Every year starting in late March to early April, the chorus begins. The Western chorus frog is usually the first to find its voice with its ascending, constantly repeating crrreeek and it is quickly, if not simultaneously joined by the soprano chirp of spring peepers or the rumbling, snoring leopard frog bass. The singers are all males, and they are trying to attract a female for mating. The chorus can be deafening, but for those of us listening it is a welcome and sure sign of spring. And every year, since 1991, at wetlands across the state, dedicated volunteers have been there, listening and collecting data on what's singing.
These volunteers are a part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Frog and Toad Call Survey. This survey is coordinated by the DNR's Wildlife Diversity program and our survey is one of the longest running in the country. In its long history, over 13,000 call surveys have been done on more than 1200 wetland sites in 82 of Iowa's 99 counties.
The value of this survey is multifaceted. The wildlife diversity program is small and without the dedication of these volunteers, it would be impossible to collect data over such a large area (statewide) and time period. The survey provides us with data that allows us to: 1) determine distribution range extensions, 2) monitor population trends and 3) have an index for water quality.
The survey was started because of serious concern over the global, precipitous decline of many amphibian species. This decline is most often attributed to ever - increasing pollution in aquatic environments. All amphibians spend at least part of their life in the water and due to their highly permeable skin they are very sensitive to pollutants. Declines can also be due to other factors such as habitat loss (Iowa has drained ~ 95% of its wetlands), or invasive species such as the bullfrog which in Iowa has been expanding its range. It is an aggressive predator of other frog and toad species.
IOWA JOINS THE NORTH AMERICAN AMPHIBIAN MONITORING PROGRAM - NEW IN 2010!
In the 19th year of the survey, Iowa will take the next step in monitoring the most vocal representatives of our wetland resources. The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program or NAAMP for short has 23 participating states and has designated approximately 80 randomly scattered routes in Iowa. Each route needs a volunteer surveyor, who will drive the route 3 times each spring and summer. Surveys are run at night and at each of the ten wetland stops the volunteer records what frogs and toads are singing after 5 minutes of listening. It's a really fun way to explore the outdoors at night and the data collected on these routes are used not only in Iowa but at the regional and national level to monitor amphibian populations.
Interested in getting involved?
There are a couple of ways to volunteer for a NAAMP route. Check out the map of available routes and pick one near you and then contact the state coordinator to volunteer. If you feel you'd like a little more introduction, we hold training workshops every spring in various locations around the state as a part of our Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP) [Hyperlink to Volunteer Monitoring Page]. Keep an eye on the website for dates and locations. To find out more about the VWMP or to sign up for a frog and toad route contact the state coordinator, Stephanie Shepherd at 515-432-2823 x 102, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your interest!
A note to current frog and toad volunteers:
We will still continue to collect data on the current routes and with the current methodology so nothing should change for you! However, you may discontinue your current route and pick up a NAAMP route if you would like. Just let Stephanie know!
Iowa's Frog and Toad Call Survey - 10 Year Report, 1994-2003
Iowa's Frog and Toad Call Survey - 2008-2009 Report
Online Data Entry for NAAMP
NAAMP Online Quiz