information Infrastructure Amphibian site? http://www.nbii.gov/amphibans This site is home to the North American Reporting Center for Amphibian Malformations (NARCAM). Anyone can submit or view reports about amphibian malformations at http://www.nbii.gov/narcam.

  • Patricia A. McKee

    Amazing insightful journalism. Thank you. Save the World. Save a Frog.

  • Kathy Mayhew

    I live in Leamington, ON. Canada. Point Pelee National Park is also quite concerned as a few years ago all the frogs vanished. The population is still down, I hope to join with them to research the possible water problem at the national park, (sewage run-off from nearby homes. Keep up the good work, terrific presentation. Lets save some frogs.

  • franklin nossiter

    The frogs growing extra bodyparts are going to give me nightmares we have got to help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Kate Beaumont

    I never had any idea that frogs were in danger until I watched this Nature episode. I’m really glad PBS put this show out so people can begin to learn what’s happening. I want to do all I can to help save the frogs.

  • Peggy Farabaugh

    Thank you, what a great show! What will it take to get the world on board with terrific amphibian conservation projects like the ones you showcased? We are thankful to Jim Andrews of Vermont who leads reptile and amphibian conservation projects, such as this atlas, http://community.middlebury.edu/~herpatlas/herp_index.htm. Check it out!

  • leslie johnson

    I just watched NATURe on the Frogs, Insightful and I just joined frogwatch as I live near a pond that has frogs. Hopefully I can add valuable information to the research. Thank you again

  • Mallory

    I love frogs and have since I was a kid. I have Green Tree Frogs in a big terrarium and watch them all the time. I am sad to hear what is happening and am going to teach my son how to be a better person so frogs will never go away.

  • Christine

    If you’re looking to help check out the amphibian ark website. http://www.amphibianark.org
    Wonderful organization that is doing a lot to prevent the loss of some very threatened species.

  • tyrone hayes

    You can support the ban on atrazine by writing to Congress Keith Ellison MN05EllisonKeith@mail.house.gov
    A form letter is available at http://atrazinelovers.com/a2.html
    Every email counts and moves us in a forward direction to protect wildlife and human health.

  • Mary

    I grew up in Calaveras County where Mark Twain wrote…The Celebrated Frogs of Calaveras and recently heard that these wonderful frogs are now extinct!!!I was shocked and so sad…I still can’t believe it. I’ve jumped many a frog…Thanks for this information…

  • jake m

    dude this is sad
    we relly have 2 help

  • Deb Odell

    I am going to move to organize our k-8 school toward action as well as my family here at home. I think every parent of young children needs to see this. The implications are huge and will require a huge response.

  • Ronna

    Do what you can to help the frogs and other ‘phibs! I monitor a pond for Frogwatch and help the salamanders across the road in the spring. It doesn’t take much time and every small contribution helps! You can do it too!
    Like many people, I love the sound of running water so I have a small garden pond (<50 gal.). Juvenile green frogs overwinter there safely only because I take precautions and keep it from freezing over in the winter. Since they are attracted to my 14″ deep pond during their dispersal from the breeding area in the late summer (because I have a dribbling fountain and running water means a safe winter place to frogs that need a place that won’t freeze), I felt it was my responsibility to ensure their safety. If you have a water feature that attracts frogs, there are sites on the web that can help you make a nice winter home for traveling juvenile (or adult) frogs!
    (http://www.fishpondinfo.com/frog3.htm#help)
    For the past 6 years, all frogs overwintering in my pond(except one) have survived the winter. Some years there have been as many as four. :-)

  • Lisa

    Another by-product of corporate globalization, They’ll eradicate life if given free reign. Ain’t greed grand?. This is what overpopulation does, it breeds ingnorance.

  • Sher Kong

    The freaky part is that the male are laying eggs, THAT IS JUST WRONG.

  • May

    This is a high school student from Florida, and I would like more information on how to help out the frogs in my community.
    like: Forming a club in my school.

  • AmyG

    Did anyone catch the phone number at the end of the video in order to purchase it?

  • NATURE Online

    You can purchase this and other NATURE video titles by clicking the “shop” link at the top of this site.

  • Lynette

    Frogwatch USA is on the website of the National Wildlife Federation, at nwf.org. You can also get your backyard certified as a wildlife habitat. Catching your rainwater in rainbarrels helps to collect water that the frogs like. And there’s probably information on greenscapes – i.e. natural landscapes – out there.

  • christina

    watched this last year and again tonight. so scary how we are essentially viewing our future in it’s earliest form and the damage we’re doing.

  • Kathleen Dougherty

    A great awakening, to learn of the plight of these important creatures. I have a natural swampy pond in my acreage in the FingerLakes Region of NY, and do nothing to it – on the advice of the Soil and Water conservation man from Cornell Extension. Including not introducing fish to the pond! Also , putting shallow plates of pond water in secluded spots helps during dry times, for frogs, toads and many insects, too.
    Thanks for a great program, Nature, every single episode.
    Kathleen

  • Melissa A.

    I’ve loved frogs my whole life and it made me so sad to find out that they’re vanishing!! I have frogs in my creek by the sewage and now im going to search for dead frogs around and if they do i’m going to take care!!! JOIN ME!!!

  • Kayla Boaz

    I was flipping through the channels one morning and i came apon nature, Frogs the thin green line. And i have a river near me and i don’t want to see anything happen to the frogs here!! So it came to my attention that we the world should do something about it not only scientist but us!!! Please help the scientist of the world figure out the investigation on why frogs are going extict!!! Thank you. Sincerely, always a FROG lover!!!!

  • Jeff Alford

    A million thanks to PBS and NATURE for broadcasting this excellent piece about the plight of frogs. I had no idea they were on the path to extinction. I will make an effort to find an organization working to save frogs with which I may be able to volunteer or at least make a modest donation to. And I will continue to do everything possible in my daily life to conserve water and to avoid using products which pollute water.

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  • Randy

    It probably has to do with the man made organisms that fight oil spills

  • Rita Zvidrine

    Every year I let my above ground pool go natural and it becomes laden with tad poles which develop to frogs. Some are small and green while there is a species that is brown. Both do not grow overly large. During the year I periodically net the young frogs and tad poles and put them in a large pot that is full of rain water and water treated with aquarium treatment. The young frogs do not stay in the pot long and hope they survive after jumping out. I have lots of frogs and tad poles in my pool. In fact I comment to all my neighbors about turning the pool into a frog habitat although I don’t know where to begin. My pool is 4′ deep 15′ wide and 31′ long. In the spring time My house and surrounding area is a chorus of frogs calling to mate. The neighbors love the sound. We live in the hills and not in a sub-division. I too worry about frogs as the water we drink is lethal to fish and tad poles.

    If I could get a reply that would be great. More than any thing else I want to provide an environment where my frogs will populate although I don’t know what to do with them after they mature.

    I have an outside fish pond where I grow gold

  • Judith Sherer

    I haven’t read and watched all of this info, but as I caught some of the program this morning, I didn’t hear or see how people prepared themselves to go into these areas to observe. Please tell me that the scientists do things like use new boots in new areas, or for that matter use highly sanitary practices when they go forth to observe. I am not a scientist, so I just don’t know how they work, but sometimes the obvious is worth mentioning. It would be a horror if the scientists spread this awful plague. This whole situation is just sad and scary. I hope answers are found soon.

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