Along the east coast of Australia, nine species of frogs, about 5% of Australian frog species, have disappeared in the past two decades and are now presumed extinct. A further 20 species have declined alarmingly in distribution and abundance and 27 species are listed as threatened by the national Action Plan for Australian Amphibians. It is perplexing that many declines have occurred in pristine environments where habitat destruction, introduced predators or pollution have not been implicated.
The decline and disappearance of frogs in Australia is paralleled by losses of amphibians in other parts of the world. This loss is a truly global tragedy, one that scientists can, so far, neither solve nor explain.
The principal aim of this research is to assess the status of a number of critically endangered frogs in the rainforests of eastern Australia. Monitoring of selected species and populations commenced several years ago and volunteers will assist in the ongoing research to determine why the frogs are declining. Monitoring is proactive and involves the close observation of the health of individual frogs so those sick individuals can be sent for veterinary pathology.
An additional aim is to determine the distribution of a fungus, one of the chytrids, which has been implicated in the decline of amphibians in eastern Australia and elsewhere.
Volunteers will be involved in regular systematic monitoring and be introduced to the dilemma of dealing with wild populations that are declining for reasons that are not fully understood.
Meet the Scientists
Prof Michael Mahony
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
The University of Newcastle
Prof Michael Mahony works in the faculty of Science and Information Technology at The University of Newcastle. His discipline is Biological Sciences in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences. Prof Mahony has a BA, Dip Ed. and completed his PhD in Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in 1987.
Prof Mahony is interested in conservation biology with a particular emphasis on conservation genetics. He is currently working on species recovery plans for several species of frog known to be endangered. He is also interested in genetic methods for the biological control of the cane toad and his research has led to his involvement with the discovery of at least one new species of frog.