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Citizen scientists on the search for amphibians

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

In Seattle’s scenic Carkeek Park, you might spend a lot of time looking out at the boats, across at the mountains or up at the clouds. But have you ever looked down? There’s a world teeming below your feet in the Carkeek wetlands, a world we’re just beginning to document with the help of volunteers through the Amphibian Monitoring Program, a Living Northwest citizen science project.

The citizen scientists have all signed up for a 6-month stint, committing to do monthly monitoring sessions in local wetlands of their choice to help document the presence of native and non-native amphibians. Carkeek Park serves as a training ground for new volunteers.

At the Carkeek Park practice session, citizen scientists use an AquaScope to peer underwater without disturbing wildlife. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Amphibian Monitoring is offered through Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest program, in partnership with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), Northwest Trek, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Going on the third year of this citizen science effort, volunteers work in teams to survey ponds and wetlands in King and Snohomish Counties. In 2013, amphibian egg masses, tadpoles, or adult individuals were identified at 13 of the 17 monitored sites. In 2014, 16 teams will monitor 19 sites, including Seattle Parks, WDFW Lands, North Seattle Community College, and Snohomish County mitigation sites.

Volunteers found and identified egg masses of the long-toed salamander during their practice session. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Participants upload their data to WDFW’s Wildlife Observations website, which will help wildlife biologists understand the population patterns of our local amphibians and how human impacts affect them. The more we can learn about where amphibians live, when they breed, and how many can be sustained at a site, the better we can help WDFW inform important land use decisions that could impact the health and survival of Washington’s wetlands.

The citizen scientists include families from local communities and teen volunteers, seen here, from the zoo’s ZooCorps program. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Training is important for citizen scientists to make sure the data is reliable and the biosecurity of these wildlife areas is maintained. If you want to get involved with the Amphibian Monitoring Program, join the 2015 waiting list for the chance to become a citizen scientist.