Survival of species rests on crowd funds

Kissing frogs to find a partner has gone out of fashion, thanks to internet dating. Instead, La Trobe University scientist Bert De Groef hopes people will partner with him – via internet 'crowd funding' – to help save Australia's native frogs from extinction.

Dr De Groef says nearly one-third of the world's amphibian species are under significant threat, partly due to the ravages of man-made chemicals.

So he and his research team today launched an ambitious study to improve the survival of our native frogs, with help from a French laboratory using a specially designed species of frog that glows in the dark when exposed to chemicals.

A recent World Health Organisation and United Nations report showed that chemicals in pesticides have harmful effects on humans and wildlife.

Dr De Groef and his team will examine the effects of a class of common pesticides used to combat household pests and insect pests in orchards worldwide. The chemicals have never before been tested for their impact on amphibian wildlife.

'Many of these chemicals end up in water ways and are believed to affect the development, health and reproduction of amphibians,' he said. 'Our study will screen them for hormone-disrupting activity.'

He said Australian native amphibians are already under extreme pressure from habitat loss, pollution and climate change, especially those in Australia's southeast. 

'So it is crucial to determine whether these chemicals are putting their long-term survival at risk,' he said.

A lecturer in Animal Science and researcher at AgriBio on the Melbourne campus, Dr De Groef says the project has 60 days to try and raise $10,000 for the necessary laboratory reagents.

'The object of our study is to make a strong case for policy makers and stakeholders to take a more serious look at these chemicals and sustainable alternatives, and to adjust policies accordingly.'

Donations of more than $10 will receive a gift. These range, depending on the size of the donation, from thank-you cards from a grateful tadpole, bumper stickers and tee shirts to limited edition canvas prints of a 'cool glowing Xenopus tadpole', an educational tour of the state-of-the-art AgriBio research centre and talks to schools in the Melbourne area by Dr De Groef.

To support this work and view the video, please visit  Free the Frog - of Pesticides.

Photo opportunity: Dr De Groef and members of his team in their lab – or off-site with frogs

Media contact:

Dr Bert De Groef T: 03 9032 7436 E: b.degroef@latrobe.edu.au

Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications T: 0412 261 919

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