Dragons, Dinosaurs and Frogs and A Frog House Accomplishments In 2023

Happy Chinese New Year, Source: God of Wealth

Prelude: Happy New Year, a personal note and non-trivial Frog trivia.

If you in any way happen to share my angst about not being ready for 2024, I invite you to start the New Year on February 10 with me, the start of my very own Chinese Year of the Dragon. Wahoo! And better yet, there may be a connection of dragons to dinosaurs and hence to frogs.  

There is no Chinese Year of the Frog, but 2008 was internationally designated The Year of the Frog, because of the growing recognition of the rapid disappearance of these precious creatures. We are facing a Sixth Extinction, a catastrophe so severe that I sometimes despair about being able to play any part in making things better.

Marine animal biodiversity through time (Sepkoski’s curve). Source: Milwaukee Public Museum

Dragons, Dinosaurs and Frogs.

Exercising some creative license, see if you can connect the dots between Dragons and Frogs.  

  • Dragon mythology might be influenced by dinosaur fossils in some cultures, but no one knows for sure.
  • Dinosaurs (reptilians) and frogs (amphibians) are both tetrapods.
    • Frogs were alive before dinosaurs in the Devonian (D in Paleozoic) period.
    • Dinosaurs first appeared in the Triassic (Tr in the Mesozoic Era) and Dinosaurs became extinct at the time of the the meteor crash into Earth at the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K-Pg in the Mesozoic-Cenozoic) boundary.
    • Frogs not only survived the K-Pg collision, but that event seems to have been responsible for the great diversity of color in Central and South American poison frogs.

Conclusion: Frogs are related to dinosaurs which may have inspired mythology about dragons. Humans do well at keeping myths alive and well, but can we do as well at keeping the amazing frogs alive? Of all documented frog species, 41% of these are threatened with extinction.

The  2023 AFH team at our Mental Health and Climate Change Fundraising Gala. Left to right, Wynn Thompson, Payton Carroll, Madeleine Ross, Iyanna Rogers, Rey Sunglao, Bonnie Garner, Thompson Marinho, Margot Fass, Robert Corby, Paul Earle, Sandra Frankel, Bill Smith, Katherine Dennison. A few board members and volunteers missing. Photo Credit, Richard Moon.

A Frog House Overview

Mission

A Frog House (AFH) mission remains the same; Advocacy, (Events and Projects related to Frog Rescuing, Habitats and Wetlands), Collaboration (with our Board, Partners including Friends of the Robert C. Corby Arboretum, Next Generation and You, Pittsford Garden Club, Pittsford Town and Village Boards, Rochester Ecological Partners and Volunteers), and Education (Blogs, Newsletters, Social Media, Visits by invitation to or from AFH).  

Lindsay Graham at the mic for the first Frog House Fundraising Gala, Century Club, December 2, 2023. Photo Credit, Robert Corby.

Accomplishments in 2023

Key achievements and milestones

  • Best fundraising year, best balance sheet, Highest overall profit of $20,354, including my own annual mandatory retirement contribution.
  • Most grants received:
    • $15,000 from Silicon Valley Community Fund, reserved for environmental wetlands in Pittsford NY
    • $2075 from PayPal Giving Fund
    • $1500 grant from RG&E for environmental education and young people.
    • $602 grant from Benevity Community Impact Fund
    • $370 grant from SAVE THE FROGS!, which enabled us to break even on our Save the Frogs Day event
    • $50 grant from Network for Good
  • Highest contributions received
    • $1500 contribution from Paul Earle
    • $1000 contribution from David Lehner
    • $1000 contribution from Linda and David Starmer
    • 70 contributing members (contributions of $83 or more), 16 of which contributed from $250 to $300,  the remaining from $100 to $150

And for more details on the following, see below:

  • Most volunteers and interns engaged
  • Most collaborations and tabling participations
  • Five major and two minor events
  • First Gala fundraising event at the Century Club
  • 18 Blogs and 18 Newsletters published

Margot receives her certificate of a Pollinator Friendly Garden from Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. Photo Credit, Lindsay Graham

  • Two certificates earned
    • Master Herpetologist
    • Pollinator Friendly Garden

Advocacy for Our Values

Erin with two cub scouts putting on labels during AFH’s cosponsored activity. Plant Trees for Habitat and Capture Carbon. Photo Credit, Jane McConnochie

Goal

  • Create and maintain properties at 65 State Street (at our own expense) that are frog and life-friendly as an example to others and assist them in doing the same.

