Canberra’s frog population has lost much of its diversity during the past 50 years. Many of our once common frog species are now extinct due to environmental factors such as habitat loss or diseases such as the chytrid fungus.
Due to their sensitivity to environmental change, frogs are a keystone species reflecting the environmental health of ecosystems.
One way to help frogs is by maintaining and improving our local waterways and catchment systems. This is why programs such as Frogwatch that teach the community about maintaining ecosystem health are not only important for frogs but the health of our waterways.
The Frogwatch program launched last week and it gives 120 classrooms across Canberra the opportunity to witness tadpoles transforming into frogs, while students are also educated on the importance of water quality and habitat conservation.
The program is run by Ginninderra Catchment Group and sponsored by Icon Water. It kicked off on the first day of term four for ACT schools.
Frogwatch kits are provided to each of the 120 classes and include everything students need to look after the spotted grass frog tadpoles as they transform during a 10-week period. The kits also include detailed instructions and weekly email updates with ideas for lessons and activities. Schools then return the mature frogs at the end of term four so they can be released back into the wild.
“Frogs are an important part of our local environment and they are under threat worldwide, including in Australia, from habitat destruction, reduced water quality, climate change and introduced species and pests,” says Frogwatch education officer Anke Maria.
“Frogwatch teaches children, parents and their families about the wonderful world of frogs and how to look after them. The program provides students with the chance to learn about a frog’s lifecycle and the key role these amphibians play in aquatic systems, as well as their habitat preferences.”
The program started in 2010 after the Ginninderra Catchment Group began receiving requests from teachers eager to have tadpoles in their classrooms. It is illegal to catch tadpoles and frogs unless you have a licence to do so in the ACT.
The aim of the program is to encourage local communities to maintain and improve the health of water catchments and surrounding environments.
It not only gives kids a fun learning experience and an understanding of amphibians, but also an appreciation for the wider natural world. In this way, students learn all about local fauna and the importance of protecting local ecosystems.
The program began with just five kits and has now grown in size, providing 360 kits during the past three years to classrooms across Canberra thanks to support from sponsors such as Icon Water.