MU professor makes leap forward in frog farming – Marquette Wire

Just north of Milwaukee, Rick “Rainforest” Boyd, Assistant Instructor at the College of Arts & Sciences, is making leaps and bounds on his latest achievement in the frog-keeping community.

Stepping into his lab is like venturing thousands of miles from Wisconsin and into the rainforests of Central America. Boyd is greeted by the croaks and cries of several species of frogs.

Red-eyed tree frogs watch with fluttering eyes the next feeding. The white tree frogs practically jump out of their cages to greet him. And poison dart frogs bask with their brilliant colors, warning those to stay away. Luckily for Boyd, dart frogs are only poisonous from the fire ants they eat in the wild, so he has no trouble handling them.

But the one that gets the most attention is his efforts with the Granulosa Glass Frog.

Boyd is only the second individual in the United States to successfully breed the granulosa glass frog, a frog with a translucent stomach found in the Central Asian lowland wetlands. This trait allows the glass frog’s intestines to be seen from the outside by looking inside.

His feat was confirmed after his tadpoles emerged from the water with their newly developed legs, transforming into froglets, the next stage of frog metamorphosis. Boyd’s achievement makes part of the frog community jump for joy.

“The exciting news in the community is that my work is helping to show that this technique can be replicated by an amateur trying to get it to happen in captivity. Meanwhile, hobbyists are excited because they end up with a pet frog and when I sell them to a pet store or community, they get a frog that’s used to being with humans,” said Boyd said.

Boyd said his discovery came after a period of trial and error. In nature, female frogs wait for the rainy season to reproduce. In Costa Rica, where the frogs are most native, it is between the months of May and November. Creating this natural phenomenon in an artificial environment was a delicate step in Boyd’s enterprise.

“It turned out that female granulosa glass frogs apparently don’t even ovulate until the second month of the rainy season, so I had to rotate them every day for weeks, but it worked” , Boyd said.

At first, his efforts were in vain. Millie, Boyd’s only female, showed no signs of ovulating and Boyd was puzzled. Stepping out on a branch, he turned to the Facebook group where he got ideas from fellow hobbyists on what he should try to tweak.

“There’s a community of glass frogs, it’s a public group…and we compare notes back and forth. One of the other successful gentlemen a year ago in California said you need to experiment more with the rain chamber you use,” Boyd said.

After changing her rain schedule and a little patience, Millie’s stomach wasn’t just showing her heart, it was also showing her eggs.

His work aims to save frogs in their natural habitats, a concept he calls “conservation through commercialization.”

“Each of these frogs that I raise in captivity and sell to other hobbyists or pet stores takes the pressure off the wild population, causing people to catch them legally or illegally and put them into the pet trade. company around the world,” Boyd said. .

In addition to helping conserve the frog population, Boyd also takes what he learns and applies it to his teachings in the classroom.

For example, he is able to teach his classes about the nitrogen cycle while applying it to frogs. When working with granulosa tadpoles, he had to experiment with water conditions and the quality of nitrates and nitrites in the water, which help starve harmful bacteria in the stomachs of glass frog tadpoles.

Simon Glarner, a sophomore at the College of Arts & Science, took Boyd’s Earth and Environmental Physics course.

“Quite frequently he would give us updates on what was going on with the frogs, and he would show pictures of how they were doing…he’s ridiculously knowledgeable and really friendly,” Glarner said.

The class is not just limited to environmental studies majors, it is open to all interested students.

“Students were all over the place, but it was definitely an interesting class,” said Allie Plante, a sophomore at the College of Engineering. “He always does his best to keep everyone engaged. There were classes where he just talked about his frogs. But it was a good mix of everything, we were still able to learn everything.

By now, Boyd’s granulosa have turned into froglets. At this point, all they do is lie down and absorb their tails and develop frog-like features such as lungs and forearms. All of this requires very little supervision, so there’s not much Boyd can do to that end.

In the meantime, Boyd plans to embark on his next project, cultivating a different species, the spotted frog. A frog is known for its natural fluorescence, the first type of the frog kingdom.

This story was written by Connor Baldwin. He can be reached at [email protected]