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Calling all citizen-scientists: it’s time to survey amphibians and reptiles
AUSTIN — Spring in Texas means wildflowers blooming, frogs croaking, turtles basking and a chance to count the unique species emerging from their winter hideouts. As wildlife in Texas benefit from abundant spring rains and early warmth this year, Texas Parks and Wildlife is looking for volunteers to help document amphibian and reptile species around the state.
A good year is welcome news for these species, many of which are declining or little-known, according to Lee Ann Linam, TPWD Wildlife Diversity Program biologist. Linam and other biologists are concerned about amphibian and reptile numbers because of the record drought and heat last season, making this year’s count critical to understanding how the animals faired last year.
“Reptiles and amphibians are especially sensitive to climate changes,” said Linam. “Frogs and toads require adequate rainfall to breed, and reptiles often spend more time underground or in burrows during long dry periods.”
TPWD has several monitoring programs that allow citizen scientists to enjoy some springtime weather while gathering data on reptiles and amphibians.
Texas Amphibian Watch seeks information on frogs, toads, and salamanders in the state, usually by encouraging a volunteer to adopt a wetland site and listening for the calls of frogs and toads at night. Texas Amphibian Watch provides a free monitoring packet with instructions. Audio CDs of frog and toad calls and training workshops are also available.
“People are always fascinated to learn what animal is making that click, trill, or chuckle that they hear at ponds,” Linam said, “and that fascination can help us determine whether amphibian species are declining in Texas or not.”
Texas Horned Lizard Watch seeks information on horned lizards, including the official state reptile, often called the horny toad. Interested participants can download a free monitoring packet that provides information about all three horned lizard species in Texas, guidelines for managing for horned lizards, and instructions and data forms for the monitoring program.
“Many Texans are familiar with horny toads, but wonder why they don’t see them anymore,” Linam said. “Texas Horned Lizard Watch is an attempt to help us understand why horned lizards have disappeared from some areas and remain in others—hopefully that information will help us help the species to recover.”
Texas Box Turtle Survey seeks information on the two box turtle species in the state—the eastern box turtle and the ornate box turtle. Common in the pet trade, these land-based turtles seem to be declining in some areas. TPWD provides a sighting report form that can be downloaded and links to a webpage where sightings can be reported online.
“We would be especially concerned about decreases in box turtle numbers because they are long-lived and don’t produce many young,” Linam said.
Texas Amphibian Watch, Texas Horned Lizard Watch, and Texas Box Turtle Survey are just a few of the citizen science programs offered as a part of Texas Nature Trackers. Texas Nature Trackers is also collaborating with other partners to promote volunteer survey efforts for freshwater turtles and the spot-tailed earless lizards. To download monitoring packets, check workshop schedules, order CDs, or just learn more about these and other programs, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/trackers/.
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