Objectives

  • Identify one municipal or private property for a small pond, water garden, and/or sustainable native and edible garden and carry out a simple plan. (we have several good candidates in mind.)
  • Find a municipal or private home for 35 Eastern White Pine in our AFH nursery.

How were these objectives met?

  • At 65 State Street, we continued to expand the native gardens and met the criteria for a pollinator friendly garden from Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program. We were tentatively awarded a grant from SAVE THE FROGS! for another pond at AFH, but there were two problems with this: 1) the panel awarding the grant wasn’t sure about the importance of the water garden, and 2) the property AFH is on private land, and creating a conflict of interest.
  • With the assistance of Jessica Neal, General Foreman of The Town of Pittsford Parks Department, Boy Scout Troup #260, Board member Jane Coggshall McConnochie and friends, we were able to plant 10 trees at DeBlase Open Space. Our youngest planter was 7 years old, and I, the oldest, was turning 83.  We still are nursing about 10 White Pine at 65 State Street, and sadly, others seem to have died.

AFH interns (Rey Sunglao and Thompson Marinho) and collaborators from Possible Rochester (Victoria Zelin-Cloud and Jonathan Cloud) attending Ecofest at Farmer’s Market. Photo Credit, Passerby

Collaboration

Goal

  • Work with like-minded groups such as the Abundance Coop, Area Colleges and Universities, Audubon Society, Climate Solutions Accelerator, Color Pittsford Green, The Friends of the Robert C Corby Arboretum, Impact Earth, Rochester Ecological Partners, Seneca Park Zoo, Town and Village of Pittsford Environmental Committees and Public Works Departments.

Objectives

  • Identify the niche AFH can occupy to contribute meaningfully to the partners’ goals and objectives.

Bonnie Abrams tabling at the South East Area Coalition Ladybug event. Photo Credit unknown.

How were these objectives met?

  • AFH was invited back to participate at tabling events at the Abundance Coop,  Braddock Bay Hawkwatch Bird of Prey Days, Impact Earth, the Port of Pittsford Paddle & Pour festival, as well as to present at the Parma Library. Bonnie Abrams was at all of these events, as well as at the South East Area Coalition Ladybug Festival, originally sponsored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension.  Thompson Marinho and Rey Sunglao represented AFH at the Ecofest, as shown above the photo of Bonnie.
  • Our Save The Frogs Day was kindly hosted by Kara Kotwas, Mark Wochner, their young son Felix, and Mark’s Parents. John Bateman, an instructor at Finger Lakes Community College, gave a well received presentation at Save the Frogs Day, which included our guests being able to see first hand and hold some of the frogs in our hosts’ natural wetland. Don Alhart of WHAM brought his lovely wife on his own day off and wrote a lovely piece on the event.  
  • The Friends of the Robert C Corby Arboretum, in cooperation with the Pittsford Garden Club, are still considering including the Wildlife Edible Garden paid for by AFH, designed by Patty Love of Barefoot Permaculture and approved by the Pittsford Village Board 3 years ago.  
  • Through attending an event called Nature Based Learning (NBL) put on by Rochester Ecological Partners, we were lucky to meet Carter Remy, founder of Next Generation & You. Carter, a development specialist for youth environmental education and youth workforce, was kind enough to lead several activities aimed at promoting healthy minds and stress reduction while connecting with the natural environment at AFH for a rainy day event.  And, “naturally” we invited him as a guest to our gala.

Carter Remy visits Martin’s memorial table, with Janet Krause in the background, enthralled with Martin’s journal. Photo Credit, Thompson Marinho.

Ecological Education

Goal

  • Maintain an educational library and resources at AFH and continue educational events.

