People, Land, and Water

August issue


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full text: Frogs and toads are perhaps the most approachable and available of all our wildlife. In many, if not most places, they are abundant. In wetter parts of the East, almost anyone outside on a warm rainy night in spring will hear their dream-like calls, bellows, trills and snores. Even in the deserts of the Southwest, a nocturnal trip after a summer monsoon will yield toads moving across the roads toward a cacophonous orgy of mating and calling in the roadside ditches and desert pools. Birds share with frogs and toads this same sense of presence in our daily lives. But the difference is that birds are like the attractive neighbor who just never gives you the time of day, while frogs are more like the troglodyte who appears regularly to chat, philosophize, and have a beer. Uninvited, frogs appear in our water gardens, toads are on our stoops in the morning, we catch them when we are kids, raise their babies in the aquarium, and feel sorry when we find we have run them over with the lawnmower. When concerns about declining populations of amphibians reached the mass media, the Secretaries' office became involved. In addition to using traditional research mechanisms to investigate the problem, the Secretary also wanted to involve the public directly. The combination of high public appeal and the relative ease with which frog calls can be learned made a large-scale monitoring program for frogs and toads possible. What emerged was a program called Frogwatch USA, modeled after a successful Canadian program with a similar name. A web site was created ( that presented potential frogwatchers with directions and a way to register their site online as well as enter their data. Observers chose where to count frogs depending on what they felt was important. For some it was their backyard, others chose vulnerable wetlands in their neighborhoods, or spots on local refuges and parks. Initially funded at $8,000 a year and then after two years increased to $25,000, most of the first part of this program's life was spent developing the tools and web site to document counts of frogs online. Despite the lack of time available to promote the program, send out press releases and recruit observers, news of the program quickly spread by word of mouth and the electronic media. Many newspaper articles later, we found a large number of people had become involved with counting frogs in their neighborhoods and backyards. Current figures show 1,456 observers who have registered at 1,683 sites logging almost 5,000 visits. These visits yield information on when and what species are calling from wetlands throughout the United States. These records are usually the only records of information about frogs and toads for those sites and become a permanent record that can be revisited in future years. Additionally, when observers make a lot of visits or there are many sites in a region, a phenology of calls can be created that documents when it is most likely in that year for each species to be recorded. Finally, even for those observers whose data we may mistrust and therefore are likely to eliminate from analyses, these people have taken the time to leave their televisions, go outside, and directly experience frogs, toads, and all that occur in Nature. In 1999 it was decided that FrogwatchUSA needed to work with another group that specifically focused on environmental education and outreach. After talking to a number of organizations we found that the National Wildlife Federation, with their Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Endangered Species, and other programs along with their four million members who are interested in nature, would be an excellent match. Thus a partnership was born. After over a year of work between Interior and National Wildlife Federation biologists and lawyers, an agreement has been created that places the Federation as the lead of Frogwatch USA. It will now take care of res

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Journal Article
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People, Land, and Water
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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
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People, Land, and Water
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