Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program

The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP) is for enthusiastic and sharp-eyed, sharp-eared volunteers who have a passion for wildlife and its conservation. With more than 800 species in our state, the wildlife staff can't possibly keep track of all these critters in every corner of the state. We need volunteers that are willing and interested in collecting data on two important and sensitive groups of wildlife.

Volunteer Wildlife Monitor Program Brochure
  Volunteers Eagle Watching 

Bird Nest Monitoring

The Bird Nest Monitoring Program focuses on two special groups of birds: Raptors (hawks, eagles, falcons, owls) and Colonial Waterbirds (herons, egrets, night-herons, cormorants). These two groups of top predators are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, making them not only fascinating animals to observe but also important animals to monitor.

At a Bird Nest Monitoring workshop, volunteers learn how to identify Iowa's raptors and colonial waterbirds, find and map a nesting site, and report observations of nesting activity to the Wildlife Diversity Program. A special emphasis is placed on monitoring Bald Eagle Nests and participants of a workshop will leave with an assigned nest site to observe.  Alternatively, if you are very interested in becoming an Eagle Nest Monitor but can't make it to a training you can check out our training video to get started!

Frog and Toad Call Survey
Amphibians are currently in global decline and face many environmental stressors. Frogs and toads are our most melodious inhabitants of Iowa's wetlands. Since 1991 the DNR Wildlife Diversity Program has coordinated a statewide yearly survey of frogs and toads. Over the years hundreds of volunteers have helped with this survey and, by attending a VWMP frog and toad training workshop, you can help with this important work. Routes are set up across Iowa and trained volunteers are needed to adopt and survey these routes.

Participants in the Frog and Toad Call Survey workshop will learn to identify Iowa's frogs and toads by sight and sound, and then how to collect and report data to the Wildlife Diversity program and to the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP). Volunteer-collected data will not only be used by Iowa, but at regional and national levels too!

In 2015, the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program will be teaming up with Iowa State University to establish some survey routes in select counties for Acoustic Monitoring of bats.
  Bats have been experiencing a number of challenges in recent years, particularly with the onset of a disease, White Nose Syndrome, which causes high levels of mortality mostly during hibernation.  It is critical therefore to begin monitoring bat population trends and that is what the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program does.   

Acoustic surveys involve special equipment which can pick up and record the echolocation calls of bats.  The microphone is attached to the roof of a car and then driven very slowly (20 mph) along a pre-determined ~30 mile route on country roads.  In the lab, we can then analyze the recordings to identify the species of bat and how many individuals of each species flew over the vehicle during the route.  Data collected each year on the same route can then be used to monitor the trend in different species abundances in the area. 

We are looking for some special people, dedicated to the conservation of these special critters, who would be willing to commit their time and personal vehicle to survey these routes.  For more details about the counties which contain routes and what will be required of volunteers please read thoroughly the pdf entitled: Bat Acoustic Monitoring Information Sheet.  If you are in one of the targeted counties and think this is something you can firmly commit to, download, fill out and return the form entitled: Volunteer Interest Form.

Bat Acoustic Monitoring Information Sheet

Volunteer Interest Form


2015 Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Workshops! 

Workshops require a $10 registration fee which pays for training materials, a meal, subscription to our monthly newsletter, a frog and toad call CD or bird identification guide, and certification costs. To register, please download and complete the registration form for the desired workshop and return it with the $10 fee to: VWMP; Boone Wildlife Research Station; 1436 255th St.; Boone, IA 50036. Registration for each workshop will be first come, first served.


Bird Nest Monitoring Workshops  

Anyone interested in being a Bald Eagle Nest Monitor must participate in some training.

COMPLETED for 2015

Frog and Toad Call Survey Workshops 

Anyone interested in participating in the Frog and Toad Call Survey must attend a training.

April 10th, 2015 SCOTT COUNTY Wapsi River Educational Center near Dixon, IA 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm (with Scott County Conservation)

April 13th, 2015 DALLAS COUNTY Forest Park Museum near Perry, IA. 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm (with Dallas County Conservation)

April 16th, 2015  SAC COUNTY Sac County Conservation Center at Hagge Park, Sac City, IA. 5:30 pm to 9 pm (with Sac County Conservation) 

Resources for Current Volunteer Wildlife Monitors:

 Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program Database

Frog and Toad Survey

Bird Nest Monitoring


Here are some other programs that may interest you:

IOWATER and Project AWARE - Volunteer-based water quality testing and clean up.

Iowa DNR Volunteer Program

We can always use your help and it's great outdoor fun!

Questions? Contact us by email at vwmp@dnr.iowa.gov or at 515-432-2823.

The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program is based at the Boone Wildlife Research Station, 1436 255th Street Boone, IA 50036.