Whatcom County Amphibian Monitoring Program

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WCAMP volunteer work park – happy campers restoring Oregon Spotted Frog Habitat!

This program is centered on research, conservation and education focusing on amphibians in Whatcom County.

Worldwide, many amphibian species are experiencing dramatic declines in population abundance and density due in part to habitat alteration, emerging diseases and climate change. In addition, many amphibian species that inhabit urban and suburban areas are threatened with habitat loss and degradation caused by increasing urbanization and resulting in declines in amphibian distribution, abundance, and diversity in urban areas. Understanding the effects development on amphibian populations is becoming increasingly important so that we may better manage our urban populations and prevent extirpation of species from their natural ranges. Whatcom County has experienced significant growth over recent years along with severe range contractions of species such as the Western toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] boreas).

Within Whatcom County we know very little about which species are present, their distribution and population trends. This program is intended to provide this missing baseline information.

To meet these goals the program uses a “Citizen Science” approach using a network of citizen volunteers to collect scientific field data. This not only allows the collection of large quantities of quality data, but also promotes public engagement and increased stewardship and protection of this organisms. All of our Citizen Science volunteers are trained in amphibian identification, and safe methods of data collection that keep our amphibians safe from damage and disease.

The program has several separate projects:

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Northwest Salamander egg mass Photo: S. Benjamen

Whatcom County Egg Mass Survey – which uses Citizen Scientists to collect data on the location, species and numbers of egg masses in wetlands throughout Whatcom County. This program has been running since 2012.

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Oregon Spotted Frog  Photo: V Jackson

The Oregon Spotted Frog Research Project – This multi-year project works under a Federal Permit and grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to research the population status and habitat requirements and conditions of the Federally Threatened Oregon Spotted Frog (Rana pretiosa) within Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Work also includes habitat restoration activities. Citizen Scientists are used to assist in this project in data collection and habitat restoration activities. Whatcom Land Trust is vital partner in this project.

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American Bullfrog Photo: J. Meche

Bullfrog and Green Frog Monitoring – This project was launched in 2016 to provide documentation on the location and status of these two invasive amphibians in Whatcom County. Currently there is not data on populations of these two species. These invasive species are known to compete with native amphibian species and have been shown to be associated with decreases in native amphibian diversity.

Bullfrogs are a common invasive species in the lower Puget Trough, but the extent in Whatcom County is not clearly understood. Green Frogs are an invasive species that are currently only known in Whatcom County. The distribution of this species is important to understand to prevent an expansion of its range.

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Western Toad mug shot.                   Photo, V. Jackson

Tracking Toads – Western Toads are a declining species in the Puget Lowland bioregion. WCAMP is working to find out where they still are and work to maintain and increase this cool amphibious friend. We use citizen scientists to locate and map where these secretive toads live and play.

WCAMP has been so busy it has its own website. Go to www.whatfrogs.org to learn more.