The weather is warming and the thaw of spring has begun. Take a walk near any pond, wetland, or swamp just after the ice has melted on a spring day and you will hear some amazing chatter. From chirps, to croaks and peeps and trills, a chorus of nature is on display. Sometimes it's a wall of sound that can be deafening. What makes such a sound? It's actually dozens and dozens of frogs named Spring Peepers. Known as a chorus frog, their chirps mark the beginning of spring in the eastern US and Canada. Spring Peepers are rarely seen but always heard in the early part of spring. The males are actually the ones making all the noise, to get the attention of females in the area. Their high-pitched call is often mistaken for crickets, which are only heard in the summer or early fall. After mating, the female will lay it's eggs on plants in the water. Spring Peepers and other frogs are quite important to any healthy ecosystem. They feast on pretty much any insect, like beetles, ants, flies, and spiders. And they are a staple food for many animals like snakes, skunks, larger frogs, birds, fish, raccoons, and much more. Even as tadpoles, they are a very important food sources. Now this predation may sound bad for this little frog, but a female can lay as many as 1,000 eggs!
Not only do frogs as well as toads have an important role in food webs, but they are also an indicator of the health of the surrounding environment. Frogs and other amphibians have thin skin in which they absorb water and even breathe. This incredible adaptation leaves them very susceptible to contaminants in their environment. They are much like the "canary the coal mine," warning humans of chemicals in our environment that could harm us. If there is a decrease in a frog population, it's very important for scientists to figure out the cause.
You don't have to be an expert in herpetology to help your local frog population. Through FrogWatch USA, a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, non-scientists can contribute to scientific research and learn about their community wetlands. Volunteers collect data on the calls of frogs and toads during evenings from February through August. Then they enter it into an online database that is combined with data from thousands of other FrogWatch USA volunteers from around the US. The information is analyzed and used to develop environmental protection and amphibian conservation strategies. Read more about FrogWatch USA here.
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.