Picture book portrays a 'hoppy' future for Arizona's endangered frogs

December 12, 2011

Move over Kermit, there’s a native frog rising in the West.

With a big green puppet in hand, Elizabeth Davidson, a microbiologist at ASU, has young children imagining the life cycles and life challenges of a threatened frog species in Arizona – and cheering for the underfrog. "Cheery" author Elizabeth Davidson Download Full Image

“Cheery: The true adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog,” is a picture book written by Davidson and brought to life by graphic artist Michael Hagelberg. Published by Five Star Publications, Inc., the book was developed with support from the Heritage Fund, funded by Arizona Game and Fish Department, and was officially designated an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project by the Arizona Historical Commission. 

In the tale, a Chiricahua (Cheer-a-cow-ah) pollywog, Cheery, grows up with a very uncertain future. “Round and fat and pale green with brown spots” makes tadpoles good eating for voracious introduced, non-native species in waterways and ponds. Crayfish, bait fish and bullfrogs, used as bait and discarded by fishermen, native snakes and birds are all predators of native pollywogs and young frogs.

Who knew that growing to an adult frog is so full of challenges in the Southwest?

If that weren’t enough, amphibians are threatened by microscopic predators. In this case, an infectious disease is decimating frog populations in Arizona and worldwide. More than one-third of all amphibian species (frogs, toads and salamanders) are now extinct or threatened with extinction. This is the real-life science that Davidson studies and teaches about in ASU School of Life Sciences, in addition to her work with infectious insect diseases, and mentoring of high school and undergraduate life science students.

“Children need a way to relate to things that are important in the environment, because they are important in ways that no one could even guess,” says Davidson. “This book helps them learn a bit about biology, about predator-prey relationships, about lifecycles, about ecology and about overcoming obstacles.”

The book also offers teachers tools and scientific information interesting for older children. “Not to mention, frogs are just appealing. Look at Kermit!” she adds.

In Arizona, more than 80 percent of the sites where leopard frogs were once found are now empty of them. Organizations like the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Phoenix Zoo and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department have worked together to develop conservation and captive breeding programs.

ASU alumnus Mike Sredl, now a biologist with Arizona Game and Fish, is very active in a breeding and reintroduction program like the one described by Cheery. The Phoenix Zoo supports tanks and a program to breed disease-free leopard frogs. Ponds are then renovated, pools deepened, and non-native predators are removed, before tadpoles and froglets (young frogs) are reintroduced to their former homes in the wild. The breeding facilities are typically closed to the public, but Davidson was invited to visit and some of the book’s illustrations are based on photographs that Davidson took on her visits.

How does the future look for Cheery’s relatives in the wild? Davidson’s book readings with her frog puppet, most recently with the children in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College Preschool and Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Open House, have created a great deal of enthusiasm for the heroic frog and interest in building solutions and a future for the frogs in young hearts.

After the readings, the kids were ready to go to the zoo and help, Davidson says. “They know now that they shouldn’t release their pets or bait in nature. That this is how the diseases of salamanders get spread. Maybe they can teach Mom and Dad too!

“What would we do without frogs? They eat harmful insects, they teach us lessons about life, and hold secrets for human health, and not just as research organisms or models,” Davidson says.

Some of Davidson’s scientific colleagues and others have recently found that chemicals on the skin of frogs inhibit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-AIDS) and many other diseases.

“Hopefully our children and grandchildren pay attention and we continue to support organizations like Arizona Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, The Phoenix Zoo and other groups building practical solutions to our environmental challenges. It’s important.”

To learn more about Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Chiricahua reintroduction program visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVN1lO9mFFs.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


ASU Police Department accredited for 5th consecutive time

December 12, 2011

The Arizona State University Police Department recently was awarded advanced accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

The advanced accreditation status is the ASU Police Department’s fifth, consecutive CALEA award, which is in effect until November 2014. The ASU Police Department is one of a select few Arizona agencies to achieve advanced accreditation status. Download Full Image

CALEA recently introduced a tiered law enforcement accreditation model to advance its mission of ensuring the highest standards and best practices in public safety. To reach accreditation status, law enforcement agencies must comply with 190 standards. Advanced accreditation may be achieved by police agencies that comply with 480 standards, including 15 new standards specific to campus policing. The new process focuses on agency practices with assessors interacting with approximately half of the 141 department employees and many faculty, staff and students.

“Because of the ASU Police Department’s commitment to excellence, we were asked to be a test site for the new onsite process, now known as the Gold Standard Assessment,” said John Pickens, chief of the ASU Police Department. “I’m proud of the consistently high rankings that the department has earned through the years – including as a Flagship Agency – and also of the hard work that ASU Police Department personnel put in every day.”

The department has been accredited since 1997, and continuing accreditation represents the satisfactory completion of a continuous process of thorough agency wide self-evaluation, concluded by an exacting outside review by independent assessors. It also represents the agency's ongoing quest for professional excellence through professional standards in policy and practice.

CALEA is the most widely recognized accrediting body in public safety. The non-profit organization improves the delivery of public-safety services by maintaining a best-in-class body of standards that was developed by a highly regarded group of public-safety practitioners. CALEA established and administers their accreditation process and recognizes professional excellence through a comprehensive awards program.

Throughout the nation, 55 university and college law enforcement agencies currently are accredited by CALEA.

Additional information is available at http://cfo.asu.edu/police and http://www.calea.org.