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Engaged Research Stories

Frogs for Citizen Science

a red-eyed green tree frog (Litoria chloris) credit D. Newell

Northern NSW is a biodiversity hotspot and is home to some of the State's most endangered frogs, including a high number of unique species found nowhere else in the world. Some restoration activities along local waterways have the potential to alter frog habitats and this could be disastrous for unique frog species.

With the help of researchers from the School of Environment, Science and Engineering at Southern Cross University, Whian Whian Landcare began to identify the occurrence of frogs across restored and degraded riparian areas in the Whian Whian catchment.

Quite often restoration efforts focus on re-establishing degraded native plant communities, with little understanding of the fauna that are attracted to the area. Whian Whian Landcare members, volunteers, bush regeneration contractors and the community began to document eight species of frog, including the endangered marsupial frog across 13 riparian locations.

Working together the community and scientists were able to record 374 hours of soundscape using automated recording devices to map frog species across private properties that otherwise would not have been captured. They were also able to gather evidence that the restoration of native vegetation in riparian areas does provide suitable habitat for the return of frog populations within a relatively short timeframe.

A 'Protocol for Restoration of Riparian Areas' was created and published as a result of the research, which details best management practices for the protection of frogs. This protocol has filled a gap in current guidelines and has been adopted by other Landcare groups across the state.

The project also used field days, school visits and community talks to distribute knowledge and understanding of frog identification, protection and ecology. These benefits have been observed through the increased interest in frog conservation by local school children and the raised awareness and understanding of frogs and riparian restoration within the local community.

Whian Whian Landcare members have said that the project has empowered them to continue in other citizen science projects, as well as confidence that their rehabilitation work is having positive benefits, inspiring them to continue on.

Skills developed within Whian Whian Landcare and the local community as a result of this project will improve the quality of future citizen science research and future research collaborations.

This project was presented with the Excellence in Engaged Research Award at the 2016 Excellence in Engagement Awards.

Award Recipients:
Dr David Newell, Dr John Grant and Rosalie Willacy, School of Environment, Science and Engineering; Ms Emma Stone, Whian Whian Landcare.

Award Citation:
For a community research partnership investigating native frogs as indicators of success in riparian restoration.