Dr Kerry Kriger | Sweeping in to Save The Frogs
Dr Kerry Kriger is the Founder and Executive Director of Save The Frogs. This USA based charity is on a mission to protect amphibian populations and promote a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife. For the last 10 years, their staff and volunteers have created over 2000 educational programs in 57 countries. They have also worked with legislation and both habitat restoration and creation. Save The Frogs have spearheaded successful local, state and federal governmental actions on behalf of amphibians and educated millions of people worldwide about amphibians. This organisation is making it happen and Kerry shares with us his experiences and perspective on what it takes to run such a successful organisation.
What are some of your day-to-day tasks as Director of Save The Frogs?
My daily activities change based on what I’m focusing on at a certain point in time. For the last two months, I have been giving live presentations at schools and universities in India and Bangladesh. This has also provided me with the opportunity to meet with our volunteers that help with the organising of events and have worked with Save The Frogs for the past 7 or 8 years.
A good portion of my time is definitely spent on my computer doing everything from creating newsletters to communicate the work we continually do, building webpages, creating social media posts about our work and spreading the word to our supporters. I also handle all the administration and fundraising aspects of the organisation.
Do you get a chance to spend time in the field?
My time in the field depends on the time of the year and where I am. If I am traveling to places and it is opportune for amphibians to be active, I will meet up with volunteers, spend time in the field and take photos of amphibians and their habitat. Save The Frogs also lead ecotours for 10 days with groups of 10-15 people to introduce them to amphibians in a variety of habitats. We’ve had tours in Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. Occasionally, we will have frog excursions for an evening after an event and other times we do habitat restoration, habitat creation, build artificial wetlands, remove non-native species and tree planting. These are all activities that allow me to spend time outdoors.
How long has Save The Frogs been running?
Save The Frogs have been active for 10 years. I started it in March 2008. We will celebrate the 10th annual Save The Frogs day this year. It is the world’s largest day of amphibian education and conservation and we celebrate it every year. My goal was to get people all over the world to do something beneficial for amphibians for at least one day of the year. Since 2008 we have had at least of 1,200 save the frog day events all over the world.
How did you end up working with amphibians?
My fondness for streams inspired me to do fieldwork on them. I learnt about what lived on streams and found out that frogs do, and unfortunately, they were rapidly declining worldwide. It seemed like a good combination of being outdoors in the place I wanted to be and to be able contribute to something that had a lot of benefit for wildlife.
What are some of the positive aspects of your job?
The biggest positive aspect is that I get to do something good for the world, for wildlife, for society as well as for myself. I get the opportunity to be creative, work with amazing people and share knowledge.
Just the other day I found out that one of the Save The Frogs volunteers from Nepal, whom I have been advising for 5 years, has been accepted for a Master’s degree in the USA. I had informed him about the opportunity to get a free scholarship, for the two-year Master’s program at the University of Santa Cruz, inclusive of a stipend and for him to get accepted is fantastic. For someone from Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, to get an opportunity to come to USA and study at a top ranked university for free is a life-changing opportunity. It was his dedication to Save The Frogs and my continuous mentoring and funding for several years that led to that and I hope that he takes that knowledge and dedicates it to frog conservation.
The other great thing about my job is that I get to travel to so many places and visit some incredible frog habitats. I experience different cultures in the world in the way that many people don’t because we have Save The Frog activities and events in remote parts of the world which allows me to experience everything in a unique way.
What would you say are some of the negative aspects of the job?
As the founder and executive director, I can’t just step away from the job, especially during difficult times. When something needs to get done, I’ve trained staff and volunteers to take care of it, but if something goes wrong then I often have to do it myself. This comes with being an entrepreneur, director, founder or CEO.
The salary is not as good as a traditional job such as a lecturer at a university or working for the government. For me it all comes down to how I successfully raise money and to make sure there is enough to run our programs and to have a salary for myself. However, I wouldn’t trade this to be a lecturer or work in government because the benefits that come with running your own NGO out-weight the negatives. I can create my own schedule, set, create and implement the programs I want to do, work with people I want and I have the independence of doing things the way I want with minimal bureaucracy. I can be effective in my job and that was one of my primary motivators for founding a non-profit organisation.
What keeps you going?
“As a citizen that believes in helping make the world a better place, it would not be optimal to just walk away”
I have built an organisation and done a great deal because I strive for excellence and I want a job done right. I always believe there is more that can be done particularly with the current environmental problems in the world. While I don’t take the responsibility to solve all the problems in the world, I know I can do my fair share. Many people benefit because of Save The Frogs. They learn from us and are happier because the organisation exists. For me, my job is a creative outlet, it is enjoyable and I don’t think very many people get to do what they enjoy. I am happy to be able to do something that is enjoyable and beneficial to the world.
What key steps did you take?
The first thing I did was send out letters through USA mail (back in the day before email) to zoology professors at the universities of Hawaii and Alaska whom I wanted to volunteer with. Only one replied, which was more than enough. I ended up going to Hawaii for three months to work with endangered birds. That experience inspired me to do a PhD. At that point I did not have a biology background so I completed 6 months of community college studying basic biology courses to get into the graduate program.
I began looking for professors that were doing the kind of work I wanted to do and got several recommendations from other professors and graduate students as to who the best scientists in the field were. After applying to various universities, I got accepted to Griffith University in Australia. My graduate experience working with amphibians enabled me to learn an exceptional amount, meet incredible scientists, publish countless papers and I managed to finish in a shorter time than most people doing a PhD. On completion, I thought carefully about what would be the next best thing for frogs without settling for ‘just another job’. I realised there was no non-profit dedicated to amphibians and so began the journey of Save The Frogs.
What advice would you give to aspiring conservationists?
Work hard and find the best mentors that you can. Volunteer and learn from those experiences. That experience will be useful even if it’s not paid.
Be sure to visit www.SavetheFrogs.com and sign up for newsletter so I can inform you about amphibians and how you can get involved with saving them.