Snapshots in Time: Tracking Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander Breeding
Welcome to Snapshots in Time, a long-term Citizen Science project aimed at mobilizing people to monitor the timing of Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) breeding throughout the respective ranges of these species. The purpose of this project is to use the data collected by on-the-ground citizens year-after-year to investigate possible effects of climate change on the timing of reproduction. Determining changes in the timing of breeding is very important, not just for these species, but others that use the same habitat. The results of this project could allow us to inform land managers and development planners of important areas for conservation and look deeper into what other species in these ecosystems may be negatively affected by climate change, including some endangered species.
This is what is commonly referred to as a phenology project. Phenology is the study of periodic events in a plant or animal's life cycle, such as breeding or migration, and how the timing of these events are influenced by changes in the climate. Phenology allows us to understand variations in breeding times, even in limited geographic areas or specific sites, to develop a range-wide picture of any shifts in the timing of breeding.
Our objective is to collect your data long-term, so those that choose to participate in this project are encouraged to do so at the same sites year after year when possible.
If you are interested in spreading the word about this project, please download a copy of our "Snapshots in Time" press release here.
Snap Shots in Time at a Glance
This effort will focus on populations found throughout their range in North America. Both of these amphibians breed following heavy rains during winter–spring that flood woodland depressions and various other types of ephemeral (short-lived) ponds or wetlands that lack fish. These can include areas such as lime-sink ponds in karst regions, or pools in the floodplains of streams.
Both species migrate en mass to breeding sites when weather conditions are appropriate from winter to spring depending on where you are within their range (see range map below). Spotted Salamanders and Wood Frogs often share the same breeding sites and breed simultaneously—with breeding typically occurring earlier for southern populations (i.e., winter) compared to more northerly populations (late winter–early spring). During most of the year (when not at breeding sites), Spotted Salamanders live in burrows and/or under large logs in forest habitats. Wood Frogs are terrestrial and reside in leaf litter-carpeted forests away from water where their coloration affords them excellent camouflage.
We request that you submit field observations for either species, including any information related to: 1) Migrations of adults to/from breeding pond sites; 2) Observations of adults at breeding ponds; 3) Observations of egg masses; 4) Observations of larvae (Spotted Salamander) or of tadpoles (Wood Frog), and 5) Whether metamorphs were observed leaving the wetland. We are betting the wetlands you monitor become spots (no pun intended!) that you regularly visit well into the future (or continue to visit if you are already doing so…).
We have prepared datasheets for the information we desire from your observations, and are also including an identification sheet for each species. One data sheet should be used for each observation. For example, if you heard wood frogs on one date, that is one observation. If you see tadpoles the next time you visit the wetland, you would use a separate data sheet. We request a photograph for each observation so that we can confirm identification.
Encountering Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders (or evidence of these species) in the field is always exciting. Rolling a pond-side log to see the bright orange spots of a plump Spotted Salamander, or hearing the duck-like chuckling sounds of a sizeable Wood Frog chorus, are always memorable natural history experiences. With this study, you can make your observations count toward a scientific review of these species’ breeding patterns. This will benefit our knowledge of these animals, and also provide you an opportunity to better acquaint yourself with the amphibian life in your own backyard while doing your part for conservation. Consider participating in Snapshots in Time, it will be a great experience for all ages!
Participation is easy! See the range maps below to determine if these species occur in your area. Visit wetland areas when breeding occurs. Submit your data. Its that easy! Be sure to get in touch with us with any questions you have about this project and be sure to tell your friends about Snapshots in Time!
- Range Maps
Range maps for Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)
- Data Sheets and Identification Guides
Data collection sheets for the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) and Species Identification Guide.
- Submit Your Observations Here
Submit your Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) observations here.