FrogWatch helps volunteers identify frogs, toads in Derry area
As surprising as it may seem with steady snow blanketing the area, a flurry of activity from Western Pennsylvania's 13 native species of frogs and toads could start within the next few weeks.
With that in mind, conservation education specialists from the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and other FrogWatch USA chapters throughout the country are getting a jump on training volunteers to collect data for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' flagship citizen science program.
The program lets individuals contribute to a large-scale scientific research project on a flexible schedule that requires only a few minutes per week. Volunteers are not required to listen on the same days and times each week, making the FrogWatch program more convenient.
Lori Pepka, an education specialist at the Pittsburgh Zoo, conducted a training workshop Feb. 8 at Keystone State Park in Derry Township to help volunteers learn to identify frogs and toads in the area by ear.
Volunteers at the training at Keystone learned about Western Pennsylvania frog and toad species and were able to listen to calls of all 13 species.
“Nature and animals, their movements — it's something I'm interested in anyway on an amateur kind of level,” said Kara Bullen of North Huntingdon, who attended the training with her sister Sasha Lencoski of Latrobe. “It's just nice for us to be part of something bigger rather than me just standing in my backyard and thinking about it myself. I feel like I'm part of something larger.”
“I thought it was really informative,” Lencoski said. “The frog calls were interesting. That was the best part. There were a lot I thought ‘Oh, I've heard that, but I didn't know it was a frog.' ”
Pepka brought along a stinkpot turtle and an Amazon milk frog for volunteers to check out after the training.
FrogWatch volunteers are asked to spend a few minutes twice a week listening and submitting data on the frog and toad calls they hear emanating from wetland areas during the calling season for the amphibians.
“Citizen science really is just trying to get people into science that maybe would not typically be part of it,” said Grace Fields, Pittsburgh Zoo conservation education specialist. “By having multiple people doing small parts in a research study like this, you can actually gather huge amounts of data nationwide.”
New for this year, FrogWatch USA has introduced an online FieldScope database, which lets volunteers submit their data directly and see other volunteers' listening sites. Previously, volunteers sent their data to organizers who were responsible for entering the data.
Monitoring amphibian populations is important because they are ecological indicators of environmental health. According to the FrogWatch volunteer training manual, amphibians' “permeable skin and eggs, as well as their complex life cycles in water and on land, are particularly sensitive to pollution, diseases, ultraviolet light, and microscopic organisms.”
Pepka compared amphibians' sensitivity to environmental influences with the historical practice of miners bringing a caged canary underground as an early warning of poor air quality.
“I think one of the greatest things about it is it brings awareness to people about the species in the area and the conservation issues that they face,” Fields said of the FrogWatch program. “Amphibians are one of the species right now that are facing the biggest decline in population.
“Technically, our listening season runs February through August,” she said. “You do need the temperature to be above 35 degrees, I believe, so we haven't hit that (yet).”
While many of the species covered in the training are common enough that their calls and names are familiar to most of the population, others are far more rare.
“One of the endangered species we can be listening for are northern cricket frogs,” Fields said. “It has been occasionally heard in this area. It's not something that's heard consistently.”
The northern cricket frog was added to Pennsylvania's list of endangered species in 2010.
The zoo conducted FrogWatch training seminars at Raccoon State Park's Wildflower Reserve Center on Feb. 15 and at Jennings Environmental Education Center on the next day. A training session is set for the zoo's Education Complex on Feb. 22. All training sessions start at 12:30 p.m.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Latrobe freshman’s Eagle Scout’s veterans memorial inspired by grandfather
- Greater Latrobe, Derry Area, Ligonier Valley officials weigh latest state statistics
- Latrobe’s Rossi Field shines as host of WPIAL football playoffs