Frog Resources

April 1, 2002

Want to know more about frogs and how to keep them among us? Do you miss being awakened by frog songs in the night? There are fewer frogs in fewer places than there used to be here in the Bay Area, but there is something you can do about that. In fact, quite a few folks already are doing something about it—so if you’d like to help bring frogs back in your neighborhood, here are a few opportunities:

East Bay

The Watershed Project, located in Richmond, CA, aids citizen involvement to protect the creeks, wetlands, and watersheds of the San Francisco Bay Area. Under its umbrella, toad- and frog-related projects are leaping along:

A wet “seep”, or spring, in a field adjacent to Mira Vista Elementary School in Richmond is currently being restored by the Friends of Baxter Creek and the Mira Vista Neighborhood Association, part of a Children’s Wetland and Wildlife Habitat Garden project, funded by the National Wildlife Foundation and PG&E’s Nature Restoration Trust. Students from the school will release Pacific chorus frogs they raised in classroom aquariums to repopulate the seep. Also, seeds from the native serpentine grassland of Mira Vista Field that surrounds the school will be harvested and planted to increase the native plant population at the field and perhaps contribute to future habitat restoration projects around the Bay. New volunteers are always welcome to help with collecting seed, growing out native plants, replanting seedlings, and weeding out invasive, non-native plants. Contact Apple Szostak at the Watershed Institute, (510) 231-5778.

Purr, quack, peep, or snore? How about an honest-to-goodness rrribit? SPAWNERS (San Pablo Watershed Neighbors Education and Restoration Society) will teach volunteers to identify the calls of local frogs and toads to help with their annual spring survey in El Sobrante, San Pablo, and Richmond. From their listening spots, frog sleuths will keep count of who they hear. The results of the survey will be sent to Frogwatch USA, a long-term frog and toad monitoring project coordinated by the US Geological Survey (see below). If you’d like to participate, contact Martha Berthelson at the Watershed Project, (510) 231-9566.

To become a neighborhood habitat steward, contact the Watershed Project. In June and August, the Watershed Project will offer a two-week program for Alameda County residents that includes 24 hours of training. The organization then links participants with local schools or organizations to help design and implement wildlife habitat projects. Apply online at www.thewatershedproject.org, or contact Lisa Lacabanne at the Watershed Project at (510) 231-5784.

North Bay

During an afternoon field trip to three sites in Sonoma Valley, science teacher Dave Neubacher and his fifth-grade class at El Verano School found 35 frogs, 30 of whom were visibly deformed. Most of the frogs had an extra limb; the students are taking eight-legged Frogzilla to a local vet to check for parasites. Now the class has embarked on a formal frog mutation study. They welcome volunteers to help count frogs, collect specimens, and sample water quality for the study, conducted under the auspices of the Sonoma Ecology Center. For more information, please contact Project CHANGE, at El Verano School, Room 46; P.O. Box 430; El Verano, CA 95433. You can also e-mail Dave Neubacher at Elmo23dav@aol.com, or call him at (707) 935-6050.

South Bay/Peninsula

A number of groups on the Peninsula are restoring California red-legged frog habitat. Hoping that red-legged frogs will migrate from nearby Matadero Creek, the Weed Warriors and other volunteers for Palo Alto’s Arastradero Preserve Stewardship Project will be working along the banks of Arastradero Creek two Saturdays a month. Spring is a good time for planting native grasses (i.e. blue wild rye, California brome, purple needle grass, etc.), removing invasive plants, shoring up trails, and collecting native seeds. If you’d like to join in the activities, contact Karen Cotter at kcotter@sprynet.com, or click to www.arastradero.org.

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, what were once denuded slopes along the upper reaches of Corte Madera Creek in Portola Valley are now thick with native grasses, shrubs, and trees! To keep these areas and five other restoration sites flourishing, the San Francisquito Watershed Council seeks assistance with planting, watering, weeding, and other help. Work parties usually gather on the first and third Saturdays of each month. With the goal of maintaining biodiversity, the San Francisquito Watershed Council looks for opportunities to improve habitat for specific species known to be in the area–and red-legged frogs have been heard recently near the April 6th work site, while in a downstream rill tadpoles have been observed! Contact Susan Fizzell, Outreach and Education Coordinator of the San Francisquito Watershed Council at (650) 962-9876 ext. 305, or e-mail her at Creeks@Acterra.org.

Would you like to participate in annual habitat surveys of Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) conservation easements along the San Mateo Coast? California red-legged frogs have been found on all of the properties, and POST seeks long-term volunteers who are willing to make a multi-year commitment to this project. This is an excellent opportunity to gain a deeper relationship with a particular piece of open space that may be closed to the general public. Call POST at (650) 854-7696 to sign up. Also, you can visit POST’s website at www.openspacetrust.org.

