Windsor

U of Windsor partnering with Detroit Zoo to restore endangered frogs

A University of Windsor student and her professor are conducting research into endangered frogs at the Detroit Zoo — and the results could have implications for many other endangered species.

Only 100 Mississippi gopher frogs remain in the wild, says grad student

Graduate student Ashley Watt holds up an endangered Mississippi gopher frog. (Ashley Watt)

A University of Windsor student and her professor are conducting research into endangered frogs at the Detroit Zoo — and the results could have implications for many other endangered species.

The main research subject is the Mississippi gopher frog. According to graduate student Ashley Watt, there's about 200 to 300 held in captivity and only 100 of them in the wild.

Frogs at the Detroit Zoo are being studied for the purpose of captive breeding. The goal, Watt said, is for the frogs to successfully maintain a "self-sustaining" population.

"So they are able to reproduce and bring the numbers up so the zoo is no longer needed as a large conservation effort."

A microscopic view of frog eggs, left, next to an array of petri dishes. (Ashley Watt)

Though breeding habits for frogs and toads are very "species-specific," Watt said the Detroit Zoo saw great results.

"We ended up having about 40 froglets successfully go through metamorphosis. So this year was actually a great success," she said, adding the frogs were eventually sent to Mississippi where they were released back into the wild.

Watt's work is overseen by supervising professor Trevor Pitcher, director of the Freshwater Restoration Ecology Centre. He said students in the ReNewZoo program are working on similar projects, all focused on endangered species at zoos. 

"All these different programs are really test case studies on how we can essentially save these species that threatened or endangered. So these case studies are not specific to the species, but they provide training for high-quality personnel like Ashley who can then work on other species afterward," said Pitcher.

University of Windsor professor Trevor Pitcher, left, is overseeing Watt's project on endangered frog restoration. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

He added frog restoration projects like this represent the first step in a more consistent partnership between the University of Windsor and Detroit Zoo.

As for Watt, she said the status of the frogs which are released in the wild will remain unknown for the next two or three months.

Corrections

  • The previous version of the story said the frogs were brought over from the Detroit Zoo to the Freshwater Ecology Centre, when in fact, they were brought to the Detroit Zoo since the centre does not have the necessary permits to bring them into Canada.
    Oct 24, 2018 1:41 PM ET

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now