Book Review: In Search of the Golden Frog (Crump)

Abrahm

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Title: In Search of the Golden Frog
Author: Marty Crump
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Year of Publication: 2000
Pages: 270

There is no care information in this book. There's very little science on the biology, ecology or behavior of amphibians. There's nary a big, scientific word to be seen. What you will find within these pages are the experiences of one woman in the tropics as she grows from pig-tailed undergraduate to veteran PhD amphibian field biologist with a husband and children. Mrs. Crump details her trials and tribulations as a field worker; from the minor discomforts of sleeping arrangements and foods to the major issues of amphibian declines and human natives in trouble.

The book begins with Marty Crump describing her youth and love of animals and the serendipity that resulted in her being a herpetologist; they were the only department in natural history that had an interesting job opening. Her mentor from the beginning is William Duellman, a rather famous herpetologist who invited her on her first field expedition to Ecuador. This was the only one that focused on salamanders. She writes of the problems of showering and the tadpoles and insects that would frequently drain on her through the sluice, the lack of color or taste in their food, parties attended in musty dresses and moldy shoes.

More important are the nights in the forest. The elusive bolittoglossine salamanders that she searches for almost in vain. There are encounters with deadly fer de lance vipers, electric eels and quicksand. There are hundreds of amphibians where she is at, in fact it was one of the most diverse places in the world with about 170 species in several square mile area. She even lets go a few of the more famous field herpetologist pranks as she becomes the butt of a few jokes.

The book continues on in this vein for many different field expeditions to places like Argentina, Monte Verde and returns to Ecuador. While there are many triumphs in her research there are also many failures. Her site in Ecuador begins to degrade and species are lost as loggers and oil companies move in to harness the natural resources. During her time in Monte Verde she becomes one of the last people to see the golden toad, Bufo periglenes alive. She witnesses their amazing breeding ritual as hundreds of day glow orange frogs emerge from the ground and congregate around puddles the size of a kitchen sink to mate and breed. This is the only time of the year the frogs are visible as they are believed to live underground. She also watches all but 29 tadpoles die out of thousands. Repeated trips over the years to the mountain top elfin cloud forest reveal one toad and then none as the animal disappeared nearly overnight.

Marty Crump also writes of the hardships of raising a family in the field. Her children help her with experiments and even run their own. Her husband, an ornithologist, is also in the field with her. There are bad days and good days with the family. There are earlier stories of a failed romance with a young Ecuadorian, of helping native tribes to survive in the world and maintain their way of life and the cultures of all the various places she has been.

In Search of the Golden Frog is an exciting travelogue, field journal and personal epic. It's a glimpse into the life of a field biologist that allows you to see the world as wondrous, amazing and in danger all while being intimate and personal. She invites you to find your own Golden Frog, the animal of legend that bequeaths happiness as long as you hold it.
 

Otterwoman

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This sounds like a fun book! Though it must have been depressing for her to see the habitat she studied
whither away.

She also watches all but 29 tadpoles die out of thousands.

What happened? Was that because of the loggers? I cry easily when I read or watch a sad movie.
But I think I'll add this to my reading list. Thanks, Abrahm!
 

Abrahm

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This sounds like a fun book! Though it must have been depressing for her to see the habitat she studied
whither away.



What happened? Was that because of the loggers? I cry easily when I read or watch a sad movie.
But I think I'll add this to my reading list. Thanks, Abrahm!

It's really quite fun despite the sometimes depressing subject matter. The tadpoles all died because their breeding pools dried up much faster than normal due to El Nino. Nobody knows exactly what happened to the rest of the golden toads.
 
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