In Australia, our frogs are in trouble! Of our 240 known frog species, four have already disappeared and more face extinction. When it comes to frog conservation, one of the biggest obstacles is scientists’ lack of knowledge about these shy amphibians. Frogs are among the first animals to respond to environmental changes, like pollution, climate change or habitat change. For this reason, frogs are often referred to as the “canary in the coal mine” and their disappearance is an early warning that something is wrong with the environment. They also have a cocktail of chemical compounds on their skin, which are being explored for use in human medicine. Alarmingly, they are one of the most threatened groups of animals on the planet!
IBM iX studios in A/NZ partnered with the Australian Museum to design, develop and launch a unique Citizen Science Program which was released in November 2017. FrogID is a five-year, nationwide research initiative that employs crowd-sourcing concepts to count and map the frogs of Australia. IBM iX has continued to support and make enhancement iterations to this day, to ensure the most rewarding experience is delivered that Bella got to lead the design of.
FrogID has successfully collected over 133,000 verified frog calls spanning across 197 out of 240 known frog species, since its official launch. FrogID has generated 25% of the total frog records ever collected in Australia, a new record for this area of science. New data collected by the app has confirmed the decline of Sydney’s green tree frog. Some species recorded are moving outside their natural range like the eastern dwarf tree frog, detected 400km away from its native area. Previously unknown data has revealed new threats to Black Mountain Boulder frogs and the Southern Bell frog species. FrogID has also had merit-able mentions in published scientific papers and enthused the public to care and protect our native frogs and their environment. Schools have become large adopters of the app, taking students on excursions to record frog calls and providing guidance to a kindergarten class in Canberra who built their own frog pond to attract native species. The museum is now talking with other countries and their museums on how this could be replicated across the globe for more effective measures of their national ecology and localised urbanisation decisions.
You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do but rather the direct impact and influence your team has had as a result of an initiative. This leadership has meant that FrogID has been the recipient of;
FrogID is continuing to pioneer sound classification by harnessing the power of people and their phones. As a unique citizen scientist initiative that hopped in to help Australia crucially understand the health, existence and decline of our frog populations we will look to continue this leadership across its stage 1 road map and beyond.
The biggest challenge is that we don’t know enough about Frogs, yet. Australia has a landmass almost equivalent to the size of the US, where more than 86% is classified as remote or very remote. Amidst these arid areas, frog species may only be detectable by their calls after a rainfall. Making these timely visits is near to impossible. Encouraging citizens to be the 'environmentally responsible neighbour' and advantageous of this timing and location, means we do not have to rely on only frog scientists or specialist biologists to collect this data. That at large informs our future conservation and urbanisation efforts.
Pursuing initiatives, within schools by empowering, promoting and facilitating school children to use and discover with FrogID. It means we are educating and equipping the next generation with the knowledge and tangible skills needed, like having 200 school children build ponds in their school yards as part of their formal educational content. FrogID has also equipped the frog scientists and specialist biologists to frequently publish scientific research papers to the public as well as more frequently find statistics and trends that the general public can make more empowered lifestyle decisions on. Utilising IBM's Enterprise Design Thinking methodologies and motivation theories during the design phase we were able to understand the needs, pain points and behaviours of our users, both human and frog. By envisioning a sustainable future, we crafted a unique solution that transforms a mundane task into a rewarding journey of discovery, that maintains the precautionary balance of not damaging the ecosystem further.
Callaghan, C.T., Rowley, J.J.L., Cornwell, W.K., Poore, A.G.B., & Major, R.E. (2019). Improving big citizen science data: Moving beyond haphazard sampling. PLoS Biol 17(6): e3000357.
Rowley, J.J.L., Callaghan, C.T., Cutajar, T., Portway, C., Potter K., Mahony, S, Trembath, D.F., Flemons, P. & Woods, A. (2019). FrogID: Citizen scientists provide validated biodiversity data on frogs of Australia. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 14(1): 155-170.