Vanishing Golden Frogs


Sometimes, scientific inquiry is like trying to solve a mystery. A scientist or even an ordinary citizen might discover a problem, and scientists use the process of scientific inquiry to find the solution. In The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery, author Sandra Markle tells the true story of how biologist Dr. Karen Lips discovered that golden frogs were vanishing and worked tirelessly to solve the mystery, using the help of researchers in other scientific fields.

In this brief exploration, you’ll view a slide show and watch a couple of videos to learn more about the Panamanian golden frogs and frogs in general.


To fully comprehend the challenges faced by the golden frogs, it is important that you understand the life cycle of a frog. Go through the Frog Life Cycle slide show on this student esheet and review the process of metamorphosis. Once you’ve gone through this slide show, you will discuss these questions in class. You can record your answers to these questions on the Vanishing Golden Frogs student sheet:

  • How do frogs begin their life cycle?
  • What type of living thing is a frog?
  • What do the eggs hatch into?
  • What is the next stage that they go through?
  • What happens to the young frogs if they survive?

Watch the short video at the top of this esheet of author Sandra Markle introducing the topic of her book at the AAAS annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada. As you watch this video, think about your answer to this question. You can record your answer to this question on the student sheet.

  • Based on this video, what did biologist Karen Lips notice that led her to believe there was a problem with the frogs?

Now, watch the video Amphibian Avenger: Smithsonian Scientist Brian Gratwicke and answer these questions (you can record your answers on the student sheet):

  • What is Dr. Brian Gratwicke’s profession?
  • What percentage of known amphibian species are we losing worldwide?
  • What is the main focus of Dr. Gratwicke’s job?
  • Why do Dr. Gratwicke and his colleagues bring wild frogs into a study facility?
  • What are the three main threats to amphibians worldwide?
  • What happens when the chytrid fungus makes its way into the frog populations in the mountainous regions of Central America?
  • What are some reasons that frogs are important to humans?
  • Where did Dr. Gratwicke grow up?
  • What idea transformed his thinking?

Citizen Science Activity

To find out more about local frogs and share your information with others, visit the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Watch website and choose the state you live in to find out more about frogs and toads in your area.

Once you have learned more about the frogs in your area, your teacher will ask you to look for frogs in the school yard, your backyards, or nearby parks. You can use the Vanishing Golden Frogs: Find Out More student sheet to help guide you in your research.

After you’ve identified the frog or toad, share your information with other wildlife watchers at the Wildlife Watch website.

Follow Step #1 to choose the animal you want to report on, and then in Step #2 enter your information to share what you found. (Be sure to get permission from your teacher or parent before you share your personal information on the Internet.)

If you want to help frogs out even more, think about becoming a Citizen Scientist and see if there’s a local Frogwatch chapter near you!

This esheet is a part of the The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs lesson.

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