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Scientists bred a frog that only lived for 3 days. It was an extraordinary achievement.

Once a species is extinct, it's gone forever, right? A group of Australian scientists would beg to differ.

Scientists bred a frog that only lived for 3 days. It was an extraordinary achievement.

There are thousands of endangered or vulnerable species in the world right now.

These include animals like the black rhino, the hawksbill turtle, the pangolin, and the Sumatran elephant.


A black rhino lopes through the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. There are only a few black rhinos left in the world. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Right now, these species have very little chance of living past the next 50 years. But one little frog could change all that.

In the 1970s, Australian scientists discovered a new breed of frog with some interesting behaviors.

The Guardian reports that the Gastric Brooding Frog was unlike any frog scientists had seen before.

As its name suggests, it swallowed its fertilized eggs and newly hatched tadpoles whole. Then the frog's stomach, which functioned like a uterus, would incubate the frogs until they were fully formed.

Scientists had never seen a species behave like the Gastric Brooding Frog, which made it an immediate topic of fascination. Image via University of New South Wales.

And how did the female frog get her frog children back into the world once they were fully formed, you ask? She projectile-vomited them, of course.

These scientists thought the Gastric Brooding Frog could lead to some huge discoveries.

The functions of this frog's extra-special stomach had the potential to help us discover new procedures that could be used in human medicine (think better treatments for stomach ulcers, new antibiotics or even improved fertility treatments).

But then, just as quickly as they popped up, the Gastric Brooding Frogs disappeared in the early 1980s. The same excited scientists determined that the skin-based chytrid fungus wiped them all out. The frogs were extinct.

Here's the cool part, though: 30 years later, those scientists are back on the Gastric Brooding Frog's case once again.

"This is definitely the most extraordinary frog that ever lived anywhere in the world," scientist Michael Archer said when asked about this particular breed of frog for an episode of the "Catastrophic Science" video series.

That's why Archer, a scientist at the University of New South Wales, chose the Gastric Brooding Frog for his next big project, titled "The Lazarus Project."

Archer wants to bring the extinct Gastric Brooding Frog back to life, a process he's calling de-extinction.

Archer hopes that with the help of a group of internationally renowned scientists, he can bring an extinct frog back from the dead. Image via University of New South Wales.

Where do you start when bringing back an extinct frog?

It's just as tough as it sounds.

First, the scientists had to locate a freezer full of dead (but preserved) Gastric Brooding Frogs. From there, the project looks a lot like an "Orphan Black"-style cloning mission.

At a basic level, the scientists take one cell from a frozen Gastric Brooding Frog and put that cell in the DNA-less egg of another, more common Australian frog. That egg will develop into a tadpole eventually — but it should develop into a Gastric Brooding Frog, rather than a common frog.

Remember when scientists cloned Dolly the sheep? This project builds on that research, but scientists are hoping for even better results. Image via University of New South Wales.

The project has been successful so far, but there are still many obstacles.

According to the scientists on the research team, they're well on their way when it comes to creating the second coming of the Gastric Brooding Frog. They've seen embryos divide, which is an incredibly good sign.

But those embryos have only lived for three days so far, so there's still a lot of work to be done.

This little extinct frog could teach us how to (literally) bring species back from the dead. Image via University of New South Wales.

The ramifications of this project for other near-extinct species (and for humans) are huge, though.

"There is increasing interest in the fact that many animals are becoming extinct all over the world," Archer says in the "Catastrophic Science" video. "We're losing biodiversity. We need to find some animal that can be demonstrated to be brought back from the dead."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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