Citizen Frog Science

For a few years now, I have been citizen scienc-ing it up in my front yard marsh monitoring the types of frogs that are there, what time of year they croak and how loudly. Sometimes the frogs are VERY loud. At times I have literally had the urge to put my hands over my ears. That is ridiculous.

Here is my marsh:


It’s the spring peepers that are so deafening. A good problem to have, I guess. After one of the VMN monthly webinar trainings encouraging frog citizen science, I signed up with FrogWatch USA.

I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying the frogs in my pond—by call— because I do the monitoring at night when you can’t see anything. It takes me about 15 minutes per week to monitor and enter the data on-line and I do that every week from Feb 1- Aug 31.

I learned a lot about the local frogs by researching which species were possibly living in my area, and making some charts about when the frogs might be heard. FrogWatch gives you a lot of training, but I also used the DGIF Frogs and Toads of Virginia Guide and CD ($10, a steal) to train my ear to recognize the different frog calls.  Here’s what I learned could be out there in my pond:


Now, want to see what I’ve actually heard? At FrogWatch, you can plot and map your or other people’s data extensively. In this way, the accumulated data across the USA can be a research tool for anyone. In addition to just reporting, “Yes, I heard a Green Frog” we also track what the temperature, precipitation and wind speed is at the time we hear the frog. We follow a detailed, 3 minute listening protocol. Below is a chart of the 7 species in my marsh I have heard over the last 3 years. I could do other graphing based on the other data points.

I have yet to hear a wood frog, northern cricket frog or an upland chorus frog at my site—these guys are more likely to be found in ephemeral pools, I believe— but every year I am hopeful!

Now, let me also say there is another different frog citizen science project called the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program.  The VMN webinar I linked to at the end of this article gives more info about that program as well as about FrogWatch USA.

So, check them both out, and see which group you want to get involved with. And you will want to get involved, won’t you? Because, look at the following map! See that graphic of a single frog located just above Staunton?


See it?  That’s me! Notice how there are no other frogs near me, which makes me a lonely frog?


Any place near you that you have heard frogs can become a reporting site! You can participate as much or as little as you like, and after you get some initial set-up and training, the time commitment is really negligible.

Amphibians are our “canaries in the coalmine.”  So adding to the data on science on how they are faring in our world is a beneficial science.

kate2016I’d be glad to talk about the project with anyone who is interested or curious.

– Kate Guenther, Cohort I, February 2017

More info:


North American Amphibian Monitoring Program:

DGIF Frogs and Toads of Virginia (Guide and CD) :

VMN Webinar Join the Virginia Frog and Toad Calling Survey  with Michelle Prysby and Travis Land—from January 15, 2015:

frogs      Green Frog at Wildlife Center of VA                               American Toad in my bathtub

Why was the American Toad in my bathtub? Because I wanted to get a good picture of him, and aside from peeing in my hand as I carried him in the house, he really didn’t seem to mind. Within 5 minutes, he was back out in the yard, catching bugs for dinner.