Portville Citizen Scientists Give Frog-Focused Presentation

Tami Attwell plays a sample clip of a gray tree frog croaking. Credits: Taylor Kickbush
Holly Fischer holds a stuffed animal frog while speaking during the Souper Monday presentation on frogs. Credits: Taylor Kickbush
FrogWatch USA gave this stuffed animal frog to Tami Attwell and Holly Fischer. Credits: Taylor Kickbush

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY— “Frogs are such interesting creatures,” Tami Attwell told the group gathered in the University Club for the March 13 Souper Monday presentation she gave with Holly Fischer.

The Portville residents, certified citizen scientists for frogs, spoke about the identification and science of Western New York frogs.

In order to gain such a title, Attwell and Fischer had to pass a citizen science exam as well as a frog vocalization test. The two women can identify at least 10 area frog or toad species just from hearing them croak.

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 “There! It sounds like they are responding to one another,” Attwell said while playing a sound clip of several Fowler’s toads chirping away.

Frogs became increasingly present in Attwell and Fischer’s lives one year ago when they joined FrogWatch USA, a volunteer program initiated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that encourages certified citizen scientists to observe frogs in their counties, to gather data and to share findings online with scientists.

“We met the director of amphibians and reptiles from the Buffalo Zoo, which inspired me,” Fischer said, “For two people who like the outdoors and have a lot of frogs in the area, it seemed like a good idea to join FrogWatch USA.” 

Attwell and Fischer spend many days from February to August observing frogs in Cattaraugus County. The frog and toad species they study include the bull frog, Fowler’s toad, American toad, wood frog, green frog, chorus frog, leopard frog, gray tree frog and the northern spring peeper.

Attwell and Fischer covered topics such as the unique qualities of each of these species of frogs, the sounds they make and what makes them important to the environment.

“Frogs are important predators and are important prey,” Attwell, who is employed as the secretary and technical specialist at Friedsam Memorial Library at St. Bonaventure, said. “We can learn a lot about frogs from how they breathe through their skin, how they hibernate and even how some frogs freeze in the winter and unthaw. We can learn so much.”

Throughout the year, the women try to educate both children and adults on the amphibians by talking about how to handle frogs and toads and what environmental qualities impact their habitats.

“Pollution, excess algae in water, weather changes, global warming and an increase in predators are a few things that can affect the frog population,” Attwell said to the 15 presentation attendees.

“Everything suffers in its own way,” said Fischer, referring to the seeming decline of the frog population in this area. “However, you’re the one who is going to save the frogs.”

Both Attwell and Fischer believe frog populations can thrive again with the help of humans.

“We are stewards of nature,” Attwell said. 

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