Florida Tech Frog Habitat Project to Examine Environmental Quality through New Application, Mobile Devices

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Where frogs and toads flourish so do healthy habitats. To identify these habitats and keep tabs on emerging ecological issues, Florida Institute of Technology researchers are creating a frog call recognition application that makes novel use of mobile devices with the help of area youths. A National Science Foundation grant of more than $348,000 funds this work.

The project is led by Mark Bush, Florida Tech professor of biological science. Eraldo Ribeiro and Ronaldo Menezes, both associate professors of computer science at Florida Tech, will develop the application and students will be involved in beta testing and in recording frog calls for a sound library.

The application will automate frog voice recognition for identifying and mapping where frogs live. Because it will work on popular mobile devices such as iPods, cell phones and tablets, the potential is great for an “army” of volunteers to take to the field and support the effort.

The project takes advantage of cutting-edge technology in voice recognition, connectivity and social media, applying this potential in a novel way to increase participation in the task at hand. Using “citizen science” volunteers will be cost-effective and the new app will provide a standardized means to recognize the frog calls, ensure the reliability of data gathered by volunteers, and a means for the general public to become more involved in amphibian research via the website interface.

“There are about 30 species of frog and toad living locally and about 100 in the country. Our application will cover all species of in the nation,” said Bush.

Scientific evidence suggests that faltering amphibian populations may presage wider ecological problems, making it important to document where species are most affected.

“We are excited at the prospect of working closely with school groups and volunteers in the Brevard community tofe make this project a success,” said Bush. Initial partners for this mass volunteer effort are Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, Port Malabar Elementary School, and Sebastian High School. The web domain is WhatFrog.org.

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