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 which are using this seemingly ordinary pond.
All across Iowa, citizen scientists are contributing to wildlife conservation. The volunteer described above was trained through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.
“With more than 1,000 wildlife species in the state, we just don’t have enough staff to adequately monitor all the vulnerable species that we need to. This is where citizen scientists play a crucial role,” said Stephanie Shepherd, coordinator of the Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program for the Iowa DNR.
Every March and April, Shepherd travels around the state to lead training workshops that ready folks to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife.
So, what are these critical wildlife species?
Amphibians have been of concern to scientists all over the globe as these vulnerable species appear to be declining. In Iowa’s frog and toad call survey, volunteers are trained to listen to and recognize the 16 species of frogs and toads in Iowa based on their breeding calls. In 2019, volunteers surveyed 74 survey routes which translate into a little over 500 wetland sites monitored for frog and toad activity.
“The frog and toad surveyors are particularly special because, to perform the surveys, volunteers have to drive back country roads at night along a specified route with only their ears to collect the data,” Shepherd said. “I think most feel that exploring the Iowa wilds at night is a unique experience.”
Interested volunteers must register for and attend a training workshop, geared for adults. Frog and Toad Survey workshops will be held in Ringgold County on March 30, Des Moines County on April 10, and Palo Alto County on April 14. All workshops will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
For more information visit: http://www.iowadnr.com/vwmp/ or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.