02 July 2009

Much-needed Update on Field Work

It's been a long time since my last post, and I can't promise that future updates will be any more regular. The field work is going slowly. I don't have much time for computer work, like updating the blog, and when I do have time to work on the computer I'm spending it entering data, catching up on email, trying to finish a couple of papers in the works, and editing my photos from the trip. If you are on Facebook, I have been posting my photos there much more regularly, although without much commentary.

A big lesson I'm learning in the field this year is that Northern Leopard Frogs are declining throughout their range, and generally their range is contracting from the edges in. Previously I had read that the species was declining in the west and apparently stable in the east, but I do not believe that is the case. Each regional field guide I read, and each local biologist I talk to, mentions that the species is declining locally, but it seems no one has put that together range-wide yet. They are declining locally, range-wide!

That makes the work hard for me, because I'm specifically sampling edge populations for my project. However, the edge now is, in most cases, not where it used to be. In West Virginia, the species only persists at one of the many historical localities. I spent two days there searching for leopard frogs, and found only one. Right now I'm in Rhode Island: I've spent two days searching in the area around Tiverton where there are several museum records from the 1980s and some sight records from the last few years. But this morning I talked to the state herpetologist (I finally got through to him - I've been leaving messages and emails for weeks) and he told me that the population here is probably extirpated, and that they only persist in one or two populations on the islands of the state. The story has been similar in many of the other places I've tried to sample lately.

While I can't say the frog sampling has been going well (I'd estimate I'm about three weeks behind schedule at this point), I am happy and healthy and safe. I've seen some great things, including many species of amphibians, reptiles, and birds I've never seen before. And I'm learning as much about the northern leopard frog as I expected to, even if most of that information is where it used to be.

My first Marbled Salamander, in Pennsylvania.

In Kentucky the young leopard frogs were metamorphosing. I found it easiest to catch them at night as they were crossing the wet road.

My first Mink Frog, in Minnesota.

Looking for Northern Leopard Frogs in Minnesota. (Photo by Becky Alsop.)


Sparverius said...

Nice update. What an experience. I feel a little disheartened thinking about the diminishing range and numbers of leopard frogs. But I also very much enjoyed the photos of the other cuties you found.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful update...
I feel a little disheartened thinking about the diminishing range and numbers of leopard frogs.
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