Water-Related News

Florida girl's environmental advocacy is sharp, perhaps more so as an autistic child

News Image

By Jeff Klinkenberg

Meet the "frog girl", a mainstay of the Frog Listening Network — Photo: Conserve It Forward

TAMPA – Oink. Oink. OINK!

The frog girl, Avalon Theisen, is all ears. A pig frog is a pretty good frog. Nice and big. Some people hear them and think they're hearing alligators. No way. Alligators have a deeper voice.

The frog girl can tell you about pig frogs. Coloration and pattern? Variable, but often olive green. Dorsum? Brownish to gray. Ventral mottling? Moderate in the throat but heavy in the area of the hind legs. Genus and species? Rana grylio.

The frog girl knows her Latin. She is a mainstay of the Frog-Listening Network in the Tampa Bay area. Her ambition? Keeping track of the frogs for the rest of us.

She likes to listen for the marble-on-marble croaking of the tiny cricket frog, Acris gryllus dorsalis. Her ears perk up when a Southern leopard frog, Rana sphenocephala, bursts into its nightly fingers-squeaking-on-a-wet-balloon cacophony.

When the frog girl hears a lot of frogs, she knows the natural world is doing fine. When she hears fewer frogs, she worries. Maybe something is wrong. Not enough rain. Or too much. Maybe pesticides got washed into the pond and killed the bugs frogs eat. Frogs are losing habitat, are being eaten by invasive species. Global warming might be a factor. Yikes.

"Frogs tells us the story of the environment,'' says the frog girl.

She is 12 years old.