Berkeley people are at the heart of a vital online resource.

a green frog
AmphibiaWeb’s 7,000th species: a tiny high-altitude glass frog, discovered a few years ago at nearly 10,000 feet in Peruvian cloud forest by Alessandro Catenazzi while he was a postdoc at Berkeley. (Photo by Alessandro Catenazzi)

“A curious paradox has befallen the world’s amphibians, and UC Berkeley scientists are tracking it day by day,” said the San Francisco Chronicle’s science editor, David Perlman, in his story on July 31.

While scientists are discovering large numbers of previously unknown species as they “take to the field in the world’s last unexplored places,” the puzzling flip side is that “species of amphibians are dying off in what appears to be an oncoming mass extinction — particularly for frogs.”

Alpine Newt, one of AmphibiaWeb’s 25,000 images (photo © 2005 Henk Wallays)

Keeping track of these dramatic plusses and minuses worldwide is an online catalog called AmphibiaWeb, started at and with significant people-power from Berkeley.  Biologist and emeritus professor David Wake led, and still leads, AmphibiaWeb, which launched in 2000.  He was one of the first to raise the alarm about declining amphibian populations, back when only a handful of biologists were studying amphibians in depth.  Now there are many more lending a hand, delving into virgin habitats — and contributing data to AmphibiWeb.

A total of 7,000 amphibian species have been reported around the globe, up around 5,000 over the total catalogued at the turn of this century.  Members of the international team that runs the online catalog include Vance Vredenburg of SFSU (Berkeley Ph.D. ’02), Berkeley researchers Michelle Koo (who was a grad student here), and UT-Austin professor David Cannatella (who was a postdoc here in the late ’80s).

More: UC Berkeley NewsCenter story by Robert Sanders