Amphibian Monitoring Program


Last Updated 4/11/17
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frog

Background Info

During the first warm, rainy nights of spring, over half a dozen different species of frogs and salamanders make a mass migration from their wintering sites in upland habitats to vernal pools and other suitable breeding grounds.  Due to habitat fragmentation by roads, a vast number of frogs and salamanders are inadvertently killed each year trying to cross through the traffic.  Road mortality is painfully high, destroying entire populations or limiting their success rate.  Add to this increased development and higher road usage, and the scales are tipped squarely against these animals.  The objectives of this program are to educate the public about this little-known mass migration, and to recruit volunteers to assist our four-legged friends in their dangerous journey.

Program History

In spring 2005 NBNC piloted an amphibian rescue program.  Over 60 central Vermonters came to an informational training at the nature center to learn how to help amphibians safely cross roads.  Over 30 volunteers sent in reports from locations throughout the region.  In spring 2006, we brought our mission to other communities, hosting training sessions in Northfield, Stowe, Jericho, and Waterbury. In 2007 we held trainings in Waitsfield, Calais, Roxbury and Marshfield where we identified new crossing sites and recruited new volunteers. More new communities hosted trainings in 2008-2012, with over 400 people attending trainings.

 

News

4/11/17

Where have amphibians moved already?

In the last few years, there have been many new ways to report and receive information about amphibian migration. In the context of road monitoring, most of these resources don't capture the same level of detail, but they offer a great opportunity to see the wave of amphibians moving north throughout the spring. A few of these resources are linked below:
  • Amphibian Tracker 2017 - A project out of UConn, great for seeing what is happening to our south, but doesn't seem to have much data from New England.
  • iNaturalist.org - Has been growing exponentially and shows nature observations from around the world. This link filters for amphibian observations made in 2017, of which there are quite a few from the Champlain Valley already this year. Zoom in to Vermont on the map to explore them!

You can submit your observations to either of these projects, but to capture the most thorough and useful data possible, our online data submission captures important details catered to amphibian road migration and is shared with Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.

When/where will amphibians move next?



Conditions can change rapidly this time of year, and a few hot days can melt snow fast! Peeprs and Wood Frogs are calling in the Champlain Valley (with many still to migrate) and parts of central Vermont that have thawed sufficiently could see their first activity of the year soon. 



In the Champlain Valley: If the rain comes after nightfall, as expected, there could continued large movements of amphibians.

In Central Vermont: Some sites in central Vermont that have thawed sufficiently (river valleys, most likely, but possibly mid-elevations as well) could see activity if the evening rains materialize, but other spots where the ground is still too frozen may not. With melting occurring so rapidly, and a lot of variation from place to place, it is tough to predict where to expect activity, but be on the lookout!

After tonight, based on the current weather forecast, the next possible activity could come over the weekend.

4/4/17

It is hard to believe that over a month ago, frogs and salamander were making their way across some New England roads in record-breaking early migrations (see here and here). Thankfully, this unprecedentedly early activity was extremely limited. A blizzard and a few cold/snowy weeks later, seasonable weather will have amphibians moving close to their expected times. In the Champlain Valley, that means this week could see the first widespread activity as snow rapidly melts.

Keep in mind that local conditions dictate when amphibians will become active and these can vary widely even within a short distance. So keep an eye on the weather and be sure to let us know when amphibians start moving in your area!

4/7/16

Migration Forecast: TONIGHT!
  
Despite the brief reprise of winter this past week, amphibians are primed for movement in the Champlain Valley and even some central Vermont locations that have sufficiently thawed. Tonight's forecast looks excellent for amphibian movement in much of the state, excluding some of the colder sites in central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. 

If you do go out, please be sure to report your findings!

Where should I Go?

