It's 10 p.m. on a summer night along a gravel road anywhere in Iowa. A raucous chorus of male frogs are making themselves heard as they vie for mates in the farm pond next to the road. A volunteer stands clipboard in hand, ear cocked, mentally sorting out each of the calling species and the number of individuals that might be using this seemingly ordinary pond.
Skip over to a Saturday morning by the river where another volunteer has binoculars trained on the tallest tree in the vicinity. In this tree is a one-ton nest, home to two bald eagles and their young. Are there two or three young in that nest? Hard to tell and a follow up visit will be needed; in the meantime, notes are taken and a peaceful half-hour is spent watching one of the most spectacular birds in North America.
Both of these volunteers were trained through Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP). The state is big, the species are many, and the staff to monitor these species are few; volunteers are really crucial to ensure that these species remain stable. Every March and April, DNR staff travel around the state leading six training workshops, readying folks to collect data on some of Iowa's critical wildlife. Participants in these workshops have begun a journey to become Certified Volunteer Wildlife Monitors and will be intrinsically involved in wildlife conservation in Iowa.
Two types of trainings are offered: one for folks interested in monitoring raptor or colonial water bird nesting sites and one for people more interested in performing a frog call survey. Raptors and Colonial Waterbirds (herons, egrets, night-herons and cormorants) are targeted because of their role as top predators and their dependence on particular habitats. Frogs and toads are also an important group for data collection because of their dependence on clean water and evidence of global decline among all amphibians. Volunteer monitors should have some tech savvy and computer and web access.
Each year an army of volunteers helps the DNR keep an eye (and ear) on these important resources. The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program provides an opportunity for adults who love the outdoors and wildlife to be directly involved with the conservation and monitoring of Iowa's resources. VWMP Bird workshops in 2011 will be held in Jackson, Palo Alto and Warren Counties in March and frog and toad survey trainings will be held in Wapello, Crawford and Warren Counties in April. Each workshop requires pre-registration and a $10 registration fee pays for training materials, a meal, subscription to a bi-annual newsletter, a frog and toad call CD or bird identification guide, and certification costs. Here are the times and locations:
Bird Nest Monitoring Workshops (Raptors and Colonial Waterbirds)
Anyone interested in being a Bald Eagle Nest Monitor must attend a training session.
Mail your address, phone number, email address and $10 registration fee, as well as the date, location and type of training you desire, to Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program, Boone Wildlife Research Station, 1436 255th St., Boone, IA 50036. For more information and to obtain a registration form, go to www.iowadnr.com/wildlife/diversity/vwmp.html or contact Stephanie Shepherd, (515) 432-2823, ext. 102, Stephanie.Shepherd@dnr.iowa.gov.