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The ending week of February was much more like spring in northwestern Pennsylvania. Although in many areas nearby, people heard the frogs and toads chirping and singing, I didn’t here. And it will likely be another week or so following the brutal snow and wind of March. 

FrogWatch 2017 is already gearing up for its second season in northwestern Pennsylvania.. Sponsored by the Pymatuning Lab of Ecology (PLE) located in Linesville, the citizens-scientist program is a national effort to document the the frog and toad populations in wetland areas.

“We’ve already had one organizational meeting with volunteers which was held at the Woodcock Creek Nature Center in late February,” Christopher Davis, the assistant director at PLE said. “We’ll conduct a second training program for volunteers at the Ecology Lab on Monday March 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The volunteers will be trained how to recognize the calling sounds of various species of frogs and toads which inhabit the region’s waterways and wetlands.”

The PLE Lab is located at 13142 Hartstown Road in Linesville.

According to Davis, volunteers can choose any particular wetland they wish to monitor and are asked to visit the site at least two times a week throughout the breeding season from March through August. This is the second year for the program in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Zoo and the national FrogWatch program.

Volunteers have already been out listening for frogs and toads since the late February warm-up in the Linesville area near the Ohio border.

“I was amazed that we heard the northern leopard frogs and spring peepers and other species  during the last full week of February,” Davis said. “It’s highly unusual to hear them this early.”

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Thanks to Chris Davis who shared this photo of his young son taken on a warm February night Frog Watching.

According to Davis, there is a lack of data regarding the local frog and toad population in the region.

“The information collected by the volunteers will be entered into a database so that we can better understand and monitor the populations. The program is open to anyone who is interested on helping protect our native wildlife.”

Davis estimates that the region is home to nine or ten different species.

“We just don’t know for sure,” he said. “There could be more. The information is very important for us so we can better monitor the populations and take action when and where needed.”

This year will bring some additional ears to the program. According to Davis, he is piloting a new program with staff and students from two regional schools, the Conneaut Area Senior High School and Northwestern High School in Albion.

“We will be using bioacoustic recording devices with the  students to record all of the species in a particular area,” he said. “The students will be trained as FrogWatch volunteers, mastering the protocol and learning the calls of our local frogs and toads Students will come up with an aspect of the protocol they want to test. For example, is three minutes of listening enough time or perhaps it should be extended to six minutes. Students will use advanced software to visualize the recordings and rapidly identify what species are calling.”

If the pilot program is successful this year, Davis would like to extend an open invitation to any school which would like to participate.

The March 6 training session at the PLE Lab is free and open to anyone interested, there are no fees or prior registration required. However, Davis would like to know how many volunteers to expect. He can be reached at 814-720-6613 or email at chd47@pitt.edu

More information on the national FrogWatch can be found at https://www.aza.org/frogwatch

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