Love Songs and Citizen Science

February 23, 2021

Citizen Science Goes to the Frogs!

By WPNC Naturalist Kim Bailey

 

Love Songs 

Believe it or not, amateur herpetologists* contribute citizen science data in the coldest months of the year. In January and February, when the weather is right (42 degrees or warmer), volunteers venture out into the night to listen for the love songs of frogs. Males gather at ponds, wetlands, and ephemeral puddles to increase their chances of finding a female. They then begin to sing, with hopes that a female will find his song the most attractive and choose him as her mate. If you've been outside on a warm day this year, you may have already heard chorus frogs or spring peepers singing en masse. These tiny tree frogs congregate long before other species are even thinking about it!

*herpetologist - a person who studies reptiles and amphibians. 

Ideal Environmental Indicators

Recording the presence of breeding frogs is officially called The Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Program (TAMP) - a joint program of MTSU's Center for Environmental Education and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). 

Frogs have porous skin which means they absorb water (and any chemicals present) directly through their skin. This makes them ideal environmental indicators. If their numbers decline, it is a good indication of pollution in their environment, highlighting the importance of TAMP. 

TAMP is an aural survey rather than a visual survey with strict protocols to follow. You may see ten green frogs in the pond; but if they aren't singing, they are not counted. The purpose of the program is to record the frogs that are actually breeding--and only breeding frogs sing! 

 

Froglogging at the WPNC

Naturalists at the nature center, primarily Melissa Donahue and I, conduct our own survey four times a year, and we call it "froglogging". Learning the distinctive calls of each species has made identification a much easier task. No visual necessary - which is good news, because frogs are adept at hiding in plain sight.

Knowing their songs also turns the night's symphony of sounds into familiar voices. In spring, cricket chirps weave among the spring peepers and American toads. In the summer, katydids and night hawks compete with the low "Jug-o-rum" of the American bullfrog, the trilling of gray tree frogs or the whiny "Awww" of Fowler's toads. It's like hearing the voices of friends.

You ,Too, Can Contribute

TAMP depends on citizen scientists to do this labor of love, so you too can be awed by the night sky on a spring night while surrounded by the croaks, trills and snores of Tennessee's amphibian population. Click here and/or call the nature center for more information. Citizen science is fun and rewarding and we encourage you to participate!

Love Songs and Citizen Science

February 23, 2021

Citizen Science Goes to the Frogs!

By WPNC Naturalist Kim Bailey

 

Love Songs 

Believe it or not, amateur herpetologists* contribute citizen science data in the coldest months of the year. In January and February, when the weather is right (42 degrees or warmer), volunteers venture out into the night to listen for the love songs of frogs. Males gather at ponds, wetlands, and ephemeral puddles to increase their chances of finding a female. They then begin to sing, with hopes that a female will find his song the most attractive and choose him as her mate. If you've been outside on a warm day this year, you may have already heard chorus frogs or spring peepers singing en masse. These tiny tree frogs congregate long before other species are even thinking about it!

*herpetologist - a person who studies reptiles and amphibians. 

Ideal Environmental Indicators

Recording the presence of breeding frogs is officially called The Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Program (TAMP) - a joint program of MTSU's Center for Environmental Education and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). 

Frogs have porous skin which means they absorb water (and any chemicals present) directly through their skin. This makes them ideal environmental indicators. If their numbers decline, it is a good indication of pollution in their environment, highlighting the importance of TAMP. 

TAMP is an aural survey rather than a visual survey with strict protocols to follow. You may see ten green frogs in the pond; but if they aren't singing, they are not counted. The purpose of the program is to record the frogs that are actually breeding--and only breeding frogs sing! 

 

Froglogging at the WPNC

Naturalists at the nature center, primarily Melissa Donahue and I, conduct our own survey four times a year, and we call it "froglogging". Learning the distinctive calls of each species has made identification a much easier task. No visual necessary - which is good news, because frogs are adept at hiding in plain sight.

Knowing their songs also turns the night's symphony of sounds into familiar voices. In spring, cricket chirps weave among the spring peepers and American toads. In the summer, katydids and night hawks compete with the low "Jug-o-rum" of the American bullfrog, the trilling of gray tree frogs or the whiny "Awww" of Fowler's toads. It's like hearing the voices of friends.

You ,Too, Can Contribute

TAMP depends on citizen scientists to do this labor of love, so you too can be awed by the night sky on a spring night while surrounded by the croaks, trills and snores of Tennessee's amphibian population. Click here and/or call the nature center for more information. Citizen science is fun and rewarding and we encourage you to participate!

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