Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with Elizabeth W. Davidson, author of Cheery: The true adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog

Elizabeth W. Davidson has written a children's book entitled Cheery: The ture adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog.  With a doctorate in entomology from Ohio State University, Dr. Davidson's work has involved studying the interactions between insects and bacteria.  Since 1973 she has been at Arizona State University and has recently focused her research on diseases of amphibians, working with scientists from around the world.  Dr. Davidson has tutored reading to second and third grade students in Arizona through the All Star Kids tutoring program, eventually leading her to writing her first children's book.  Cheery: The true adventures of a Chiricahua Leopard Frog is a project of the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission Arizona Centennial Legacy Project.

Why did you choose the Chiricahua Leopard Frog, in particular, to write a children's story about?  

We had a meeting here that brought together scientists from around the world who were studying amphibian decline, and I heard about the Chiricahua story at this meeting.  As I was tutoring students at the time, it struck me as a great story to tell the kids.

Does the Phoenix Zoo help to restore the Chiricahua Leopard Frog back into the wild? 

Yes, the frogs are bred there for reintroduction into the wild.  This has been done quite recently.

Is the Chiricahua Leopard Frog native to AZ?  

Yes, and northern Mexico.

Is the Chiricahua Leopard Frog a species you have studied in your own work?   

No, it is endangered and we are not allowed to bring it to the lab except under special permits.  I work with salamanders.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make science fun for kids?  

It must relate to something they care about: pet animals, animals they like to watch (frogs, fish, birds, zoo animals), or something that might scare them (insects).  

Were you always interested in amphibians?  

No, I'm an entomologist (work with insects). The interest in amphibians came from conversations with a faculty member at ASU who has worked for many years on the ecology of salamanders in Arizona.  This, and the sudden decline of amphibians, led us to start looking at diseases of amphibians.

What are some of the effects of a declining amphibian population?  

Amphibians are at the top of the aquatic ecosystems in several areas, that is, they eat insects and as tadpoles, algae.  They are also food themselves for birds, fish, and snakes.  Recently we have learned also that they may make some new antibiotics that could be very useful for humans.

Are there ways to learn more about the declining populations of amphibians?  

There are several websites: Amphibian Ark, Declining Amphibian Population Task Force, AmphibiaWeb, and many others. 

Are you considering writing another children's book?  If so, do you have another amphibian in mind?  

Not at the moment.

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