Objectives

  • Collect resources from the collaborators mentioned above and guide visitors to the most suitable places to visit and become involved if they want something other than AFH.  
  • Participate in events sponsored by the collaborators mentioned above with information about Frogs and AFH.

How were these objectives met?  

  • Our promotion of collaborators and others working in the area of the environment took place extensively on our website rather than at the physical site of AFH.  
  • AFH actively promoted environmental outreach initiatives supported by both internal and external collaborators.

From left to right: Rey Sunglao, Thompson Marinho, and Onimim Numbere pose for a picture before releasing the tadpoles they rescued. Photo Credit, Margot Fass.

AFH Team Field Trips

  • Tadpole Rescue Task Force (August 19, August 27, September 3): In a joint effort spanning 3 separate weekends, 6 AFH team members and I rescued 400 tadpoles and froglets representing the American Bullfrog, Grey Tree Frogs and Green Frogs from the swimming pool of the former Camp Sisol in Honeoye Falls, future site of Fitness, Exercise, Recreation and Nature (FERN).

AFH Field Trip to the Erie Canal Nature Preserve. Left to right: Robert Corby, Surya Man, Thompson Marinho, Margot Fass, Rey Sunglao, Shaila Man, Rafi Knispel-Heyworth. Special appearances: Jack & Josh. Photo Credit Eric Brewer

  • Educational Tour of the Village Arboretum and Erie Canal Nature Preserve (August 20): Robert Corby took 8 AFH interns, volunteers and me on a tour of the Pittsford Village Arboretum and the Erie Canal Nature Preserve. In addition to exploring some of the sites of our AFH projects, the team got a chance to study the Scavenger Hunt questions and answers at the site of the frog ponds and learn about the different ways our local ecosystem supports the growth and reproduction of frogs..

AFH Educational Events

  • Evan Dawson show (March 20): Margot Fass, Robert Corby, and Mark Wochner joined Mr. Evan Dawson on the radio for a discussion about local environmental initiatives and actions to protect biodiversity and address climate change. It was not only on the first day of Spring, but just in time to celebrate World Frog Day.
  • Plant Trees for Habitat and Capture Carbon (April 26): AFH board member Dr. Jane McConnochie taught a course called Wildlife Wednesdays (April 19 – May 24) about local habitat restoration at the Spiegel center for children aged 11-15. Through project-based learning activities, students got to learn about plant identification and developed basic horticulture skills. Dr. McConnochie used the second of her sessions to coordinate with Scout Troop #260 in planting the eastern white pine AFH had been nursing.  10 Eastern white pine saplings, donated by Scout Troop 260 and nursed at AFH, were planted in the De Blase Open Space. This natural site was carefully chosen for the transplanting of saplings due to its good levels of sunshine and well-drained soil.
  • Fifteenth Annual Save the Frogs Day (May 7): In collaboration with Kara Kotwas and Mark Wochner, AFH hosted this annual event aimed at raising awareness about the critical role of frogs in our ecosystem and the threats they face.
  • Bioregional Potluck Garden Party (June 22): In a festive afternoon filled with food and fun, AFH welcomed special guest participants for a discussion centered around the overall theme of “Connecting to Regenerate Our Bioregions.”  Participants described several great programs, including the Genesee Finger Lakes Bioregional Learning Center, a joint decarbonization initiative created by Possible Rochester and Earth Regenerators.
  • Fifth Annual Froggy Family Fun(d)raiser Birthday Party (July 30): With gardens abloom and a sublime weather, almost 100 guests joined in the festivities held at AFH to celebrate my – the Frog Lady’s – 83rd birthday. Youngsters had the opportunity to participate in frog-themed educational games and activities, including our native-plant scavenger hunt, froggy origami, and frog corn-hole toss. Adults engaged in a discussion circle oriented around the theme “regenerating the land and our own culture”. Five excellent speakers shared their thoughts with our guests. Ari Freedman-Weiss spoke about his project to create a Fitness, Enrichment, Recreation, and Nature (FERN) center at the former site of Camp Sisol. Robert Corby addressed the geological, biological and indigenous significance of the former campgrounds. Victoria Zelin-Cloud and Jonathan Cloud summarized their vision for a Bioregional Learning Center on the site in collaboration with Ari. The discussion panel concluded with a pair-share exercise about the presentations, led by Patty Love, founder of Barefoot Ecological Design.  To quote myself, my birthday party was filled with “inventiveness, dedication to our trembling environment, generosity, hilarity, good will and good food.”
  • Frogs, Climate Change, Hope and Action! (October 8): To address the intricate and increasingly relevant relationship between mental health and climate change, the AFH team put together an event that served as a nature-oriented, mental wellness journey. Despite the rainy weather, many attendees showed up and were led by Carter Remy, founder of the Next Generation & You, through several nature-based activities aimed at promoting healthy minds and stress reduction while connecting with the natural environment at AFH. In preparation for this event and our upcoming Gala, we wrote a 3 part series called Frogs, Climate Change, Hope and Action on our Frog Blog. Topics included the effects of climate change on mental health, the positive effects of nature on mental health, and ways to cope with eco-anxiety.
  • Mental Health and Climate Change Fundraising Gala (December 2): AFH team and esteemed supporters gathered at the Century Club Mansion of Rochester for a night of compassion, awareness, and celebration of Margot’s late husband, Martin’s, life. This event was also an opportunity to raise funds towards the mental health initiatives AFH is spearheading in the face of climate change. The evening’s success was truly inspiring, with engaging conversations, heartwarming stories, exquisite entertainment, and a powerful reminder of the interconnectedness between mental wellbeing and environmental stewardship. Look for our next blog, long overdue but coming soon, for a great photo journal and highlights of the evening.  

