Since its founding in 2000, the Calling Frog Survey’s mission has been to train and engage community scientists to contribute to our understanding of the breeding distributions of local frog species, to monitor long-term trends in frog breeding populations, and to improve our understanding of frog response to habitat restoration and land management.
About the Calling Frog Survey
In the 1960s, the cricket frog was the most common amphibian in Illinois. Today, it has nearly disappeared from the northern third of Illinois, for unexplained reasons. In 2000, Chicago Wilderness initiated a calling frog survey as part of its amphibian biodiversity recovery plan. In 2014, the Calling Frog Survey became part of the Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s roster of community science initiatives.
The overarching goal of the Calling Frog Survey is to establish calling frog survey routes throughout the Chicago region, resulting in amphibian abundance and distribution data. In particular, the Survey wants to continue monitoring sites that have thus far been monitored regularly, so that we can obtain long-term data on amphibian trends within key sites.
Data from the Calling Frog Survey will be used to guide regional conservation planning and local land management, to ensure that no other amphibian suffers the fate of the cricket frog.
How are Researchers Using this Data?
Data from the Calling Frog Survey was recently used by a Northern Illinois University master’s student, Susan Lawrence, to identify habitat characteristics that promote spring peeper oviposition. She reviewed our data to find sites that had at least five years of spring peepers with full breeding choruses and nearby sites that lacked spring peepers over a similar length of time. She used the data to identify paired spring peeper and non-peeper sites in several Chicagoland counties and then measured habitat characteristics including pond size, water chemistry, tree canopy openness, and emergent vegetation. She found that canopy openness and amounts of emergent vegetation were greater in the spring peeper sites.
This information will be used by partner agencies to guide additional restoration efforts to promote spring peepers or to improve sites from which they have been lost with canopy closure.
What Do Calling Frog Survey Volunteers Do?
First, volunteers are given background on the amphibian life cycle, natural history of the 13 local frog species, and are taught how to identify frog species by the calls and by their physical characteristics. Then, volunteers are taught the survey protocol, how to set up a monitoring route, and the proper conditions for monitoring in the evenings.
After attending these training sessions, volunteers record all frogs and toads they observe along their route on a standardized form. They will survey their route at least three times, at least once per observation round. The observation rounds overlap with different species’ breeding periods, allowing volunteers to get the greatest number of observations possible. These observations are then submitted at the end of the season.
Between 80 and 100 volunteers observe and contribute their data to the Calling Frog Survey per year.
How Can I Get Involved?
Become a volunteer, and help spot local frogs and toads. Beginners and intermediate community scientists are welcome to participate. Training workshops are announced before the observation season begins. Click the button below to learn more about procedures and workshops as they are scheduled.