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Virginia Frog & Toad Calling Survey


What is it?

The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) is a collaborative effort among regional partners, such as state natural resource agencies and nonprofit organizations, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to monitor populations of vocal amphibians. The USGSprovides central coordination and database management. The regional partners recruit and train volunteer observers, like you, to collect amphibian population data, following the protocol of the NAAMP.

In Virginia, the Frog and Toad Calling Survey is conducted by a group of volunteers from across the Commonwealth who spend three nights a year surveying various wetland habitats for frogs and toads. The survey involves listening and then identifying the various species by their call, and recording the approximate number of individuals. Each route has10 stops. If it’s not raining too hard during the survey, all the better! While it is peaceful listening to the frogs and toads on a warm spring evening, it can also be rather lonely. It’s just you (and hopefully at least one faithful friend) standing along the roadway recording the species that you hear. The surveys take place once in late winter, once in the spring, and one more time in early summer. If you live in the mountains, you can run a 4th survey for wood frogs during late winter. As the temperature warms up the bugs keep you company; the late winter survey is usually too cold for bugs!

Why study frogs and toads?

Scientists from around the world have become concerned over the population declines and extinction of many of these amphibians. Research has shown that habitat loss, pollution, ultraviolet radiation, introduced species, parasites, and fungal diseases have all contributed to amphibian declines.

Amphibians are especially vulnerable to environmental quality due to their highly permeable skin and unique life cycle. Most frogs and toads lay their eggs in an aquatic habitat where after a period of time they hatch into tadpoles. The tadpoles then develop into the adult form we recognize as a frog or toad. Due to this unique life cycle, researchers often look to amphibians as “environmental indicators” of changes in their habitat.

Frogs and toads were chosen as the study species because they vocalize during breeding season. Survey volunteers are able to determine the species by their call and get an index of how many are present by the number of calls of the same species heard at the same time.


What is being done in Virginia?

From the Coastal Plain to the Mountains, Virginia’s diverse habitats are home to twenty-seven species of frogs and toads. It is important that we know where these species occur and their abundance, so that we may monitor changes in their populations and distribution over time. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has participated in the NAAMP initiative since 1999. This program randomly selected 53 routes throughout the Commonwealth, which are surveyed by volunteers. The response of Virginia’s citizens to volunteer for the frog and toad monitoring program has been tremendous and is the primary reason for the program’s success.

VDGIF has designated 2015 as the “year of the frog” with a Virginia is for Frogs campaign. The goal of this outreach campaign is to raise awareness about Virginia frogs and their conservation. To learn more, please visit the Virginia is for Frogs page.

Want to Volunteer?

If you’re interested in becoming a Virginia Frog and Toad Surveyor and can dedicate at least 3 years to the program, please check the 2015 Frog and Toad Route Map (PDF, 1 MB) for route availability. If you find an available route that interests you, contact Travis Land. Below are the forms, policies, and other materials used by volunteers.

Other Amphibian-Related Web sites

The websites listed below will leave this site and are not controlled by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Photos on this page courtesy John White and Emily Moriarty.