Monday, November 24, 2008

Volunteers With Ear, Heart For Frogs Sought For Survey

The frogs are calling. The question is, will Georgians who know what they’re hearing answer?

The second year of a calling frog survey in Georgia starts Jan. 15. There are 78 survey routes but only about 30 volunteers lined up to cover them. John Jensen, a senior wildlife biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, needs some 50 more listeners who can decipher the croaks, trills and peeps of Georgia’s 31 frog species.

It’s not as hard as it sounds. “They’re a lot easier to learn than birds,” Jensen said, explaining that the season, place and call patterns trim the list of frogs that might be sounding off.

The effort is important. The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program survey developed by the U.S. Geological Survey is aimed at tracking regional and national trends in frog distribution and abundance. Given the sensitivity of amphibians to air and water quality changes, those trends can signal environmental problems and shape conservation priorities.

But in Georgia, baseline data is needed first. “You’ve got to know what you’ve got before you know where it’s going,” Jensen said. Which means more survey volunteers with an ear and even a heart for frogs.

Before being assigned one of the pre-set routes scattered across the state, participants must pass an online quiz testing their ability to audibly identify frog species. Helpful resources include http://www.ugapress.org/AmphibsandReptiles.html, which features recordings and photographs as a supplement to the new reference “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia.” The DNR Wildlife Resources Division also has available the compact disk "Calls of the Wild – Vocalizations of Georgia's Frogs.” The “public” quiz at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/frogquiz/ allows would-be monitors to test drive their skills.

Volunteers are asked to commit to the survey for at least three years, underscoring the need for consistency in citizen-science projects. Routes are run three nights a year, once each in three call periods: Jan. 15-Feb. 28, March 15-April 30 and May 15-June 30.

To sign up or find out more, contact Jensen at Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section in Forsyth, (478) 994-1438 or john.jensen@gadnr.org. Details on the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program are available at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp/.

Copies of “Calls of the Wild” are $15.36 each, including sales tax and shipping. Mail a check payable to Wildlife Conservation Fund to GA DNR/WRD, Nongame Conservation Section, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth, GA 31029, ATTN: Frogs of Georgia CD.

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