Frogs and toads play important roles in wetland ecosystems, and are also indicators of a healthy environment. Across the country, many frog populations have drastically declined. That’s why volunteers with our Family Community Program decided to become frog scientists with FrogWatch, a citizen science program coordinated by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that provides data essential to scientists to understand the scope, geographic scale, and cause of these declines. Participating in FrogWatch is fun and easy, and anyone can do it no matter where they live.
Last Friday, a group of 30 of us spent the evening listening for frogs out at the Zoo’s EcOhio Farm where we’ve been working to restore native wetland habitat. Despite the chilly temperatures, we heard lots of spring peepers as well as a northern leopard frog and a western chorus frog.
After a quick walk around the wetlands before sunset to familiarize ourselves with the landscape, we then spent some time in the barn learning what the calls of the different Ohio frog species sound like. As we played the calls from a laptop, local herpetologist, Jeff Davis, was on hand to lend his expertise and provide tips on how to distinguish between the calls of different species. Did you know that the call of the western chorus frog sounds like someone running their finger over the teeth of a comb? Listen below!
Then we split into six small groups and headed out to collect data. First, we stood completely still and silent for two minutes to let the frogs acclimate to our presence. During the three minutes immediately following that period of silence, we then listened intently to identify which frog species were calling. We were fortunate to have four graduate students from Miami University who study frogs along with us to confirm our findings.
The first thing we learned is that it’s awfully hard to stand absolutely still and quiet for five minutes straight! In addition to frogs, we also heard lots of geese honking, dogs barking and traffic. Amazingly, in the midst of all this, frogs are finding and making a home in these restored wetlands. A great lesson to be learned is that if you build a better home for wildlife, the animals will move in and make it their own.
Once each group finished collecting data, we returned to the barn to compile it. In addition to the list of frog species we heard, we also recorded the intensity of the calls and weather conditions. Then we submitted our data online to FrogWatch.
Our service wrapped up with a meet and greet with some local amphibians that Jeff Davis brought along with him. How fun it was to see the actual frogs we heard calling up close. Who knew that the super loud spring peepers were so tiny!
Sound like fun? We’d love for you to join our Family Community Service program; learn how to get involved here. Next up, we’ll be lending a hand to clean up the Avondale neighborhood surrounding the Zoo on April 28, and then we’ll be back out to EcOhio Farm on May 5 to participate in a Global Big Day of birding.