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The Global Amphibian Crisis is a worldwide decline in wild populations of frogs, toads, salamanders, and caecilians. The Earth may be facing one of the biggest extinctions since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

In 2004, the Global Amphibian Assessment conducted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) revealed that at least one-third of the world's 6,000 amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction and over 160 have already disappeared. Comparing the extinction threat level of 33% for amphibians with the threat levels of 23% for mammals and 12% for birds shows how amphibians are truly experiencing a crisis.

Amphibians can be indicators of environmental health. Amphibians are also vital components of their ecosystems and in some regions a single amphibian species, such as the northern redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus) can exceed the combined biomass of all the bird or mammal species within the same geographical area. Amphibians are also significant predators of small invertebrates and are often the prey of larger predators in the area. In several areas of the world where amphibians have declined, there has been an increase in various insects that damage crops and carry human diseases.

Amphibians are also especially important to humans as they can provide naturally occurring compounds that can be used as analgesics, antibiotics, stimulants and other important drugs.

It has been said that amphibians are an indicator species; that what happens to them could be an indicator for the remaining species on the planet. If we lose them, what does this mean for all the other species on planet Earth?



You are a leading amphibian researcher and founding member of the Amphibian Interest Group that is advising on the continued crisis of amphibians around the world. The need for awareness is also high on the list of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. A group of zoo and aquarium directors have invited your group to present theories explaining why the amphibians are in crisis. Assess the short and long-term impacts as well as the expected ripple effects to the ecosystem of Planet Earth. Include thoughts of how to "Get the Word Out" and help the human population get educated about this immediate crisis.


Date: 10/18/2008

Scenario Images:

Wyoming Toad
Wyoming Toad
(Bufo baxteri)
The Wyoming toad is a good example of a specific amphibian population that is threatened with extinction and the related conservation efforts to assist in its recovery. The Wyoming toad is found only in the Laramie River Basin of Albany County in southeastern Wyoming. It is a small to medium sized toad averaging 2.2 inches in length. It is a temperate species that inhabits shortgrass in prairies associated with rivers, lakes and floodplains. The Wyoming toad was the most abundant vertebrate species in the Laramie River Basin in southeastern Wyoming until the 1970's when they started to mysteriously decline. In 1994 the last wild toads were brought into captivity to facilitate a captive breeding program as a component of the Wyoming Game and Fish Recovery Plan. Several zoos began helping in this effort, such as Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and a careful breeding program occurred. The combined efforts of these organizations are showing results, and as of 2007, more than 12,000 Wyoming toad tadpoles and more than 300 toadlets have been counted in the area.
[Image: Courtesy Henry Dooly Zoo]

Puerto Rican Crested Toad
Puerto Rican Crested Toad
(Bufo (Peltophryne) lemur)
The Puerto Rican Crested Toad is another example of a threatened population and how researchers are addressing these problems. The Puerto Rican Crested Toad once flourished in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands, but its numbers have experienced drastic declines. In fact, it was thought to be extinct by 1967 until being rediscovered in 1979 by high school students. The first amphibian Species Survival Plan (SSP) was developed for the Puerto Rican Crested Toad in 1984. By 2007, The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Natural Resources had built a translocation pond in Karst and in May of 2007, a total of 747 tadpoles were released at the Karst pond. Scientists have documented several toads from this release effort, indicating a successful reintroduction. Education efforts are expanding, and include the development of classroom and marketing materials to increase recognition of the toad and to highlight the importance of the remaining breeding sites.
[Image: Courtesy Henry Dooly Zoo]



Amphibian Conservation (Cycle A)
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums provides this collection of websites, publications, and resources related to amphibian conservation.


Amphibian Crisis at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo (Cycle A)
Learn more about extinction rates for amphibians. Access an extinction card game and more for the folks at the Doorly Zoo.


AmphibiaWeb (Cycle A)
Provides search and retrieval of information relating to amphibian biology and conservation.


Why Frogs are Disappearing and How You Can Help (Cycle A)
Dr. Kevin Zippel from Amphibian Ark explains how and why amphibians are facing mass extinction and why it is important.


Worldwide Amphibian Declines (Cycle A)
This article explores the extent, causes and possible solutions to the decline in amphibian species and popuplations. 2009.


Amphibian Ark (Cycle B)
World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) working in partnerships to ensure the global survival of amphibians. Includes many databases, documents, and presentations related to the Amphibian Crisis.


