USGS launches frog quiz

USGS launches frog quiz

Think you can tell the sound of an American bullfrog from one produced by the mountain chorus frog? The Geological Survey has just unveiled a Web site to test your acumen.

More than just an Internet novelty, however, the recently launched Frog Quiz will help USGS volunteers better recognize the frog and toad species indigenous to their locales. The application may be one of the first Web-based 'testing tools for volunteers of a large-scale monitoring program,' said Linda Weir, a USGS wildlife biologist and co-designer of the site.

USGS designed the site primarily to test potential volunteers of amphibian monitoring programs. Both Frogwatch USA and the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program use frog call surveys in which observers document species' presence by listening for their calls, Weir said. The new site includes more than 1,700 30-second audio samples of frog breeding calls.

'We want to know if the frog populations are in decline in the eastern U.S.,' Weir said of NAAMP.

Volunteers submit reports to USGS on the number and types of frogs they have identified in a given geographic region. Frog Quiz will be used to qualify the volunteers' ability to correctly identify the local species by the sounds they make.

Casual users can also use the site. The Frog Call Lookup page offers the ability to listen to individual frog calls. The site can also test frog recognition skills, using the species of frogs living in that user's state.

The site, launched earlier this month, was two years in the making, Weir said. The team spent the first year collecting and editing sound files, and the second year designing and building the site.

The sound files, which were contributed by scientists and nature recordists, are encoded in the Real Audio streaming media format from RealNetworks Inc. of Seattle. They are played within the browser window, using the Real media player plug-in. The site also uses Real's SureStream feature, which dynamically proportions the audio stream to the bandwidth available to the user. The files are streamed through a server running Helix Universal Server software version 9.0.4, Real's software for streaming audio files.

To organize the site, the developers used Fusebox, a free organizational framework and set of helper files designed for developers of complex Web sites.

USGS' Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, located in Laurel, Md., hosts the Frog Quiz, which was developed through funds provided by USGS and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Visitors tiring of croaking frogs can also visit the Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, which features descriptions, sounds, images and videos of North American birds.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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