November 27th 2012
Island expert publishes a froggy field guide
Magnetic Islanders may well have first encountered him as the snake catcher who would, when not away on field trips, visit to catch and safely release a snake that was lounging in your laundry. Others would have seen him as the non-stop chainsaw-wielding action man who worked tirelessly across the Island when people needed help tidying up after Cyclone Yasi. Now, Eric Vanderduys, the CSIRO field biologist who spends most of his working hours in the wilds of Cape York, has written a very useful and illuminating book. It’s the Field Guide to the Frogs of Queensland, and it will be launched at Mary Who? Bookshop this Friday.
And while the book, which boasts a stunning cover snap of a frog with different coloured eyes (not normally that way), will rank him as an expert on Queensland’s frogs, Eric explains that his frog love is part of a broader love of nature.
‘My work is as a field biologist but anybody who is passionate about their vocation is interested in everything. Im interested in vertebrates (as part of my job) but my job isn’t my life’.
At 41, Eric has lived on Magnetic Island for the last nine years but his passion for living creatures goes back much further. A fair amount of this book hails back to Eric’s days working at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane where he often wrote articles for the Wildlife Preservation Society. He received compliments for that work with readers often saying, ‘You should write a book!’
‘Some of the original articles I wrote then are almost word for word into this book. Then I thought I could add some diagrams and range maps and then I thought I’d do the whole of Queensland - about 132 species.’
Frogs have had some sad press in recent years with the loss of, possibly, five species in Queensland now since settlement. In the mid 1990s frogs from cool, wet, higher mountain habitats were disappearing, victims of the Chytrid fungus. But Eric has some good news about these beautiful, amazing and amusing amphibians.
‘The Armoured Mist Frog was missing, presumed extinct, for about 17 years until rediscovered in 2008, while the Waterfall Frog disappeared from most highland habitats, but has now recovered in many of these.’ Eric believes that the frogs which suffered the most in the higher mountains were eventually replenished by family members from lower, slightly warmer, altitudes where the disease was less devastating - enabling the the frogs to build an immunity over time.
‘The majority of species in Queensland aren’t endangered or threatened but many are declining because of habitat modification. When suburbs expand and ditches and swampy areas are filled, trees with hollows are removed, we lose common species. They are on the outskirts and further west.
‘In Brisbane there are almost no green tree frogs left in the suburbs. They would have shared the same ditches for breeding that mosquitoes breed in’.
Another cause of decline is the infestation of weeds, old fridges and wrecked commodores into the bush” says Eric with a grin.
The third major threat to frogs is climate change. “It’s unknown if and how it will impact on frogs,” says Eric.
Eric looked through his book and counted out that there are 11 species of frog, including cane toads, (which Eric regards as frogs despite their toadishness) here on Magnetic Island. The Island population is, ‘in good numbers,’ according to Eric. But for readers interested in increasing the number of frogs in their garden he suggests, ‘Good ground cover: grasses, lomandra - maintain hollow eucalyptus and any other holes and hollows. It’s also good to minimise the use of long-lived insecticides. For others, such as the eastern sedge frog, build a pond!’
Eric’s field guide will be an invaluable resource for nature enthusiasts. It is brimming with superb photos - mostly taken by Eric - and includes a great range of basic information easily understood by ordinary readers.
‘I think people have an innate desire to want to know what things are,’ says Eric. ‘It will give people a chance to work out what the frog is in their back yard and when you know what it is you start to understand and care for them.’
The Field Guide to the Frogs of Queensland, a CSIRO publication, has a retail price of $45. It will be launched from 5.30pm for a 6pm start this Friday November 30 at Mary Who? Bookshop, 414 Flinders Street Townsville. Anybody interested in attending should RSVP (and reserve a book) Mary Who? Bookshop on (07) 47713824 or email: email@example.com