Around the world, frogs and other amphibians are disappearing due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution and the deadly chytrid fungus, which has already driven a few dozen species into extinction.
But with critical information on many species still lacking, scientists can only go so far when trying to help save those in crisis.
To help save the 6,813 known species of amphibians (and those that haven’t been identified by science yet), the Web site iNaturalist.org this week launched what it has dubbed the Global Amphibian Blitz, a citizen science–social networking drive to gather information on amphibians around the world.
Participants are being asked to take photos of frogs they encounter and then upload them to the iNaturalist site with GPS information on where the photos were taken. (The iNaturalist iPhone app can automatically add that GPS information.) Citizen scientists can try to identify the frogs they photograph, but the final species determinations will be made by scientists.
“The collaboration between the amateur and scientific communities is what makes this project unique and exciting,” iNaturalist Co-director Scott Loarie said in a prepared statement. “We’re not asking amateur naturalists to provide expert identifications—that’s for the scientific community to do. But by being in the right place at the right time and armed with a camera, amateurs can provide information that scientists could never dream of collecting on their own.”
“Using social networks to partner with amateurs is a powerful new tool,” University of California, Berkeley, researcher Michelle Koo told the San Francisco Business Times. U.C. Berkeley hosts the AmphibiaWeb online database, which is one of iNaturalist‘s partners in the Blitz, along with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Amphibian Ark and others.