It’s 10:00 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 the state of Iowa, community scientists are making enormous contributions to wildlife conservation. The volunteer described above was trained through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP). Program Coordinator Stephanie Shepherd explains, “With more than 1000 wildlife species in the state, we just don’t have enough staff in the DNR to adequately monitor all the vulnerable species that we need to. This is where citizen scientists play a crucial role.” Every March and April, Shepherd leads several 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 because these vulnerable critters 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. Over the 30 years the survey has covered, volunteers have collected data on over 2,200 wetland sites. “The frog and toad surveyors are particularly special because to perform the surveys they have to drive back country roads at night along a specified route with only their ears to collect data with,” Shepherd says. “I think most feel that exploring the Iowa wilds at night is a unique experience and opportunity.”
If you are interested in getting involved, volunteers must register for one training workshop, which is most appropriate for adults and teens.
The DNR is fortunate to have a partnership with Pottawattamie County Conservation Board this year to host a workshop at the Hitchcock Nature Area. The workshop will be held on April 5th, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm.
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