Goals for 2024

Erik Van Marle – Blog Over Risicomanagement. Core business is geen risico! 17 april 2013

  • Again, we need another blog to discuss this topic, including a big push for the renovation of the wetlands and installation of our demonstration sustainable edible garden in the public properties of Pittsford. Whatever we do, we will be promoting and supporting more diversity, practicing the 4 steps of  Non-Violent Communication, and the 8 Core Principles of Prosocial. In the second upcoming blog, AFH will ask for feedback from you, our readers and members, about the direction you would like to see A Frog House take and how you personally want to participate to see these dreams come true.  

Conclusion

AFH interns and volunteers pose with their frog hats. From left to right: Shubham Parkhe, Shaila Man, Surya Man, Thompson Marinho. Photo Credit, Stephen Ransom.

  • We are so proud of the accomplishments of 2023, that no, the delay in this blog was not because we are resting on our laurels, but I was frankly worn out and needing time to recover and recoup, to think about how to make A Frog House even more effective this year.  
  • All credit for our success goes to you, our advisors, board members, cheer leaders, consultants, donors, family, friends, interns, readers, supporters, and volunteers. Unfortunately, I am still behind in sending personal thanks to each.  Soon we will be getting our teams together to finalize our goals, objectives, plans, and strategies.
  • One has to be creative when being so far behind and overwhelmed with details left over from a busy Frog Year, my private practice, and the death of my husband in 2023. Please be ready to hear more, cheer more, and hop into action with us by February 10, 2024!

Margot and Josh lead a group of AFH interns through a scavenger hunt activity in the Erie Canal Nature Preserve. Well, actually, we were led by the photographer! Photo Credit, Robert Corby.

If you are wondering why there are so many photos of Thompson, just guess who picked them out for this blog!  He has been a faithful and consistent worker, taking the place when our dear Shubham Parkhe, MD, who left for New York City in June to work in Mental Health Counseling. Thompson will be leaving this June for Brazil and then in the fall for graduate school (he already has been accepted in four!).

Nevertheless, not one of our team or friends deserves less credit than the others; you all are our Very Important Persons!

The Year of the Dragon 2024 is forecasted (like every year!) to bring about opportunities, changes and challenges. If you are seeking these yourself, this would be the year to not only send us your thoughts and provide feedback, but of course, to get involved with A Frog House in ways that bring you the most sweet joy.