6/05/2012

australias vanishing frogs

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Stories‘Australia’s Vanishing Frogs’- Earthwatch Essay 1The Earthwatch Institute’s Student Challenge Program ‘Australia’s Vanishing Frogs’ - Diana TungJanuary 4-10 00,Watagan Mountains, NSW. The Earthwatch Institute is a global organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness amongst scientists, students and educators alike, providing opportunities for the wider community to participate in hands-on activities whilst aiding projects in sustainability and conservation. I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in Earthwatch’s Student Challenge Program, where I was to spend a week of my summer holidays with a research scientist and 7 other students of different locations and backgrounds surveying the creeks of the Watagan Mountains in NSW. The project, entitled ‘Australia’s Vanishing Frogs’, was an in-depth look at the worsening situation of the Stuttering Frog, the Mixophyes Balbus. After taking an 11-hour train trip to meet up with other team members in Sydney, we spent the rest of the afternoon acquainting ourselves on another train, this time to Newcastle, where upon our arrival we met Michael Mahony, a research scientist from the University of Newcastle, and his three PhD students. We were able to visit our ‘transect site’ in daylight (which we would visit again that night), before spending what was left of the first day setting up camp and waiting for dusk to fall. With an ever darkening sky, we geared up with headlights, numerous layers of clothing and mozzie repellent before making our way to the transect of Boarding House Dam, where we would find our first frogs. Throughout the night we were taught how to imitate frog calls, as well as how to catch and handle them, and even how to determine their sex, with the different methods of capture emphasizing heavily on teamwork. Working from one side of the creek’s bank to another, torches were used to find dull, pinkish eyeshine, the reflection from the frogs’ eyes. However, the frustration of being unable to differentiate frog eyeshine from the bright green sparkles of spiders’ persisted until the next few days, as did the initial clumsiness in performing ‘triangulation’. Used to find responsive but well camouflaged frogs, groups of three would assembled from different angles, turn off their headlights and then highlight athe frog responded to a call.

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