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article imageCitizen Science in Ontario: Reptiles and Amphibians Special

By Bob Gordon     Apr 8, 2010 in Environment
Guelph - Spring is the breeding season for many creatures in southern Ontario and this includes various species of frogs. On Tuesday March 5, 2010 I ventured into a wetland on the southwestern outskirts of Guelph to look and listen for frogs.
I was accompanied by amphibian biologist Melanie Allard, a graduate student at the University of Guelph and fellow Digital Journalist Betty Kowall. We drove south out of Guelph on the Hanlon Expressway and exited west onto Laird Road. Approximately 500 meters west of the Hanlon Expressway we parked our cars. The road to the east is lined on both sides with drift fences. On the wetland side of the drift fences pitfall traps, empty paint cans, are set into the ground as the landowners - Belmont Equity, Cooper Construction and the City of Guelph are monitoring for migrating Jefferson Salamanders.
We walked east along the roadway on the south shoulder for approximately one kilometer and then returned to our vehicles along the north shoulder of Laird Road. We saw no amphibians in any of the pitfall traps. However, we found one dead Northern Leopard Frog on the south shoulder of the road. It had gotten around the drift fences and onto the roadway. It had then not been able to find its way off of the roadway. It appeared to have died from dehydration as there were no signs of predation visible on the cadaver. (See photos above and below.)
The cadaver of a dead Northern Leopard frog  flipped upside down to demonstrate that it is dead.
The cadaver of a dead Northern Leopard frog, flipped upside down to demonstrate that it is dead.
Melanie Allard
While our sightings were certainly limited the air was full of the diverse calls of numerous species of frogs. From all directions we could hear the continuous high-pitched chorus of untold Spring Peepers. Wood frogs could be heard in the drainage ditches on the north side of the roadway. Their distinctive calls could easily be mistaken for a duck quacking. Their calls only quieted when we approached the ditches and stood directly over them. along the roadside. A rare and endangered Western chorus frog could be heard in the wetlands to the south of the road. Despite our sightings being limited to one deceased frogs our ears revealed that the wetlands were alive with noisy, libidinous frogs.
At this point I was simply an amateur field naturalist or individual enjoying a walk in the woods and wetlands on the outskirts of our hometown. However, I became a citizen scientist when I returned home and reported my visual and audible observations to the 'Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas'. I called up the Ontario Nature website and logged on to the database and reported my findings.
Voila, my walk in the woods had become a scientific expedition and I was a citizen scientist not merely a nature lover.
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