FrogWatch USA volunteers learn to identify local frog and toad species by their calls during the breeding season and how to report their findings accurately. By mastering these skills, volunteers gain increased experience and control over asking and answering scientific questions which, in turn, augments science literacy, facilitates conservation action and stewardship and increases knowledge of amphibians.
Become a FrogWatch USA Volunteer
FrogWatch USA is always seeking new volunteers to get involved in this nationwide effort! Becoming a volunteer is simple, and you do not need to be an expert on frogs and toads to participate.
FrogWatch USA is looking for volunteers with:
- An interest in frogs and toads
- A willingness to complete volunteer training and join a local FrogWatch USA Chapter if one is in your area
- A commitment to monitor a wetland site over multiple evenings throughout the breeding season (February - August)
Frog and toad breeding season generally extends from late January through September, depending upon temperature, rainfall, length of the day for a specific locality and biological factors for each species. FrogWatch USA data collection targets peak breeding season for all species across the nation and takes place February through August.
Join a local chapter and attend a volunteer training session to find out which frogs and toads are in your area and when each can be heard calling. Learn to identify species by call, locate and register a wetland site, and collect and submit observations to the nationwide dataset.
FrogWatch USA is a program with explicit scientific and educational goals. Our overarching scientific goals include answering questions on the local, regional and national scale about frog and toad diversity (including the detection of rare and/or invasive species); learning the timing of breeding activity; and identifying shifts in species diversity over time. Educational goals include expanding our volunteers' knowledge about frogs, toads and wetland habitats, as well as increasing their thematic knowledge about the nature of science. Organizational infrastructure, including the establishment of chapters nationwide led by local coordinators, online data entry and communication tools, has been put in place to facilitate achievement of these goals and to foster environmental stewardship.
Success in meeting FrogWatch USA’s scientific and educational goals requires national, long-term participation in the program; therefore, the program’s success is contingent upon being attractive to volunteers that represent multiple dimensions of diversity including race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, preferred language, ability and learning styles. In sum, we envision a program where all people in the United States feel welcome to participate.
FrogWatch USA Chapters are hosted at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and other like-minded organizations. Chapter Coordinators recruit, train and support local volunteers. There are currently over 140 chapters established throughout the United States. Contact your local chapter for information on how to get involved.
Volunteer training emphasizes the nature of science as it relates to frog and toad call identification and reporting. Lecture and course material focus on the ways in which volunteers contribute to FrogWatch USA's long-term, large-scale scientific knowledge base. By following systematic and standardized data collection protocols, volunteers contribute to the understanding of local frog and toad species presence, as well as their natural history, range and behavior.
Volunteer training opportunities are available in-person though your local FrogWatch USA chapter.
FrogWatch USA training courses are now available online! This course gives you the training and tools needed to become a successful citizen scientist and guides you through the processes of collecting and entering FrogWatch USA data.
Welcome back and thank you for your continued support of FrogWatch USA! We recognize that your participation allows us to meet our educational and scientific goals and is fundamental in helping us collect long-term data on the nation's frogs and toads. Resources are available if you need assistance with any aspect of volunteering. Learn more to continue your involvement in this national citizen science program.
Practice Identifying Local Frog and Toad Calls
It is imperative that data are only submitted for species that you feel confident were identified correctly in the field. Before the FrogWatch USA season begins, refresh your memory about the frog and toad calls you will hear in your area and test your call identification skills. See Data Collection Resources for tutorials and additional guidance.
Review Monitoring Protocols
In order to maximize the scientific value of the data being collected through FrogWatch USA's standardized data collection protocols, it is recommended that each site be monitored twice a week throughout the breeding season. At least four visits spread throughout the peak frog and toad breeding season (February through August) are recommended for trend analysis. Before starting the season, be sure to review the FrogWatch USA Data Collection Protocols.
Monitor Your Wetland Sites
FrogWatch USA wetland sites and data are available online through FieldScope. Volunteers should review and confirm the accuracy of previously submitted sites. If you would like to monitor a new site you should register your wetland site online. See Identifying and Registering Wetland Sites for more information.
Contact a Local Chapter
The Akron Zoo, who assumed ownership and management of FrogWatch USA in 2022, is committed to expanding the network of citizens who serve as knowledgeable and responsible wetland and amphibian stewards through the development of FrogWatch USA chapters at local, like-minded organizations. Locate a FrogWatch USA Chapter near you.
Because FrogWatch USA data describes local species diversity, detects rare and invasive species and suggests shifts in species diversity, range and seasonal timing (phenology), consistent implementation of the FrogWatch USA protocols is essential to ensure scientific validity. Limit monitoring visits to February through August (or September in the southwestern United States). Before each new FrogWatch USA season begins, be sure to review the monitoring protocols below. Do not report any species unless you are confident of the identification.
- Select and register a site by completing the site registration form.
- Plan to monitor at least 30 minutes after sunset. Monitoring activity should conclude by 1 a.m.
