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07-03-2013

Clarkson University Research Team Analyzes Relationship Between Frogs and Roads

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.

Tom LangenAssociate Professor of Biology Tom Langen and Jessica Beach '15, a biology major from Constable, N.Y., collaborated on a nationwide frog research project. The Clarkson team recently 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 an area three times per year for up to 10 years, as well as the number of cars passing by on nearby roads. Frogs are a bellwether for the environmental health of a location; their condition can point to other problems within an ecosystem, Langen said.

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."

"You can tell when an environment is stressed based on the conditions of the amphibians," Langen added. 

Prior to traveling to California, Langen's ten students in his Biological Systems and Global Environmental Ecology class specifically analyzed 120 data points across New York State. Langen and Beach then merged their data with the other universities to reach conclusions.

The research will be presented as a poster at the Ecological Society of America conference in Minneapolis, and as a research paper. The experience has proven invaluable for Beach, who had a chance to meet other researchers in the field and gain relevant career experience.

"Sitting in a room with a bunch of people all coming from different educational backgrounds was a great opportunity to see how the scientific community really works together," Beach said.

 Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://clarkson.edu/news/photos/langen.jpg .]

Photo Caption: Associate Professor of Biology Tom Langen (pictured) and Jessica Beach ’15 recently traveled to the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, Calif. They worked with researchers from 10 other colleges and universities nationwide to analyze the relationship between frog populations and traffic and development.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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