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HomeNewsNever been frogging? Better hop to it!

Never been frogging? Better hop to it!

Two Northern Beaches women who co-created a pioneering amphibian documentation program, FrogID, celebrated the app’s one millionth contributor this month, along with several rare discoveries (details below).

Allambie scientist, Dr Jodi Rowley, curator of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Biology at both the Australian Museum (where she leads the Herpetology department) and the School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) at the University of NSW, created the FrogID app along with Kim McKay AO, Australian Museum Director and CEO.

It is now the most comprehensive and scientifically accurate frog database in the world.

Ms McKay, educated at Mackellar Girls School in Manly Vale, is the first woman to hold the directorship in the museum’s 191-year history.

Kim McKay, co-developer of the FrogID app. Photo: Australian Museum

The FrogID app, developed with IBM and launched in November 2017, assists in the documentation and conservation of Australia’s amphibians by combining audio recordings and surveillance data. There are an estimated 240 different species of frogs in Australian creeks, forests and swamps, many of which are endangered due to climate change and urban development.

The Australian Museum explains, “The app enables anyone with a smartphone to record different frog species by the unique sounds they make. These recordings provide data on the health of Australia’s frog populations and identify species that are at risk, to assist and inform conservation efforts.”

One millionth amphibian

Responding to the announcement that FrogID had received its one millionth submission, Dr Rowley said, “This is testament to the incredible contribution of citizen scientists right across the country. FrogID has changed attitudes towards frogs and created opportunities for communities, schools and families to learn, participate and contribute towards the research and conservation of Australia’s unique amphibians. It is inspiring and encouraging to see such interest in our precious frogs!”

Ms McKay added, “It’s easy to forget what an ambitious undertaking FrogID was, and still is. Dr Rowley and I brainstormed how we could use smartphone technology to record frog calls. It was uncharted territory, and in our first meeting, my prediction of one million calls was met with scepticism and a few raised eyebrows!”

Safe Frogging Guide. Photo: FrogID/Facebook

According to the Australian Museum:

* Frogs are among the most threatened groups of animals on Earth. Hundreds of species of frogs have already disappeared and many more are on the edge of extinction.

* Frogs are also a key indicator of the health of Australia’s waterways and wetlands and play a crucial role in several ecosystems.

* One of the biggest obstacles facing frog conservation programs is our lack of knowledge about these species, the threats they face and how to help them.

* There are not enough frog scientists or specialist biologists in Australia to study populations across the country. The sheer size of Australia and the inability to reach some biologically significant locations after rainfall, adds to the complexity of their work.

The one millionth submission to FrogID was the sound of a Spalding’s rocket frog near Cloncurry, Queensland, recorded by ecologist and citizen scientist, Dr Elliot Leach.

Dr Rowley described the sound of a Spalding’s rocket frog call as “a little like a chicken combined with a lawnmower!”

Spaldings Rocket Frog – sounds like a “chicken crossed with a lawnmower!” Photo: Elliot Leach

She explained the significance: “It’s an unmistakable sound! However, there are few recordings of this species in Queensland. It only calls during the wet season from Litchfield National Park in the northwest of the NT to far northwest Queensland near the Gulf of Carpentaria. Elliot Leach’s submission is also the first FrogID submission from the area, effectively increasing FrogID’s spatial coverage to 36.5% of continental Australia.”


In another discovery through the FrogID app, the Australian Museum’s researchers Dr Rowley, Professor Stephen Donnellan and Research Assistant Tom Parkin, found two new species of ‘whistling’ brown tree frog, distinct from the one commonly spread across south-eastern Australia.

On 2 February 2024, the researchers revealed their amazing discovery: “Using comparisons of their DNA, body shape and mating calls submitted by participants of the Australian Museum’s FrogID project, we found that the Brown Tree Frog is not a single species, but a composite of three geographically isolated species.

“Amazingly, the species appear to have evolved from their common ancestor around 2 to 3 million years ago and they have been isolated across major biogeographic barriers since at least the end of the last Ice Age.”

FrogID revealed the Brown Tree Frog is not a single species, but a composite of three geographically isolated species. Photos: Tom Parkin + Mark Sanders

In October 2023, the team also announced the discovery of another new species, a smooth frog in the Otway Ranges in Victoria. It appears to be a hybrid of the southern smooth frog and the eastern smooth frog, with a call somewhere between the two and distinguished by bright, flower-like spots present on its back and sides.

What actually is the Frog ID app?

“The app includes a field guide to explore and learn about Australian frog species through photographs, frog calls, maps and related information. You can see their pictures, read about their habitat and behaviour, and listen to their calls. You can look for information on specific species by clicking on the search icon at the top of the screen.

“The app’s “near me” function provides information on frog species that typically live close to your location.”

FrogID app information and download link: https://www.frogid.net.au/about-frogid



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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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