Join the Chorus: Volunteers Needed for Large-Scale Monitoring of a Small-Scale Frog

By Kaitlyn Hall, Species At Risk Technician at Blazing Star Environmental

With the shortest days of winter behind us, biologists everywhere are itching to leave the office and return to the great outdoors. As the ice melts away, the first of the spring frogs, including the very small western chorus frog (WCF), will start calling. While rejoicing at hearing such a familiar sound, our team at Blazing Star Environmental will dust off our notebooks, sharpen our pencils, and pull on our rainboots to eagerly greet the frogs!

For the past two years, Blazing Star Environmental has partnered with Canadian Wildlife Service and Trent University to create a volunteer-based, long-term, range-wide monitoring program for the WCF. We are excited to announce that spring of 2020 is the launch of this program! Now you might ask, “Why put in such a large-scale effort for such a small-scale frog?”

Western Chorus frog_Scott Gillingwater (3).JPG

Western chorus frogs are about 1-4cm in size, and can be identified by three dark, sometimes broken, stripes down their back. They typically have a white upper-lip, and a dark stripe from the tip of the snout to the groin area. Photo credit: Scott Gillingwater.

Frogs are especially sensitive to the environment around them because they have very thin, absorbent skin. For this reason, they can indicate the health of an ecosystem. Unfortunately, the WCF is listed as threatened in Canada. Threats to the WCF include habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution (e.g. herbicides and road salt), and pathogens (e.g. Ranavirus). The purpose of this long-term monitoring program is to collect data that will allow the conservation community to quickly detect and respond to WCF range declines over time.

Habitat.jpg

This is an example of western chorus frog habitat. It may not look like much to you and I, but this species tends to be found in small, temporary (ephemeral or vernal) wetlands. Photo credit: Kaitlyn Hall.

The success of this program will rely on a strong foundation of dedicated and passionate volunteers across the WCF range (see map). The total range of the WCF is approximately 170,990 km2 (COSEWIC, 2008)! Our small team is unable to survey this large area in the short WCF calling period. We need your help to conduct daytime call surveys for this long-term monitoring program!

WCF distribution.PNG

This map is from the WCF COSEWIC assessment and update status report (2008), and shows the western chorus frog range in Ontario. Note that there are many areas that would benefit from newer information. Join this initiative to have direct conservation impact through updating this data! 

As a volunteer, you will conduct short auditory surveys for WCF. You will be able to pick your preferred number of sites and your preferred travel distance. Our staff will provide training materials, the survey protocol, and site selection assistance, if needed. We will also alert you when WCF begin calling in your area.

We invite you to pull on your rainboots and leap into the 2020 field season by joining the chorus, and volunteering with the WCF long-term monitoring program! If you are interested in participating in this program and would like to learn more, email info@blazingstar.ca today!

#JoinTheChorus

Author Bio: Kaitlyn Hall

Kaitlyn Hall.jpg

Kaitlyn’s passion for wildlife led her to a career in herpetofauna conservation. She specializes in the inventory, monitoring, and recovery of species at risk reptiles in Ontario. She is currently a Species At Risk Technician at Blazing Star Environmental.