While one frog's calls may be meant to attract another of the opposite gender, they may also draw in area biologists such as Dr. Carol J. Kafer, who has spent the last 10 years collecting data for the Pennsylvania Online Herpetological Atlas and the North American Amphibian Monitoring Project.
"During most of the year, amphibians are widely scattered," Kafer
said."During the spring and early summer, however, most must return to shallow ponds or pools to breed.Listening for calling frogs and toads is a good way to locate breeding sites."Kafer
, who teaches biology as an associate professor, received a semesterlong sabbatical from Pennsylvania College of Technology
to pursue a data collection survey to determine whether rare or endangered amphibian species live in the Loyalsock Creek watershed.Choosing that creek was an easy decision for Kafer , she is president of the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, an organization dedicated to preserving and improving the stream and the creatures in its waters and along its banks.
"The problem is, the Loyalsock Creek watershed is 500 square miles," Kafer
said."There are 400-plus ponds shown on the map."
Many more are too small to be mapped.Some are considered vernal pools , they dry up, therefore providing only temporary ,but crucial , habitat for species.
The breadth of the watershed inspired Kafer
to seek outside help.She
hopes that anyone who hears a frog calling in the spring or who spots an amphibian such as a salamander, newt or skink will give her
a call."Many eyes and ears are much better than just one pair of each," she
is particularly hopeful that she'll be able to local the breeding grounds of any of several species considered rare or endangered in this part of the state.
One of these is the wood frog.Measuring roughly 2 inches long, the wood frog tends to be shades of brown, with a darker mask encircling its eye and ending behind its eardrum.
"They are one of the first frogs to sing in the spring," Kafer
also is on the lookout for spotted salamanders, which are black with yellow spots.They also use vernal pools and can grow to lengths of about 6 inches.For her work with the North American Amphibian Monitoring Project, Kafer must be able to recognize the calls of different frog and toad species.
In fact, she
, and other volunteers , are tested yearly on their knowledge of frog calls and must pass the exam. She
offers a less rigorous approach for those who are interested in helping her
"The only way to keep Lycoming County beautiful and interesting is to get people who love the outdoors involved," Kafer
Under the official monitoring project, which is administered by the U.S. Geological Survey, searches for amphibians are held three times a year, Kafer
said.Project coordinators decide where volunteers should go to listen and look.
There are many constraints in working with the project, she
added.For instance, a survey can only be held if the temperature is 42 degrees or warmer, and it must begin at least a half hour after sunset.
These requirements, though, "are only for people who have been trained to submit data to the NAAMP
"If we know where the breeding ponds are ... the vernal pools ... we should get busy and protect them," Kafer
is working with these project, in part, to help "preserve wetlands, creeks and vernal pools.They are getting harder and harder to find.Some places in Pennsylvania are just all developed."
The Keystone State does have a few things going for it when it comes to conservation and preservation, however.The PA Wilds initiative , a 12-county endeavor to encourage tourism by promoting outdoor recreation , and, even more locally, the Lycoming County Recreation, Open Space, Parks and Greenways Plan, whose goal it whose goal it "is to encourage economic development in Lycoming County by increasing and enhancing greenways and providing more opportunities for outdoor recreation," Kafer
"This is a beautiful state," she
said, "and identifying the habitat of rare or interesting kinds of amphibians and reptiles is necessary to help conserve our natural resources."Subscribe to Williamsport SunGazette