Major Initiative Proposed To Address Amphibian Crisis (Cycle B)
An article from Science Daily about the initiative proposed to address the amphibian crisis. It also has many links to other articles and websites.


Origin of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus (Cycle B)
Research article in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.


Association of Zoos and Aquariums: Amphibians (Cycle C)
This site contains a variety of resources and information for educators, parents and kids.


Sample Investigations:


Frogs: Facts and Folklore (Cycle A)
In this investigation students examine the importance of frogs in their local ecosystem and why frogs are uniquely suited to their habitat.
Difficulty: beginner
Beginning students will want to want to examine why frogs are important in their own local setting.
This investigation provides specific information appropriate to the level of the student. The investigation has advanced students contact local zoos, wildlife experts or conservation societies to find out about the local amphibian populations


The Case of the Missing Anurans (Cycle B)
The activity is centered on two characters, Sheerluck Biomes and Dr. Newt Watson, who investigate the many reasons why amphibian populations are declining.
Difficulty: intermediate
It may be useful to provide extra time and resources for beginning students to research as they prepare their solutions and experiments.
The advanced students may also require a bit of extra time, but the activity should work well with more self-directed students.


Alarming Frogs: The Life and Work of Emerging Explorer Tyrone Hayes (Cycle C)
Students investigate how cultural and life experiences influenced career choice and how studying animals' development may provide insight into environmental hazards for humans.
Difficulty: intermediate
Beginning students should read the profile and life work article and the teacher can lead a discussion of how people select their career fields.
Many extensions for advanced students are suggested in the lesson.


Reviled and Revered (Cycle C)
A series of five lessons are presented that look at the "love/hate relationship" that has elevated some Amphibians and other similar animals to the status of gods and doomed others to near extinction.
Difficulty: intermediate
For beginning students, the teacher may want to complete the first few activities along with students by using class discussion.
The investigation has some nice extension and discussion activities for advanced students, which can be done in small groups or individually.




  • Science
    National Science Education Standards - Science Content Standards The science content standards outline what students should know, understand, and be able to do in the natural sciences over the course of K-12 education.
      • Science as Inquiry (Std A)
        • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
        • Understanding about scientific inquiry
      • Life Science (Std C)
        • Structure and function in living systems
        • Reproduction and heredity
        • Regulation and behavior
        • Populations and ecosystems
        • Diversity and adaptations of organisms
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Structure of the earth system
      • Science and Technology (Std E)
        • Understanding about science and technology
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Populations, resources, and environments
        • Natural hazards
        • Risks and benefits
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Science as a human endeavor
  • Mathematics
    Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), 2000 This set of Standards proposes the mathematics concepts that all students should have the opportunity to learn. Each of these ten Standards applies across all grades, prekindergarten through grade 12. Even though each of these ten Standards applies to all grades, emphases and expectations will vary both within and between the grade bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). For instance, the emphasis on number is greatest in prekindergarten through grade 2, and by grades 9-12, number receives less instructional attention. Also the total time for mathematical instruction will be divided differently according to particular needs in each grade band - for example, in the middle grades, the majority of instructional time would address algebra and geometry.
      Mathematics instructional programs should foster the development of number and operation sense so that all students—
      • understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems;
      Mathematics instructional programs should include attention to measurement so that all students—
      • understand attributes, units, and systems of measurement;
      • apply a variety of techniques, tools, and formulas for determining measurements.
      Mathematics instructional programs should include attention to data analysis, statistics, and probability so that all students—
      • pose questions and collect, organize, and represent data to answer those questions;
      • develop and evaluate inferences, predictions, and arguments that are based on data;
      Mathematics instructional programs should focus on solving problems as part of understanding mathematics so that all students—
      • develop a disposition to formulate, represent, abstract, and generalize in situations within and outside mathematics;
  • Geography
    Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, 1994
      Geography studies the relationships between people, places, and environments by mapping information about them into a spatial context. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
      • How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
      • How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface
      People are central to geography in that human activities help shape Earth’s surface, human settlements and structures are part of Earth’s surface, and humans compete for control of Earth’s surface. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
      The physical environment is modified by human activities, largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth’s natural resources, and human activities are also influenced by Earth’s physical features and processes. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How human actions modify the physical environment
      • The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
      Knowledge of geography enables people to develop an understanding of the relationships between people, places, and environments over time — that is, of Earth as it was, is, and might be. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How to apply geography to interpret the past
      • How to apply geography to interpret the present and plan for the future
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