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You Can Help Save Forgs

By Avalon Theisen

Ben Johnson and Avalon Theisen
Photo by Deborah Theisen

Ben Johnson with Conserve It Forward mascot Clover and and Avalon Theisen.

Photo by Deborah Theisen

Avalon explains the call of a bullfrog while leading a frog listening hike.


When you think of a frog, what comes to mind? Slimy? Hopping? Fly-eating? Green? Well, those things may describe some frogs, but did you know that frogs represent so much more? In fact, frogs represent the health of the environment, both locally and globally. Think about a kitchen sponge. When you put it under water, what happens? The sponge absorbs the water, and parts of anything that is in it. Frog skin acts in a very similar way, and is often referred to as permeable. Permeable just means things like chemicals and gases pass through it easily. So if there is something wrong in the environment, frogs are going to be one of the first creatures to be affected by it.

According to biologist Dr. Kerry Kriger, who founded the organization Save the Frogs!, amphibian species naturally disappear at the rate of one species every 250 years. Unfortunately, about 200 species have completely disappeared since 1980! What’s making them disappear so fast? There are many different threats, and here are just a few of them:

  • Destruction of their habitat (when their homes are destroyed to be replaced by people’s construction)
  • Pollution
  • Chemicals, including fungicides and pesticides sprayed in backyards across the country
  • Overharvesting for the pet/food trades (when amphibians are taken from nature to be sold as pets or food)
  • Even cats that like to pounce on small creatures are a threat to amphibians.

When I heard about the challenges amphibians are facing, I knew I needed to find a way to help, and I put my focus on frogs. Luckily, there are many small things that ordinary people, especially children, can do. You can pick up trash and also build new frog habitat. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a pond, you can just use things like PVC pipe, old Tupperware, rocks, dirt and water. If you are going to get a pet amphibian, make sure it was captive-bred and not taken from the wild. Is it time for frog dissection at school? Companies like Digital Frog International and Froguts offer frog dissection software for home and school use. This frog-friendly dissection costs less, has less smell and best of all, there are no dead frogs!

Photos by Rafael Alvarez

Far top: Frog Day volunteer CK Gordon demonstrates frog-saving pool tools. Above: Games like "Stamp Out the Threats to Frogs" and "Feed the Frog"were big hits with participants.

Another great way to help frogs is to become a citizen scientist, a person who does science by being part of fun activities and projects. My favorite citizen scientist activity is working as a frog listening volunteer. Did you know that every species of frog has a different call, or sound? Frog listening helps you identify frogs solely by their calls. First, you learn the calls by going to workshops, or online. Once you pass the quiz, you can go out in nature and report what you hear to help working scientists. It’s just that easy, and a great way to get outdoors!

Being a Cuban Treefrog Citizen Scientist is another way to help in Florida. Cuban treefrogs are invasive — not native to our state. That means that they are not here naturally, but because of something that people did. Cuban treefrogs cause all kinds of trouble for our native treefrogs, native ecosystems and people. Not only do they eat our native treefrogs and tadpoles, but they also compete with them for space and food. These treefrogs can be much larger than our native treefrogs and they are basically bullying them — and that is why they can take over ecosystems. As a Cuban Treefrog Citizen Scientist, you can learn to identify and report this species to help scientists know where they are. To learn more about Cuban Treefrog Citizen Science, please visit

With all this information, I started to talk to other people about what I had been learning by doing things like setting up frog info booths, giving presentations and leading frog listening hikes. My projects eventually turned into a non-profit organization called Conserve It Forward. One exciting free event that we host every year at Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center in Ruskin is Tampa Bay’s regional Save the Frogs Day event. Save the Frogs Day is a world-wide celebration of amphibian education and conservation.

Our event has fun games and activities to help people learn about frogs and the environment, including challenges frogs face, and solutions people can put to use. You might enjoy comparing your jump to that of a frog’s, learning about what frogs eat by playing “feed the frog” cornhole, or getting a temporary frog tattoo. Be part of a frog talk/frog walk combo, and meet Clover, our mascot frog. That’s just a few of the fun activities we’re planning for April 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. We will all come together at 1 p.m. for the Human Frog Chorus, where people croak just like frogs for a video to raise awareness for amphibian conservation. Everybody receives a ribbon to wear showing they croaked in the Human Frog Chorus.

After the chorus, the event ends with a prize drawing. Every attendee gets one free prize drawing ticket, but more are available for purchase. Prizes depend on what gets donated, but in the past we’ve had handmade jewelry, inflatable frogs, frog art, frog identification guides, treefrog houses made from PVC pipe, and a grand prize of Froguts digital dissection software.

I invite you and all your friends to pre-register for the Tampa Bay area Save The Frogs Day event at, where you can also see the most current schedule and information. This event is free, with a suggested donation of $5 per person. I hope to see you there!

Avalon Theisen of has been recognized internationally for her conservation efforts. With a goal of working for National Geographic when she grows up, her hobbies include traveling abroad and animal handling, especially amphibians.

Participants at the 2012 Tampa area Save the Frogs Day event pose for a group photo at Camp Bayou.
Photo by Rafael Alvarez

Participants at the 2012 Tampa area Save the Frogs Day event pose for a group photo at Camp Bayou.


Florida Frog Links

Florida's Frogs — UF Wildlife – Johnson Lab

Frogs & Toads of Florida — UF Florida Wildlife Extension

Checklist of Florida Frogs and Toads — Florida Museum of Natural History

Audio presentation by the Hillsborough River Watershed Alliance, including downloadable frog calls

Frog Citizen Science Links

FrogWatch USA
The Tampa area chapter is the Frog Listening Network that is a partnership between the Hillsborough River Watershed Alliance and Lowry Park Zoo. To contact them directly, email

North American Amphibian Monitoring Program

Cuban Treefrog Citizen Science

Amphibian Conservation Groups

Save the Frogs!

The Amphibian Specialist Group

Amphibian Ark

Conserve It Forward

Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy

The Sticky Tongue Project

Wendell's Frog Blog