Introduction to Mass NAAMP
Beginning in the late 1980s, scientists have become increasingly concerned about apparent declines in amphibian populations from various sites around the world. Discovery of sites in North America with large numbers of deformed amphibians – including many with gross deformities of the hind legs – served to reinforce the concerns.
Determining whether or not a particular amphibian species is declining is complicated by two important factors. First, amphibian populations tend to be dynamic. Large fluctuations in population size are natural and it can be difficult to determine whether a downturn is natural or a reason for concern. Second, little data exist on the current or historic population levels for most amphibians. To ensure that we can detect amphibian population declines we need long-term data on amphibian populations collected over broad geographic areas.
The Massachusetts Calling Amphibian Survey is part of a network of programs that collectively make up the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP). The North American Amphibian Monitoring Program seeks to involve volunteers in a long-term effort to monitor amphibian populations across North America. Its first phase, a nationwide system to monitor calling amphibians (frogs and toads) was implemented in 1997. Patterned after the highly successful Breeding Bird Survey, the calling amphibian survey is designed to provide scientifically credible information on amphibian population trends and distribution that is necessary for effective conservation.
The NAAMP is a collaborative effort among regional partners, such as state natural resource agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to monitor populations of calling amphibians. The USGS provides central coordination and database management. The regional partners recruit and train volunteer observers to collect amphibian population data, following the protocol of the NAAMP.
The Massachusetts Calling Amphibian Survey is a based on protocols developed by NAAMP. We seek volunteers willing to adopt pre-selected routes in Massachusetts for long-term monitoring. Monitoring routes are run four times each year during the amphibian calling season. These runs are done at night, according to a set protocol, and usually take 1.5 hours to complete plus travel time. The most reliable data are obtained when they are collected year after year by the same volunteers.