University of Massachusetts Amherst

Massachusetts North American Amphibian Program


Massachusetts Monitoring Protocols: Routes

Route Selection

Routes are chosen by the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). From a random starting point and using a randomly chosen direction, the routes are established to utilize secondary roads to the extent possible. These randomly chosen routes occasionally fall within remote areas and sometimes run through urban centers. In order to execute an unbiased sampling protocol, we will attempt to use all of the routes selected for Massachusetts unless it is clear that a particular route is not practical to monitor.

Modifying Routes

Occasionally, pre-selected routes will need to be modified in order to make them viable. Care must be taken when modifying routes to preserve the unbiased sampling scheme being pursued by NAAMP. Following are some examples of problems that can be encountered with pre-selected routes and suggested changes that can be made to adjust the routes.


  1. A portion of the designated route is impassable.
  2. A portion of the route is unsafe to sample.
  3. A portion of the route has a significant amount of noise interference (e.g. traffic, industrial noise, fast-flowing streams, etc.)
  4. Appropriate habitat does not exist along a significant portion of the route (e.g. highly urbanized areas)

Suggested Changes

  1. Bypass problem sections and begin the route farther along, as close as possible to the designated starting place.
  2. Use as much of the original route as possible but use an alternate route to bypass the problem section. Choose an alternate route on secondary roads that run in the same general direction as the original.

Where most or all of a pre-selected route is affected by the above problems, the entire route may have to be dropped. However, it is important that we not reject routes or portions of routes simply because they are in areas that are highly impacted by development. Marginal sites will probably be the most sensitive indicators of population change (either recovery or decline). For these same reasons we also do not want to bypass portions of routes simply because calling amphibians are lacking. Provided that there are no significant safety issues or noise interference, we should continue to sample areas without calling amphibians as long as appropriate habitat exists. All route changes must be approved by the State Coordinator.

Establishing Stops along the Routes

Beginning at the designated starting place, travel 0.5 mile and establish the first sampling stop. Additional stops should be established every 0.5 mile along the route until a total of 10 sampling stations are selected. A particular stop may be rejected if it would be unsafe to sample or is affected by significant noise interference. If a stop is rejected, do not select a site nearby to serve as the stop. Instead, proceed another 0.5 mile and establish the stop.

It is presumed that appropriate habitat exists at every stop. In some cases, appropriate habitat may not exist within listening distance. However, if there is the potential that appropriate habitat might be created in the future (beaver ponds, fire ponds, backyard ponds, detention ponds, etc.) the stops should still be monitored. Only in areas where it is absolutely clear that appropriate habitat does not exist and is unlikely to exist anytime in the foreseeable future (urban jungles) can we justify dropping stops or portions of routes due to lack of habitat. As stated above, stops may be rejected due to unsafe sampling conditions or excessive noise interference.

Any decision to reject a stop should be reviewed by the State Coordinator prior to being finalized.

Route Descriptions

Once the route is properly laid out and the sampling stops identified, a description of each route should be prepared. Mark on the map provided the location of all stops and provide descriptions of each stop referencing available permanent landmarks (intersections, numbered telephone poles, etc.). Route descriptions should provide enough detail about the route and associated stops that another volunteer could easily find all the sampling stops along the route. Once the routes have been finalized, the position of stops on each route will be recorded using a Geographic Positioning System (GPS).

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USGS NAAMP Massachusetts North American Amphibian Monitoring Program