Norman Greenhawk leads Earthwatch volunteers into the rainforest to search for frog species that some think are extinct, but that he thinks are hiding out far away from humans.
Why herpetology in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is an amazing island rich in herpetofaunal diversity. The majority of the frogs in Puerto Rico belong to the genus Eleutherodactylus. This genus is interesting as it has dispensed with the tadpole stage and instead has young by way of direct development—the female lays eggs; baby frogs hatch out. Many of the species in Puerto Rico are endemic, and exist nowhere else in the world other than the small areas that constitute their native range on the island. Protecting these species helps safeguard our global biodiversity.
A great moment in the field:
For me, the greatest moment in the field is still when I discovered the presence of Eleutherodactylus cooki (also known as the cave-dwelling frog or rock frog) in Icaco Valley. It was with the December 2012 Earthwatch team; I was merely taking them on a hike in the valley to find anoles (lizards), and we came across a deep rock crevice. For some reason, I had the urge to look inside, even though we were a bit too far west for E. cooki—or so I thought! After crawling waist deep into the crevice, I came out with a female E. cooki. That finding expanded the confirmed range of the species, and was the start of what has become the teen Earthwatch teams I’m now leading.