Because we have so many sites that are so spread out, we do not guarantee supervision at any one site but instead encourage volunteers to independently seek out a site close to them. Each season we add to our archive of known crossing sites, which is a great place to start. But we also encourage volunteers to help us discover new sites. We have provided some tools to assist with this in our training videos, but if you want to be bold and help discover a new site, you should be sure to check out this great new blog post by herpetologist Kiley Briggs, which highlights some of the finer points of finding an amphibian crossing. If you have any questions about where to go, don't hesitate to send us an email.

3/28/16

When Will They Move?

Forecasting the movement of amphibians across a large area is fraught with challenges. Micro-conditions such as differing hill steepness (slope), hill direction (aspect), elevation, and of course, weather, can result in timing differences of a couple weeks between sites. Today's rain will create perfect conditions for amphibian movement in some areas, but not in others. If you are wondering if amphibians will move in your area, here are three questions to ask yourself:
  1. Has the ground thawed? If you can still feel the crunch of ice under your feet as you walk through the forest, it is likely too early. That said, species like Wood Frog and Jefferson Salamander can and will migrate even if there is still some snow on the ground and vernal pools are still partially frozen, given the right conditions.
  2. Is it warm enough? The cut-off temperature of 40-degrees is a pretty good benchmark to use. Some amphibians may still move in colder temperatures, but generally speaking, the warmer it is, the better the conditions are for active amphibians.
  3. Is it wet enough? Even if the temperature is right and the ground is thawed, it is unlikely that many amphibians will move without the requisite moisture. 
If the above three conditions are met, then there is a good chance amphibians will be on the move!

3/15/16

After an extremely mild winter, it should come as no surprise that amphibian migrations will be occuring earlier this year than typical. In fact, some amphibians have already begun to move in the Champlain Valley. The next warm, rainy night could be a big one for migrating amphibians, so stay tuned!

4/22/15

After a relatively dry start to the month, where the few instances of rain seemed to always begin late at night, conditions are perfect tonight for amphibians to be moving. And with rains predicted to persist into the evening hours, amphibians will find busier roads tonight than they have earlier this season. 

If you have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to get outside and help some amphibians, tonight is the night! Here are three steps to get ready to head out and monitor a road crossing site:

  1. Watch the training videos if you need a refresher on the proper protocol for road monitoring.
  2. Find a crossing site where you plan to volunteer. (or try to discover a new site with these helpful tips).
  3. Print out a data sheet to bring into the field (you can always submit your data online later).
Lastly, for the latest on amphibian activity throughout the state, and to participate in the conversation by adding in your observations, check out the Vermont Vernal Pools google group

Good luck out there tonight, let us know what you find!

4/8/15 - In trying to make training resources for amphibian crossing volunteers more available, I have created over 50 minutes of videos highlighting the content that has been offered in our training sessions over the past 8 years.

These videos and other resources can be watched by first-time volunteers to learn all you need to know about monitoring a crossing site, or as a refresher for the seasoned volunteer. In either case, I welcome your feedback and advice on how to further improve this resource.

View the online training videos.

4/7/15 - More training resources have now been added! We now have over 50 minutes of videos uploaded and more links to a few additional resources are on the way!

See older news stories.

Upcoming Events

Amphibian Migration Forecast

Conditions can change rapidly this time of year, and a few hot days can melt snow fast! Peeprs and Wood Frogs are calling in the Champlain Valley (with many still to migrate) and parts of central Vermont that have thawed sufficiently could see their first activity of the year soon. 

In the Champlain Valley: If the rain comes after nightfall, as expected, there could continued large movements of amphibians.

In Central Vermont: Some sites in central Vermont that have thawed sufficiently (river valleys, most likely, but possibly mid-elevations as well) could see activity if the evening rains materialize, but other spots where the ground is still too frozen may not. With melting occurring so rapidly, and a lot of variation from place to place, it is tough to predict where to expect activity, but be on the lookout!

After tonight, based on the current weather forecast, the next possible activity could come over the weekend.

Training Resources:


 

Resources

Please return all data sheets, maps, and photos to:

Larry Clarfeld
North Branch Nature Center
713 Elm Street
Montpelier, VT 05602

salamander


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