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 three species of raptors: Bald Eagle, Osprey and Peregrine Falcon. These top predators are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, making them not only fascinating animals to observe but also important animals to monitor.

To become a nest monitor, volunteers must go through some training. At a Bird Nest Monitoring workshop, volunteers learn about the bird’s nesting ecology and biology, and what data to collect on a nest site and how do it without disturbing the birds. Volunteers then report this data to the Wildlife Diversity Program and it is used to monitor the bird’s status in the state. Two to three workshops are held annually around the state. The schedule is posted on this page. Alternatively, if you are very interested in becoming an Eagle Nest Monitor but can't make it to a training you can check out the Bald Eagle 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


2016 Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Workshops! 

Workshops require a $5 registration fee which pays for training materials, 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 $5 fee to: VWMP; Boone Wildlife Research Station; 1436 255th St.; Boone, IA 50036. Registration for each workshop will be first come, first served and is usually limited to 13-15 people per workshop.


Bird Nest Monitoring Workshops  

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

  • March 5, 2016 – 1:00 to 4:30 P.M. – CLAYTON COUNTY in partnership with the Clayton County Conservation Board.
    • Location: Osborne Park Nature Center near Elkader, IA
  • March 12, 2016 – 1:00 to 4:30 P.M. – WAYNE COUNTY in partnership with the Wayne County Conservation Board.
    • Location: Bobwhite State Park, Wayne County Conservation Offices, near Allerton, IA.
  • March 19, 2016 – 1:00 to 4:30 P.M. – SAC COUNTY in partnership with the Sac County Conservation Board.
    • Location: Sac County Conservation Center near Sac City, IA. 

Frog and Toad Call Survey Workshops 

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

There will be no Frog and Toad Survey Workshops held in 2016, though they will be back in 2017!

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.