- Consider the temperature, precipitation and wind conditions before visiting your site. Do not monitor if severe or inappropriate weather conditions occur or are predicted. See Weather Conditions section for details.
- Upon arrival at your monitoring site, note any changes to the area. Remember to respect the space in which you are monitoring and minimize any disturbance to the local wildlife.
- Record all weather information asked for on the datasheet, including air temperature, wind speed (based on the Beaufort Wind Scale), current precipitation and weather history.
- Remain quiet for at least 2 minutes before collecting data so the frogs and toads have time to acclimate to your presence.
- When you are ready, cup your hands around your ears and listen for precisely 3 minutes.
- Remain quiet and still during the 3-minute data collection period or the frogs and toads may become startled and stop calling.
- After 3 minutes, record:
- The time you started listening.
- The time you stopped.
- The different species you heard and can confidently identify.
- The call intensity for each species (using the Call Intensity Index described on the datasheet).
- Additional information gathered can be documented in the "Notes" section of the datasheet.
If your listening is interrupted by a loud noise or disturbance (e.g., airplane, cell phone ringing, etc.), restart the 2-minute acclimation period, followed by the 3-minute data collection session. Remember to change the start time on your datasheet.
There may be an important relationship between the species you hear calling and weather conditions. There are times when weather conditions are inappropriate for data collection. Only monitor if:
- The air temperature is warmer than 35ºF (2ºC).
- It is not raining too hard - heavy rain will interfere with your ability to hear the frogs calling.
- The wind is not stronger than a gentle breeze (3 according to the Beaufort Wind Scale).
The Beaufort Wind Scale
The Beaufort Wind Scale was developed in 1805 by Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort of the British navy to describe wind effects at sea. The Beaufort Scale was later adapted to include effects on land features as well. Use the Beaufort Wind Scale below (also identified on your datasheet) to estimate wind conditions when monitoring.
0 - CALM: smoke rises vertically.
1 - LIGHT AIR: rising smoke drifts; weather vane inactive.
2 - LIGHT BREEZE: leaves rustle; can feel wind on face.
3 - GENTLE BREEZE: leaves and twigs in constant motion; small flags extend.
4 - MODERATE BREEZE: moves small branches; raises dust and loose paper (too windy to monitor).
5 - FRESH BREEZE: small trees in leaf begin to sway (way too windy to monitor).
Frogs and toads need water to breed and it is during breeding season that frogs and toads are most actively calling, which is why FrogWatch USA volunteers choose wetland locations as their monitoring sites. All current FrogWatch USA volunteers are registered for specific monitoring sites. Tips are listed below to remind you of what factors should be considered if you would like to register a new monitoring site.
Find Local Wetlands
- Contact someone from your town's planning agency to locate wetlands and identify who owns these properties.
- Contact your local Parks and Recreation Department to find out if they have locations where you can monitor and if you need special permission to survey in the evening, as many parks close at dusk.
- Search the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory to find a map of wetlands in your town.
Identify the Monitoring Site
Choose a wetland monitoring site that is:
- Safe for data collection in the evening
- Convenient for you to access multiple times a week
- Generally quiet (e.g., limited traffic noise)
- Legally accessible (obey posted rules on public property and obtain landowner permission if site is not on public property)
Register the Site
Bringing these materials to the field helps to ensure safety and data accuracy.
- Copy of the FrogWatch USA data collection protocols
- FrogWatch USA datasheet
- Clipboard covered with plastic to protect the datasheet from inclement weather
- Pencil or indelible ink pen
- Thermometer to measure ambient temperature
- Cell phone
- Rain gear
- Audio recording device (optional to record calls)
Your safety is important. If you feel uncomfortable about your surroundings, stop monitoring and leave the site. Some common-sense precautions include:
- Bringing a first aid kit.
- Wearing long sleeves and pants to protect against insects.
- Parking in a safe location and making sure your car does not block traffic.
- Testing whether your cell phone works from your monitoring site and taking it with you if it does (remember to silence it while monitoring).
- Becoming familiar with your monitoring site by visiting during daylight hours.
- Not monitoring if severe or inappropriate weather occurs or is predicted.
- Monitoring with a partner and/or letting someone know where you are and when you intend to return.
- Being aware of poison ivy and other types of poisonous vegetation as well as ticks, hornets and other types of wildlife.
State and Local Resources
Want some extra help to explore all that this platform offers? View the handouts and tutorials for additional guidance:
- FrogWatch USA Online Data Entry Handout (PDF)
- FrogWatch USA Mapping Handout: Display Data by Chapter & Year (PDF)
- FrogWatch USA Graphing Handout: Create a Species Graph by Year (PDF)
- FrogWatch USA Data Entry Tutorial (22:34)
- FrogWatch USA Data Mapping Tutorial (13:02)
- FrogWatch USA Data Graphing Tutorial (10:33)
- FrogWatch USA Calling Calendar Tutorial (09:50)
- Browser and Adobe Flash Settings (PDF)
FrogWatch USA offers an engaging online data entry and exploration platform to give FrogWatch USA participants, and anyone interested in frogs and toads, the opportunity to interact with the program's data. While anybody can explore data through graphs or maps without being logged in, creating an account allows you to enter data, edit it and save and share any maps and graphs you create.
