It’s 10 o’clock on a summer night along a gravel road anywhere in Iowa. In the farm pond next to the road a raucous chorus of male frogs are making themselves heard as they vie for mates. A volunteer stands clipboard in hand, ear cocked, mentally sorting out each of the calling species and the number of individuals using this seemingly ordinary pond.
Skip 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.
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 those species is few; the efforts of volunteers are crucial to ensure that these species remain stable.
Every March and April, the DNR leads six training workshops around the state that prepare volunteers to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife.
Two types of trainings are offered: one focused on monitoring raptor or colonial waterbird nesting sites and one for 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 an important group to monitor because they depend on clean water and because there is evidence of a global decline among all amphibians.
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 2013 will be held in O’Brien, Muscatine, and Marshall counties in February/ March and frog and toad survey trainings will be held in Osceola, Jefferson and Cerro Gordo counties in April.
For more information visit: www.iowadnr.com/volunteerwildlifemonitoring/
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