Monday December 10, 2018
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Using computer algorithm to catch the sound of endangered frogs

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Red legged frog. Image Source - Wikipedia
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  • Red-legged frogs are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Gary Kittleson a biologist is trying determine whether the conservation efforts are helping or not.
  • Many steps have been taken to find  the frogs and conserve them.

In the east of swamp in Santa cruz , Califorina,  Gary Kittleson a biologist and young explorer is trying find the rare red legged frogs. A local trust has hired him, to determine whether their number is growing or decreasing.

The Area called Watsonville Slough is a important habitat for the red legged frogs.

These frogs lost their habitat due to over hunting for frog legs and development, and now it is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Kittleson says it is not a job to spot frog in thick brush and pick out their sound and differentiate from other frogs. The people who have untrained ears wouldn’t able to do it. But Gary is an expert and is capable listing to them even while talking.

But this method is an old way of counting animals and it requires lot of time and man power too. With just Kittleson one could get only a small size of data because he can’t be there the whole time.

Hence the local trust of Santa Cruz has also partnered with Conservation Metrics a company which specialises in protecting and conserving biological matters. The company and Kittleson have setup song meters – little green boxes with microphones that record all night and capture everything.

Data recorded in the song meter is then uploaded in computer and the company employees little green boxes with microphones that record all night and capture everything.  What would normally take a whole team of field biologists can now be done by one person and a computer says Matthew Mckown CEO of Conservation Metrics.

“Our whole point is to make conservation better, so we are trying to make it as cheap as possible,” he says.

Conservation Metrics was found three years ago. Mckown believes big data is the hot tool in conservation to study endangered animals and threatened habitats.

“What you’re going to start having is cameras, acoustic sensors, satellites trained on these important parts of the world,” he says.

Kittleson stays in the Watsonville Slough where night has fallen and he finally spots one and says “Beautiful. Adult red-legged frog,”

He is not too optimistic about the future of the red legged frogs. But he says good data is the only way to know if conservation efforts are helping.

by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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Children In California To Return To School, 3 Weeks After The Wildfire

Schoolwork will probably be secondary to dealing with trauma and reconnecting with friends, said Paradise High Principal Loren Lighthall.

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Erica Hail hugs her son Jaxon Maloney, 2, while preparing her older children for their first day of school since the Camp Fire destroyed their home in Yuba City, Calif. VOA

Eight-year-old Bella Maloney woke up next to her little brother in a queen-size bed at a Best Western hotel and for breakfast ate a bagel and cream cheese that her mother brought up from the lobby.

And then she was off to school for the first time in nearly a month.

For Bella, brother Vance and thousands of other youngsters in Northern California who lost their homes or their classrooms in last month’s deadly wildfire, life crept a little closer to normal Monday when school finally resumed in most of Butte County.

“They’re ready to get back,” Bella’s mother, Erica Hail, said of her children. “I think they’re sick of Mom and Dad.” At school, “they get to have time alone in their own space and their own grade and they get to just be by themselves.”

California, School
Erica Hail, back left, dresses son Vance Maloney, 5, while preparing her children for their first day of school since the Camp Fire destroyed their home in Yuba City, Calif. voa

Schools in the county had been closed since Nov. 8, when the blaze swept through the town of Paradise and surrounding areas, destroying nearly 14,000 homes and killing at least 88 people in the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. About two dozen people remain unaccounted for, down from a staggering high of 1,300 a few weeks ago.

About 31,000 students in all have been away from school since the disaster. On Monday, nearly all of them went back, though some of them attended class in other buildings because their schools were damaged or destroyed, or inaccessible inside evacuation zones.

Bella was shy and not very talkative but agreed she was excited to be going back. She wanted to see her friends.

The small, tidy hotel room with two queen beds has been home to the family of five for some two weeks. Since they lost nearly everything to the fire, there was little to clutter up the space. The Hails are booked there until February.

“Bella, what time is it?” Hail asked her daughter, waking her up in their hotel room.

“Seven dot dot three five,” came the 8-year-old’s sing-song reply. 7:35. It was time to brush her teeth, comb her hair and hit the road for a nearly hourlong drive to school in the family SUV.

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Bella Maloney, 8, arrives for her first day of school since the Camp Fire leveled her family’s home, in Durham, Calif. VOA

A few minutes later, at seven-dot-dot-four-seven, they were out the door.

Some families driven out by the inferno have left the state or are staying with friends or relatives too far away for the children to go back to school in Butte County.

The Hails — whose five-bedroom, two-bath home in Paradise was destroyed — are staying in Yuba City, a long drive from their new school in Durham.

It was shortly before the 9 a.m. start of the school day when they pulled up to Durham Elementary School, where Bella is in third grade and Vance is in half-day kindergarten.

Across the county, nearly all of the teachers are returning to provide a familiar and comforting face to the children.

“It’s important that the kids are able to stay together and have some sort of normalcy in the crazy devastation that we’re having now,” said Jodi Seaholm, whose daughter Mallory is a third-grader.

Mallory underwent radiation in October to treat a recurrence of brain cancer and showed no fear, Seaholm said, but “this situation with her house burning down has absolutely devastated her.”

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Trees reflect in a swimming pool outside Erica Hail’s Paradise, Calif., home, which burned during the Camp Fire. VOA

Counselors brought in from around the country were in nearly every classroom Monday to help children who were distressed by their escape through a burning town and the loss of their homes, Paradise school Superintendent Michelle John said at a celebratory news conference. Many of the teachers lost their homes as well.

“Our kids are traumatized,” John said. “Their families are traumatized.”

Most of Paradise High School survived but is inaccessible.

The district doesn’t have space yet for intermediate and high school students whose classrooms were rendered unusable, so for the 13 days before the holiday break begins, they will learn through independent study. They will have access to online assignments and a drop-in center at a mall in Chico where they can get help from teachers or see classmates.

Also Read: Australia Suffers From Heat And Fuel Wildfires

Schoolwork will probably be secondary to dealing with trauma and reconnecting with friends, said Paradise High Principal Loren Lighthall.

“They don’t have their church, they don’t have their school, they don’t have their work, they don’t have their friends. They don’t have any of that stuff, and we’re asking them to write five-paragraph essays?” Lighthall said. “It’s just unreasonable at this point. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to be super flexible with what we require.” (VOA)