by Katrina Weinig
Frogs and toads are extremely sensitive to environmental changes, and as a result of increased pollution in freshwater sources and other threats, there’s been a worldwide decline in amphibian species, with one out of every three species at risk of extinction. Their very sensitivity makes them ideal neighbors, however, as the presence, variety, and number of amphibians in a stream, pond, or other wetland are important indicators of water quality and the overall health of the environment.
FrogWatch USA was established in 1998 as a national citizen science program to monitor and collect data on frog and toad species in cities and towns across the country. The Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) has actively implemented a local chapter of the program in the Washington DC metro region and, in the spring of 2016, Broad Branch Stream was designated as one of 15 local FrogWatch sites monitored by volunteer citizen scientists.
Rachel Gauza Gronert, the Fish and Wildlife biologist who is managing the DOEE’s FrogWatch program, conducted a training session for volunteers at Broad Branch Stream last spring. Participants learned how to identify frog and toad species by the sound of their calls. Following the training, each volunteer was asked to visit his/her designated site at least three evenings during the spring and summer months.
Volunteers followed a simple protocol of quietly listening to the calling frogs and toads for three minutes, recording the species they heard, ranking their calling activity level, and submitting this record to DOEE for entry to the national FrogWatch USA online database.
Five frog and toad species were documented by DOEE FrogWatch volunteers at the Broad Branch Stream monitoring site, including the American bullfrog, American toad, green frog, pickerel frog, and one of the gray treefrog species. Other species, such as spring peeper, were heard outside of the monitoring site.
This was an exciting development, as it suggests that the habitat restoration work along Broad Branch Stream has had a positive impact on the stream’s water quality. In addition, amphibians help control insect populations such as mosquitoes, and provide food for birds and other animals.
Ms. Gauza Gronert intends to expand FrogWatch monitoring along Broad Branch Stream in 2017, and has applied for a permit from the National Park Service (NPS) to designate up to ten separate monitoring sites along the steam.
A training for current and new volunteers will take place in early March, after which volunteers will be encouraged to “adopt” one of these ten sites. Location and scheduling details for the training will be available in early February.
Meanwhile, visit the DOEE FrogWatch homepage at doee.dc.gov/service/frogwatch to learn more and explore additional resources.