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St. Louis middle school girls become 'frog whisperers' in PBS show

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Courtesy of PBS
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Mentor Laura Seger and the local SciGirls walk through a wetland.

Four St. Louis girls were selected to star in an episode of the PBS show SciGirls, which challenges middle school girls and their professional mentors to become citizen scientists by using skills in science, technology, engineering and math.

In the episode titled “Frog Whisperers,” the girls volunteer for FrogWatch USA, a citizen science project that encourages nature enthusiasts to report frog and toad calls in a given area.

Their mentor, Laura Seeger, an early childhood programs coordinator at the St. Louis Zoo, helps guide the girls as they listen to frogs in their natural and urban habitats and learn to recognize the different species. They then submit their findings to FrogWatch USA and share them at the St. Louis Zoo.

Mike Dawson, St. Louis chapter coordinator of FrogWatch USA, explained the importance of learning about frogs and how they communicate in order to identify the species.

“The importance of it is, when you hear a frog calling, it’s during the breeding season,” Dawson explained. “So you’re hearing a boy that’s trying to get a girlfriend. They’re making lots of noise and it’s one way to peek into what’s going on with frogs and toads.”

To make the production possible, the girls worked with other organizations in the St. Louis area, such as Shaw Nature Reserve.

Seeger said that as citizen scientists, the girls are able to explore a variety of hands-on science careers without actually committing to the field. Program coordinators do hope, though, that participants will eventually want to choose science as a field of endeavor.

“The numbers in science careers are still much higher for men than they are for women,” Seeger said. “So we’re trying to put a lot of emphasis on what kind of careers are out there.”

PBS' "SciGirls:" Frog Whisperers

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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