Helen Mason stood in front of her house in 2012, and looked out at the street. Every day, more frogs and toads were found on the other side of the road.
She felt the local population was suffering due to an increasing number dead amphibians. She needed help crossing the road. She created a project to address this problem.
The frog-saving group
The frogs must cross Portishead’s busy roads to reach their breeding ponds. The curbs are too high for the toads. Both species can sometimes get stuck and fall into the drains.
Helen recruited some more volunteers to help her patrol streets around the ponds between 6pm and 10pm at night. This is the busiest time for cars and dusk for migrating amphibians.
In 2013, they saved 900 frogs and toads from traffic. It was clear that she needed more resources in order to do more.
Volunteers are taken to the project team where they are given a tour of the area. The mentor will then give them a designated area to patrol as a group. The team wears gloves made of plastic underneath their woolly gloves. Frogs love to sit in puddles, so it’s easy to get cold and wet quickly.
This sounds like how you attract people to your projects. Ok, maybe not the plastic gloves bit!
Predicting volumes
Helen’s team can also make use of the project estimation methods you use to predict how busy they will get that night. They can predict how many frogs they will find based on the temperature. If it is cold outside, frogs will be less likely to move.
They emerge in their hundreds as the frost lifts.
Helen says that toads can be picked up easily. When they are mating, the bucket will often have the males on the top of the females. Frogs on either side are loud and jumpy.
The amphibians then jump across the road in safety, grabbing a bucket and transferring to the breeding ponds.
The migration season lasts 5 weeks and occurs in spring. The project’s duration is short, but it requires a lot of effort.
Continually improving the process
It’s one thing for frogs to be saved, but would it not be better to prevent them from ever happening again? Portishead isn’t your typical toad crossing. This only adds to the problem. Helen explains that amphibians can cross many roads, and could appear anywhere on a housing estate.
Frog Patrol is proactive when it comes to managing problems. A tunnel is a great idea but it is costly and complicated. Road signs have been put in place to warn motorists of the possibility that toads could be underfoot or under their wheels.
The team works closely with the council to build wire ramps for drains that will aid stranded toads. They also recruit volunteers to expand the search area.
Finding the right people to do the project
Helen predicts that they will require 16 people per night to work shifts. The more volunteers they have the more everyone has.
There are some people in the community that won’t volunteer. Helen offers a frog removal service to a neighbor who is afraid of frogs when one appears in her garden.
Measuring success
Helen’s initiative uses metrics for measuring the success of your projects. Froglife, a UK-wide wildlife charity, counts every frog. A team of 27 people saved over 1500 frogs, toads, and 4 great-crested newts last year (one of the most threatened species in the UK).
Helen says that they have beautiful stripy fingers. Ecologists who previously had failed to find evidence of newts within the region were also helped by the meticulous data collection by Portishead Frog Patrol.
They also count dead Frogs and send all data to create a national picture. These data are shared with the European Network for the Protection of Amphibians and Reptiles from Transport Systems (ENPARTS) to provide additional information.