Volunteers with keen ears are needed to help the Iowa Department of Natural Resources track the state’s populations of frogs and toads — as another way to monitor water quality.

Graduates of the DNR’s so-called Frog and Toad School learn to identify the critters by their calls, like the Boreal Chorus Frog, the American Bullfrog and the Eastern Gray Tree Frog. Wildlife diversity biologist Stephanie Shepherd says volunteers are most needed in northeastern and northwestern Iowa.

“They are assigned a route, which is basically a collection of wetland sites, and they drive to each wetland site and just stop on the road. They get out of the car and they just stand on the road and listen to the wetland site for five minutes and then they move to the next spot,” Shepherd says. “It’s done at night and people are trained to identify what frogs they hear by their unique calls.”

Volunteers will just need to make three trips during the spring and early summer, a total commitment of between eight and ten hours a year. That’s not bad, she says, considering you’re just listening to the pleasant sounds of pond life. “What we’re listening to is the males’ advertisement calls or attraction calls,” Shepherd says. “So basically, they’re making a lot of noise hoping to let the nearby females, that are of the same species, let them know that they’re there and to come on by for a visit.”

The ideal volunteer is interested in the outdoors, detail-oriented, and patient, she says. They’ll also need good note-taking skills and a computer with an internet connection.  “There’s only about 17 species of frog and toad in Iowa, which, that may sound like a lot,” Shepherd says, “but compared to birds for example, which there’s almost 400 species of bird in the state, that’s actually a pretty reasonable number.” She says Iowans have collected data on more than 2,200 wetlands through the program since 1991, providing an incredible record of activity.

Two in-person courses are scheduled in the coming weeks: April 4th in Clayton County at the Osborne Nature Center, and April 11th in Buena Vista County at Gabrielson Park. There is a $5 fee to cover workshop materials. The courses begin at 6:30 p.m. and run for about three hours.

To register, visit: https://programs.iowadnr.gov/vwmp/Home/Registration

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