The group of students who made the initial discovery were part of a Nature Studies class during the first week of August, 1995. Since MNCS is a year-round school, it was not unusual to find our students in the field when most students are on summer vacation. The discovery occurred on an intended hike through the Ney Woods, which is part of a Wildlife Game Refuge near Henderson, MN. As the group hiked along a private field road on the Don Ney farm, they noticed many frogs hopping about. As kids are prone to do, the students began catching frogs for fun. At one point, students accused each other of injuring the frogs because their legs were "weird." However, it wasn't long before they realized that this was not an injury problem - it was a developmental problem!
Immediately, students pulled out notebooks and began collecting data about the frogs they were catching. Fully 50 percent of the frogs caught that day had deformities of their hind legs. Many had one leg which was underdeveloped and webbed together, preventing normal function. One frog captured that day had only one hind leg, while another had two feet on one leg and a bony protrusion from the spine.
Following their return to school, students developed a list of questions to pursue. Frogs were photographed with a QuickTake camera to put on the Internet. Phone calls were made regarding types of farm chemicals used in the area.
Cindy Reinitz, the teacher, made a series of phone calls which would eventually lead her to Judy Helgen, a research scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
The MPCA researched the problem from 1997 through 2000. As of July 2001, the MPCA is no longer funded by the Minnesota Legislature to continue deformed frog research. To learn more about MPCA involvement in the project, visit http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/living-green/living-green-citizen/f....
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
651-296-6300 or 800-657-3864