Clarkson research team says traffic and development could be reducing frog populations
Friday, July 5, 2013 - 10:00 am

POTSDAM -- The classic video game “Frogger” may have been onto something; traffic and development could be reducing frog populations, according to research co-developed by a Clarkson University team.

Associate Professor Tom Langen and student Jessica Beach recently collaborated on a nationwide frog research project. They met with researchers from 10 other colleges and universities at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, Calif., to analyze frog population data from 10,000 points across the country.

The data, collected by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Amphibian Monitoring Program, recorded the number of frogs in a specific area three times per year for up to 10 years. The data also recorded the number of cars passing by on nearby roads.

There was a correlation between the number of roads and the amount of traffic on those roads and the health of frog populations, Langen said. Undeveloped areas had higher concentrations of frogs than locations bisected by a road or highway.

“Individual species are less likely to be seen when you have a higher density of roads and road traffic,” Langen said. “It helps make decisions about growth patterns, especially when there are areas of wetlands.”

Frogs are a bellwether for the environmental health of a location and their condition can point to other problems within an ecosystem, Langen said.

“You can tell when an environment is stressed based on the conditions of the amphibians,” Langen said.

Prior to traveling to California, Langen’s students in his biological systems and global environmental ecology class analyzed 120 data points across the state.

The research will be presented as a poster and research paper at an upcoming Ecological Society of America conference in Minneapolis.