Every year, all across the state of Iowa, citizen scientists make enormous contributions to wildlife conservation by collecting and reporting data on some of the state’s most vulnerable critters. Through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program (VWMP) citizens are equipped with the proper information and materials to help in these state wide studies. Program Coordinator Stephanie Shepherd explains, “We just don’t have enough staff in the DNR to adequately monitor all the vulnerable species that we need to. This is where citizen scientists play a crucial role.” Every March and April, Shepherd travels around the state to lead training workshops that ready folks to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife. The following are examples of what the VWMP is like for volunteers:
- Frog and Toad Call Survey: It’s 10:00 on a summer night along a gravel road anywhere in Iowa. In the farm pond next to the road a raucous chorus of male frogs are making themselves heard as they vie for mates. A volunteer stands clipboard in hand, ear cocked, mentally sorting out each of the calling species which are using this ordinary pond.
- Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring: It’s a peaceful Saturday morning by the river where a volunteer has binoculars and spotting scope trained on the tallest tree in the vicinity. In this tree is a huge nest, home to two bald eagles and their young. A peaceful half hour is spent watching one of the most spectacular birds in North America.
This year, Sioux County Conservation is teaming up with the DNR to host both a Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring and Frog and Toad Call Survey Training Workshop. Two separate workshops will be held on Saturday, April 13th at the Oak Grove Lodge.
Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring Workshop 9:30am-12:30pm (5$)
Training workshop focuses on some of Iowa’s more spectacular birds of prey such as Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Peregrine Falcons. Volunteers are taught how to collect data on specific nesting sites around the state and submit pertinent data such as how many young birds fledge. “This data collection requires lots of patience and some good optics in order to watch the nest from a distance and not disturb the birds,” Shepherd indicates. Last year volunteers reported on over 150 Bald Eagle nests across the state.
Frog and Toad Call Survey 1:00-4:00pm (5$)
Training is for a survey that requires a keen ear. Volunteers are trained to listen to and recognize the 16 species of frogs and toads in Iowa based on their breeding calls. In 2016, volunteers surveyed routes consisting of over 350 wetland sites for frog and toad activity. “The frog and toad surveyors are particularly special because to perform the surveys they have to drive back country roads at night along a specified route which would not be everyone’s cup of tea,” Shepherd says. “I think most feel that exploring the Iowa wilds at night is a unique experience and opportunity.”
If you are an adult who is interested in getting involved, you need to register by filling out the DNR form found here and attend a training workshop. The cost of each program covers all materials provided at the workshop. If you would like to register for just one of the workshop it costs five dollars, if you would like to attend both classes the cost is eight dollars. Each class is limited to 15 people, so be sure to get your registration in soon! Registration must be received by April 5th, 2019.
For more information and to fill out a registration form visit: http://www.iowadnr.com/volunteerwildlifemonitoring/ or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.