Biologist Speaks on Frogs and Wetlands

Biologist and author Judy Helgen ’60

When deformed frogs started appearing in Minnesota wetlands in the 1990s, alarm bells went off for Judy Helgen.  As a biologist for the state’s Pollution Control Agency, she was determined to discover what was causing frogs to be born with misshapen or missing legs, feet, or eyes.

She will speak about this mystery, and the broader issue of environmental protection, on September 18 at 7 pm in Gamble Auditorium in Mount Holyoke’s Art Building.

Helgen’s investigation into the epidemic, which grew from a regional issue to an international phenomenon, provides an inside view of a highly charged environmental issue that sparked controversies among scientists, politicians, and government agencies. What caused such deformities? Pollution? Ultraviolet rays? Biological agents? And could the cause also threaten humans?

Her book Peril in the Ponds displays her passionate concern about this complex and growing catastrophe for frogs and affirms the importance of examining aquatic life to understand pollution and rescue remaining wetlands.

Helgen, a 1960 MHC graduate, spent many years as a state government research scientist in biological monitoring at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), after earning a PhD in zoology from the University of Minnesota. Since retiring from the MPCA, she has taught at Metropolitan State University and was lead author of the Sierra Club report Restoring Water Quality Certification in Minnesota.

The event is cosponsored by the Miller Worley Center for the Environment and the Odyssey Bookshop. For more information, contact Ruby Maddox at 413-538-3091.