Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP)

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.

More: Volunteer Wildlife Monitor Program Brochure

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 a few important and sensitive groups of wildlife: Bald Eagles/Ospreys/Peregrine Falcons, Frogs and Toads, and Bats.

Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Workshops

Please read all instructions below carefully before registering.
In 2023, we will be hosting one virtual bald eagle nest monitoring workshop and 4 frog and toad call survey workshops, two virtual and two in person in Clayton and Buena Vista Counties. Registration is currently open for the Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring workshop only.

Frog and Toad Call Survey Workshops
Anyone interested in participating in the Frog and Toad Call Survey must attend a training. In person workshops are limited to 15 participants, virtual workshops to 25 households* each. Registration will close when that number of registrants has been reached.

* By "household" this means that more than 1 person in the same space can attend the zoom under 1 registration.


Frog and Toad workshop schedule and registration will be available soon!


Bird Nest Monitoring Workshops
Anyone interested in being a bald eagle nest monitor must participate in some training. This workshop will be held virtually using the zoom platform. Attendance is limited to 25 households and the cost to attend is $5 + fees (total cost will be between $6.50 and $7.00). You only need to register once per household (please do not enter a separate registration for everyone in your household that will attend). Volunteers are particularly needed in the following counties: Allamakee, Appanoose, Chicaksaw, Clayton, Delaware, Howard, Linn, Lucas, Johnson, Jones, Marion, Monroe, Wayne, and Winneshiek. A map of nests that may need a monitor is below.

Workshop Details:

  • February 19, 2023 | 1:00pm to 4:00 pm | online workshop using zoom:
    Please register only one person per household. Participants will learn about bald eagles in iowa and the protocols for monitoring an eagle nest site. After the workshop, all participants will be given an opportunity to sign up as a nest monitor. We can not guarantee that there will be an eagle nest needing a monitor close to all participants homes. Register for the February 19, 2023 Workshop


Bald Eagle Nests that Need Monitors, map of locations
Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring

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

Questions?
 vwmp@dnr.iowa.gov

Eagle Nest Monitoring, Video

[20 Minutes]
Ravenswood Media


Bald Eagle Nest Reporting

The DNR is always interested in receiving reports of Bald Eagle Nests in the state. We maintain a database of nests and are interested in keeping it as up to date as possible. The information we are interested in is the exact location of the nest, whether the nest is being used by eagles and if young are present how many and the date of your observation. To report a nest, please click the button below to use an interactive map to report the nest or download and use the form:

Report a Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle Nest Reporting Form
Bald Eagle Nest Reporting Form
How to Identify a Bald Eagle Nest

If you are interested in “adopting” and formally monitoring the nest as a volunteer for the DNR, please visit the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program webpage for information on bird nest monitoring.

To talk to someone about reporting eagle nests in Iowa contact:
Boone Wildlife Research Station
1436 255th St., Boone, IA 50036
vwmp@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-230-6599


If you like this program...

Here are some other programs that may interest you:

Volunteer Water monitoring 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!

Resources for Current Volunteers

The following are resources for current volunteer wildlife monitors.

VWMP Online Database Link

Frog and Toad Survey
Frog and Toad Survey
(Datasheet)


Bird Nest Monitoring:
Nesting Location Form w/out Map

Bald Eagle Nest - Data Sheet

Nest Monitoring Form
(Falcon and Osprey Survey)

Bird Nest Monitoring Survey
(Colonial Waterbird: Datasheet)


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!

Volunteers interested in becoming Bald Eagle nest monitors but who cannot attend one of the offered training workshops may receive training through this video and associated materials. To participate in the survey you must:

  1. CONTACT: Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program Coordinators about getting a nest assignment either by VWMP@dnr.iowa.gov or calling 515-230-6599
     
  2. WATCH: Watch the 20 minute training video (hosted by YouTube) or request a hardcopy of the video from coordinators.
     
  3. READ: Download, read through and use all the materials found within the Full Reference Guide (Full guide includes all documents listed here individually)

For other conservation agencies or organizations: The video and accompanying materials are available for use and adaptation by your organization. Please contact the Iowa Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program coordinators to request a cd of all documents and media.

The Iowa Frog and Toad Call Survey is a volunteer-based survey that provides interested Iowa residents a unique opportunity the explore Iowa’s nature at night and use only their ears to detect wildlife.  Volunteer wildlife monitors have been collecting data on Iowa’s frogs and toads since 1991, which helps track how well our amphibians are doing as well as how they react to changes in their world, such as changes to land use or because of climate change.


WHY?
Amphibians globally are on the decline and there is ample evidence that they are sensitive to environmental changes. Frogs and toads are relatively easy to survey because during the breeding season they sing! Each species can be identified by its own unique song. Combine that with the fact that in Iowa there are only about 16 species of frog and toad you could hear, they make an excellent amphibian group for wide scale, volunteer monitoring!


HOW DOES THE SURVEY WORK?
Volunteer monitors survey a series of 5-10 wet areas along a driving route.  New volunteers can create their own route or there are a number of existing routes which need monitors.  Every year, you would drive along your assigned route at night and stop at each wet site, recording all the species of frog and toad you hear calling. This survey is repeated three times within set windows during the spring and early summer (April to mid-July). You would than repeat this series of surveys on the same route each year for as long as you are willing.  


WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BECOME A VOLUNTEER FROG AND TOAD MONITOR?
Commitment to learn:  
• You must attend a survey training session or have previous experience with conducting a frog and toad call survey. Trainings are usually offered in March and early April with at least two virtual sessions done online and then an opportunity or two for an in-person training.  The in-person trainings move around the state each year. Trainings are between 2.5 to 3 hours long.
• You must commit to learning the calls for most of the frog and toad species in Iowa.  You will be provided with a cd or digital audio files for each of the species’ breeding calls in Iowa. 
Time:
• Surveys are run at night. Be sure you are comfortable driving, and being outside, particularly in rural areas in the dark. 
• In the first year, the time commitment includes training, getting acquainted with your survey route, performing the surveys and finally submitting data through the online portal. This adds up to roughly 10-12 hours of time depending on the distance from your home to your route. Beyond year 1, that time commitment is likely closer to 6-8 hours each year. 
• There are three survey windows. You must survey your route once during each window:
o WINDOW 1: April 1- May 1
o WINDOW 2: May 7 – June 7
o WINDOW 3: June 13 - July 13
Organization and Computer Skills
• You must be able to make sure all three runs of the survey are conducted.
• You need to completely fill out each survey datasheet and keep track of them throughout the survey season.
• At the end of the season, you must be able to enter your data into our online survey portal AND mail in your paper data sheets to us. 


INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED?
Plan to attend one of the training sessions which will be posted on the webpage or send an email to vwmp@dnr.iowa.gov to ask to be placed on a notification list once workshops are scheduled.
If you have questions you can call or email the survey coordinator at vwmp@dnr.iowa.gov.


More Survey Information and Available Routes

In 2015, the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program began a partnership 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.