When completing your datasheets, please be sure to report all data, including monitoring visits when zero frog or toad calls were heard. Information about the absence of calls is just as valuable as information about their presence. It is essential that you follow the standardized FrogWatch USA Data Collection Protocols. Data are recorded on a FrogWatch USA datasheet.
FieldScope is an online data entry, mapping and analysis platform developed by the National Geographic Society specifically for citizen science programs like FrogWatch USA. A National Science Foundation Informal Science Education grant supported the development of this platform, encouraging people to input the important data they collect and to visualize those data across space and time. Volunteers can submit completed datasheets to the FrogWatch USA data entry system, FieldScope, using the button below. Data should be submitted online as soon as possible after each monitoring visit. The online data entry system requires Adobe Flash.
Chapters and Chapter Coordinators
The FrogWatch USA chapter model was launched in 2010 with the goal of ensuring that data submitted are high quality and that volunteers can receive a more personalized experience under the guidance of a knowledgable chapter coordinator. One or more coordinators per chapter receive training on program implementation, after which the Akron Zoo provides ongoing support through a variety of networking and learning opportunities. The result is a network of prepared leaders that recruit, train and support volunteers from their local communities.
Establishing a FrogWatch USA chapter at your organization supports a national network of FrogWatch USA chapters and volunteers that together provide large-scale, long-term data and contribute to amphibian conservation. The FrogWatch USA chapter network also promotes institutions and groups within their local community and links ex-situ programs to in-situ conservation at zoos and aquariums.
Some incentives for starting a local FrogWatch USA chapter include:
- Being affiliated with a flagship citizen science program
- Being part of a national conservation initiative that includes years of data from every state in the U.S.
- In-person and online training opportunities for chapter coordinators
- Free training and promotional materials
- Networking opportunities among chapters
- Improving the data quality of a national citizen science program
- Providing a credible forum for educating, discussing and engaging your community in local environmental issues
- Creating a community of enthusiastic and consistently trained FrogWatch USA volunteers poised to become community advocates on behalf of your institution’s broader conservation objectives.
As a FrogWatch USA Chapter Coordinator, you are part of a network of over 350 herpetologists, educators and other experts representing FrogWatch USA in their respective communities. There are numerous resources available online to support your efforts and elucidate your roles and responsibilities as a volunteer trainer and mentor. The Akron Zoo is dedicated to providing a strong line of support to the network of chapter coordinators across the country, primarily through an online professional networking and discussion platform.
This subset of FrogWatch USA chapter coordinators have assumed leadership roles within the chapter coordinator network. Regional coordinators work to recruit, train and support additional chapter hosts and coordinators while also mentoring existing coordinators in their vicinity on top of their typical chapter coordinator duties. Currently, there are regional coordinators stationed in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, DC. You can reach out to them via the AZA Network group.
The chapter coordinator training course is a self-paced, interactive module that provides you with the resources needed to host a local FrogWatch USA chapter and defines your roles and responsibilities as a chapter coordinator. FrogWatch USA training courses are now available online!
FrogWatch USA regional coordinators continue to offer in-person chapter coordinator workshops. There are currently no scheduled coordinator-led workshops, but check back regularly for more updates.
This Chapter Coordinator Resource Manual provides guidance as you plan, implement, manage and maintain a FrogWatch USA chapter. Materials outline responsibilities and include tips, suggestions, required documents, adaptable templates and references for expanding your knowledge base.
The AZA Network is the Association of Zoos and Aquarium's (AZA's) online private professional networking platform. This network began being used as a major avenue of communication in 2009 when FrogWatch USA came under the purview of the AZA. In 2022, the Akron Zoo took over coordination of the national program, but the chat forum continues to be hosted by the AZA.
Most chapter coordinators will have access to the "FrogWatch USA - Chapter Coordinators" group on the Network - this collaborative workspace is the best place to go to connect with other chapter coordinators, discover resources and tools and share ideas and lessons learned. FrogWatch USA staff will regularly post program updates and announcements and upload new resources, which are accompanied by automated email updates.
To access the AZA Network, click the link above and log in, or log in at the top of any page on the website, then navigate to "My AZA Network" on the left.
Akron Zoo staff hold webinars for chapter coordinators at the beginning and end of each FrogWatch USA monitoring season. These webinars cover program updates and announcements, overviews of the concluding or upcoming season and reviews of coordinator roles and responsibilities. The webinars have been recorded and uploaded online, and links to these previous webinars can be found on the AZA Network.