If amphibians, reptiles and other cold-blooded animals get your blood going, check out the Bay Area Amphibian and Reptile Society (BAARS). A grassroots educational and conservation group, BAARS holds monthly meetings in Palo Alto featuring speakers on conservation, field studies, medical treatment, captive care, and other topics—and usually you can get a closer look at a few amphibians or herps, too. In April and June, BAARS is planning herping trips to Pinnacles National Monument and Pepperwood Ranch Preserve. If you’d like to find out more, visit the website at www.baars.org, or leave a message at (408) 450-0759.


Populations of frogs, toads, and salamanders have diminished across the country, due to a number of causes including habitat loss, invasive species, ultraviolet radiation, toxins, parasites, and fungal diseases. In response, the US Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland coordinates Frogwatch USA, a long-term frog and toad monitoring program. Frogwatch USA recruits volunteers across the country to complement other ongoing local, national, and global amphibian monitoring efforts. Volunteers select a habitat to monitor for frog and toad activity and submit their findings to the Frogwatch USA website. Next year, in partnership with the USGS, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) will take over the initiative’s outreach, education, and advocacy efforts and manage the website. For more information, visit www.frogwatch.org, call (301) 497-5819,or email: frogwatch@usgs.gov.

Below is a sampling of ways to see, hear, and learn more about Bay Area frogs:

e-frogs and Web Toads

Populated by western and western spadefoot toads, California and Pacific treefrogs, and bullfrogs, this website also tells about turtles, salamanders, snakes, and lizards found in the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, a field station in Southern California administered by San Diego State University).

Amphibious Field Trips for Kids and Adults

Imagine dipping a net into the water and finding a glistening frog or newt blinking back at you! With Tree Frog Treks, children and adults can learn about local amphibians and the native plants that shelter them. Guided nature tours include an evening trek to Marin’s Tennessee Valley and a five-day summer camp in the Gold Country near Coloma. For more information, call (415) 876-FROG, or e-mail info@treefrogtreks.com. You can also write to them at 2112 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

Join a hike on Saturday mornings at 10:00 a.m. and see Western toads, foothill yellow-legged frogs, California red-legged frogs, and Pacific chorus frogs. From March 2nd through May 18th, the Fairfield Osborne Preserve, managed by Sonoma State University, offers naturalist-led hikes and naturalist training. Call (707) 795-5069 or e-mail fairfield.osborn@sonoma.edu for more information.

Teacher Training Programs

The In-School Aquatic Project, sponsored by the Golden West Women Flyfishers Association, provides frog spawn, aquarium tanks, and training to Bay Area schools interested in breeding frogs in the classroom with the goal of reintroducing them into their native habitats. Contact Annette Thompson at (510) 569-7763 or annette@2468.com.

Since 1992, the award-winning Kids in Creeks and Kids in Marshes programs have given more than 50,000 kids and 1,000 teachers a chance to take part in urban creek and marsh projects in their Bay Area neighborhoods. Since wetlands and creeks flow directly into San Francisco Bay, the health of these water systems is a pre-requisite for a thriving estuary, and a great model for teaching about ecological interrelationships. Workshops have provided educators in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and other counties with hands-on training in animal tracking, aquatic insect sampling, water quality monitoring, urban stream surveying, creek and marsh histories, and other tools to evaluate watershed health and deepen watershed awareness. After participating, teacher Kathryn Lee and her students constructed frog ponds at Prospect Sierra School in El Cerrito! To find out more, click on the Watershed Project, call Christin Jolicoeur at (510) 231-5784.

Through the Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) Network Initiative, the Bay Institute in Novato, CA and the Center for Ecoliteracy (www.ecoliteracy.org) provide scientific, technical and educational resources for school-based watershed projects in Marin and Sonoma counties. Call (415) 506-0150, or click on www.bay.org and follow the links under Education to the STRAW Project.

Project Grants

Teacher Action Grants, funded by Contra Costa County Clean Water Program, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the Watershed Project, provide up to $2000 in seed money for classroom-based environmental studies, gardening, and restoration projects. In past years, Teacher Action Grant recipients have hatched native frogs in the classroom to restock dwindling amphibian populations, raised native plants, revegetated eroding creek banks, designed and implemented stream monitoring programs, and more. In one project, elementary school students at Sleepy Hollow School in Orinda tracked the life cycle of frogs, newts, damselflies, and other aquatic insects they found at their local creek and pond, and expanded habitat by planting native vegetation along the banks. Spring grant applications are due May 15, 2002. For more information, visit the the Watershed Project, or contact Tamara Shulman at (510) 231-9493.

The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Wild Alive Species Recovery Fund provides small grants ($3000 to $7000) for conservation efforts. In 2002, they funded projects on declining anurans in the US, Canada, and Mexico. NWF chooses the funding categories in the fall, so stay tuned to www.nwf.org/wildalive, or contact: zhang@nwf.org.

About the Author

Beth Slatkin is Bay Nature's marketing and outreach director.