Introduction to monitoring amphibians as part of the Adirondack All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI)
There are 32 species of amphibians in New York State including 14 frogs and toads, and 18 salamanders, and they
need your help! These incredible organisms are found in a variety of habitats from forest streams to lakes and ponds,
and even on the top of Adirondack Mountains in the case of the eastern red-spotted newt. Factors such as habitat destruction,
invasive species and diseases, climate change, and road-mortality have lead to declines in many species, however. One of the
best ways to help in conserving these species is to learn more about where they are currently found, and the types of habitats
they are using. This information can then be used both when deciding where we should focus conservation efforts now, and as
baseline against which to measure future changes.
The Adirondack All-Taxa-Biodiversity Inventory is seeking volunteers who might be interested in helping monitor amphibian
populations in and around the Adirondack Park. This information will be posted on our website for anyone who might be
interested in using it, and will also be used by researchers and managers working to conserve these incredible organisms.
We will provide all of the necessary resources for identifying and recording data on our website, and will also offer a
series of training workshops for those that are able to attend. Further information is provided below relating to specific
questions you may have:
What do I need to do to participate?
Mostly just a little time and enthusiasm; this is great activity for children. Monitoring amphibians is best done on rainy
nights, so you will need a flashlight (the kind that straps on your head is great and the more powerful the better),
spare batteries, and rain-gear. A digital camera and watch will be helpful for recording data, as will a handheld GPS unit
if you have access to one of these. Datasheets can be downloaded from our website, filled out, and mailed in (address below),
or you can enter the information directly online.
Where and when should I look?
We are principally interested in learning more about occurrence of amphibians in two situations: (1) Where animals are
crossing roads or paths during migration; and (2) wetland breeding sites, particularly temporary or "vernal" pools. Details
on where and when different species can be found are listed under the species descriptions on the website, but a great time
to go out is on "big night", the first warm (~40°f) rainy night in spring when many animals move. If there is a quiet road
or path near you that runs close to the edge of wetland, this may be a good place to start looking. To find breeding sites,
you'll want to keep your ears open for calling. You can also guess at where breeding sites might be based on the direction
in which animals are moving and the location of nearby wetlands. Remember to grab a datasheet before you head out and fill
in all the information you can.
What should I do when I find an amphibian?
If at all possible, don't touch! Amphibians breathe through their skin and are easily hurt by the warmth of your hands.
It's also easy to damage them while trying to catch them. If you have any issues with identification, take several digital
photos from different angles, and send the images to the contact information listed below. Record the data for each animal
on your datasheet.
Your safety is of the utmost importance. Please wear bright clothing (reflective safety clothing is ideal), and avoid surveying
on busy roads, anywhere where there is limited visibility, and in places where you can't safely step off onto the road margin.
Do not do anything to distract drivers, even if they are about to hit an amphibian on the road. Preferably work in groups, and
tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back- it is extremely easy to get lost in the woods at night.
We have tried to provide all of the information you will need on our website. There are some great amphibian field guides available
however; these can be purchased from local bookstores and museums, and online. A couple of suggestions are:
- The amphibians and reptiles of New York State (Gibbs et al., 2007). Available on Amazon. The best guide to NY State.
- A field guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Peterson Field Guide Series.