Citizens Help Keep Track of Imperiled Wildlife
It’s 10:00 on a summer night along a gravel road anywhere in Iowa.
A raucous chorus of male frogs are making themselves heard as they vie
for mates in the farm pond next to the road.
A volunteer stands clipboard in hand, ear cocked, mentally sorting out
each of the calling species and the number of individuals that might be using
this seemingly ordinary pond.
Skip over to a Saturday morning by the river where another
volunteer has binoculars trained on the tallest tree in the vicinity.
In this tree is a one ton nest, home to two bald eagles and their young.
Are there two or three young in that nest?
Hard to tell and a follow up visit will be needed; in the meantime, notes
are taken and a peaceful half hour is spent watching one of the most spectacular
birds in North America.
Both of these volunteers were trained through Iowa Department
of Natural Resources’ Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program, or VWMP for short.
The state is big, the species are many, and the staff to monitor those
species is few; volunteers are
really crucial to ensure that these species remain stable.
Every March and April, IDNR staff travel around the state leading 6
training workshops, readying folks to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical
wildlife. Participants in these
workshops have begun a journey to become Certified Volunteer Wildlife Monitors
and will be intrinsically involved in wildlife conservation in Iowa.
Two types of trainings are offered: one for folks interested
in monitoring raptor or colonial waterbird nesting sites and one for people more
interested in performing a frog call survey.
Raptors and colonial waterbirds (Herons, Egrets, Night-herons and
Cormorants) are targeted because of their role as top predators and their
dependence on particular habitats.
Frogs and toads are also an important group for data collection because of their
dependence on clean water and evidence of a global decline among all amphibians.
Each year an army of volunteers helps the IDNR keep an eye (and ear) on these
important resources. The Volunteer
Wildlife Monitoring Program provides an opportunity for adults who love the
outdoors and wildlife to be directly involved with the conservation and
monitoring of Iowa’s resources. VWMP Bird
workshops in 2011 will be held in Jackson, Palo Alto and Warren Counties in
March and frog and toad survey trainings will be held in Wapello, Crawford and
Warren Counties in April. For more
or contact Stephanie Shepherd,