Despite the name, the spring peeper is not the first frog Iowan’s can expect to hear this year — that honor traditionally goes to the chorus frog.
The difference is in the amphibian’s call. The spring peeper can easily be mistaken for chirping crickets, but a chorus frog’s call is more like the sound heard when running your thumb across the small teeth of a pocket comb.
While knowing the distinct calls of Iowa’s 16 species of frogs and toads may seem trivial, Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife diversity biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said being able to properly identify specific species is necessary to collect data on Iowa’s amphibians.
Much of that data is collected by volunteers, said Shepherd, the state’s Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program coordinator.
“The survey really helps us keep an eye on the species and trends. ... It’s also helped us track the distribution of the species,” she said.
Tracking Iowa’s frogs and toads takes a statewide effort, carried out in large part by volunteers. The state has been collecting frog and toad data since 1991, and last year the survey covered 411 sites statewide.
With that in mind, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources next month will host workshops to make sure there are enough volunteers helping the state maintain its toad and frog log.
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Workshops, which include a $5 fee for materials, are required to take part in the frog and toad call survey, and will be held on the following dates in Wapello, Scott, Boone and Sioux counties:
• April 2: 6:30-9:30 p.m., Pioneer Ridge Nature Center, 1339 Highway 63, Bloomfield.
• April 8: 6:30-9:30 p.m., Wapsi River Environmental Center, 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon.
• April 9: 6:30-9:30 p.m., Boone Wildlife Research Station, 1436 255th St, Boone.
• April 13: Hawarden. 1-4 p.m., Sioux County Conservation’s Oak Grove Lodge, 4051 Cherry Ave.
Shepherd said workshops are scheduled in locations most in need of volunteers.
Ultimately, participants will learn about the volunteer survey program and how to identify frogs and toads by sight and sound.
Volunteers will go out three nights spread across the summer to listen for frog and toad calls and report their findings.
But why is it so important to track frogs and toads?
Shepherd said the amphibian survey can be used in the study of habitats, water quality and even climate change.
“Amphibians have a lot of challenges stacked up against them,” she said. “They’re obviously water-dependent. They have this really close tie to water and are pretty vulnerable to loss of wetland habitat and also any water quality issues.”
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