Contact(s): Andrew Badje, DNR conservation biologist, 715-921-5886
MADISON - Each spring for the past 35 years a small army of citizen scientists (or froggers, as they proudly call themselves) head out into the darkness to survey seasonal wetlands, marshes, lakes, and rivers to help DNR conservation biologists document the breeding calls of frog and toads throughout Wisconsin.
"Once again, it's time for volunteers to lend us their ears," says Andrew Badje, the DNR conservation biologist who coordinates DNR's Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey. "The information volunteers provide is essential to monitoring and conserving frog and toads in Wisconsin."
Volunteers can participate in three separate but related efforts; more details are available on the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey web site (exit DNR):
The Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey was launched in 1984 amid concerns of declining populations of several species of frogs. Through the survey, citizen scientists have helped DNR conservation biologists define the distribution, status, and population trends of all 12 frog and toad species in the state.
"Our froggers have also really become advocates for frogs and toads," Badje says. "They survey upwards of four routes in all corners of the state, bring their children and grandchildren on fun nighttime frog calling excursions, and provide numerous frog and toad educational presentations at local libraries and nature centers.
"A few hardy 'uberfroggers' have even been surveying for 38 years, longer than I've been alive," Badje says. "With this level of enthusiasm, there is no doubt why this survey is the longest running citizen science amphibian calling survey in North America."
Citizen scientists are essential to understanding frog populations in Wisconsin
Since volunteers started collecting data in 1984, they've spent more than 9,200 nights surveying 91,000 sites, Badje says. "Without the level of monitoring volunteers can help provide, DNR would have a more difficult time assessing how well our current conservation measures are working."
Volunteers are currently documenting the highest levels of American bullfrogs and Blanchard's cricket frogs since the survey began, a sign that proactive conservation measures for these two species are likely paying off.
Volunteers have been instrumental in documenting new populations of Blanchard's cricket frogs along the Mississippi River in recent years, and in places they haven't been documented in over 30 years.
And volunteer data has documented a long-term decline for the northern leopard frog over the 35-year survey, while showing that spring peepers, boreal chorus frogs and green frogs have been on more stable paths since the survey began.
Read more about the survey and its results in the April 2016 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.