Group 3

Anuran Diversity on the UMass Campus
Raymond Xu, Nicole Wood, Tiffany Phan
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of Biology

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is a scientific agency of that United States that study the landscape of the country through different initiatives. One such initiative, called the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP), is to analyze species diversity of Anurans across the country. Anurans, also known as frogs, are amphibians that are characterized by long hind legs, a short body, webbed toes, and protruding eyes. Most are semi-aquatic and tend to inhabit humid areas but can move easily across land. The call of an Anuran is unique to its species.

For our research project, we are analyzing Anuran species diversity in Amherst, Massachusetts. Specifically, we are focusing the area of north of Route 9 and west of East Pleasant Street. A route of approximately 5 miles is plotted. Using a calling survey technique, we identify amphibian species by their unique vocalizations or calls along the route. We then analyzed our data to determine the diversity of Anurans in our area.

Observers are familiarized with the NAAMP standard survey protocol and trained to recognize frog calls using USGS’s Frog Call Quiz website. A random route in a specific area is generated for each group to survey. Each group is to stop every 0.5 miles for a total of 10 stops. The starting point should be a potential amphibian-breeding site.

At each stop, the observer listens for 5 minutes and records the amphibian calling index and the species that are heard. The sky code, wind code, and noise index is also recorded. Alterations to the route can be made based on susceptibility to dangers. The whole process is repeated 2 more times for a total of 3 runs. Data is then compiled with other groups for analysis.

We conducted our survey between times of 8pm to 10pm. In all three runs, the temperature ranged from 5C to 9C and the winds were calm to a light breeze. The sky ranged from few clouds to cloudy with overcast. The ground was wet on April 22 and dry for April 21 and 23. Figure 1 shows every stop we made in each run.

Table 1 shows the Amphibian Calling Index of each stop and Table 2 shows the noise index of each stop. Stops 1, 3, 6, 9, and 10 consistently show signs of amphibians in all three runs. Stop 4 showed a sign of amphibians on one occasion. Stops 4, 5, and 6 ranked the nosiest for all stops. All amphibians that were heard in the stops were Pseudacris crucifer, also known as spring peeper.

Figure 1. Mapping of all 10 stops conduced in this survey. Each stop is approximately 0.5 miles from one another by road.

Table 1. Amphibian Calling Index for all stops. 1: individuals can be counted, there is space between calls, 2: calls of individuals can be distinguished with some overlapping calls, 3: full chorus, calls are constant, continuous and overlapping.

Table 2. Noise Index for all stops. 0: no appreciable effect, 1: slightly affecting sampling, 2: moderately affecting sampling, 3: seriously affecting sampling, 4: profoundly affecting sampling

Our results were what we expected. The only species of Anurans we found were Pseudacris crucifer (spring peepers) which are common in this area and time of year. Unfortunately, we could not distinguish or identify any other Anuran calls. Thus, we can conclude that Anuran diversity is currently low.

It was not surprising that Stops 1, 3, 6, 9, and 10 showed signs of amphibians. Those stops are located in more wooded and secluded areas where amphibians tend to thrive. Some spots were near pools of water where organism can breed. The remaining stops were at places where there are large amounts of traffic or human made structures. Since our designated areas consisted of the UMass Amherst campus and surrounding residential areas, it is hard to avoid all these structures.

Stop 4 only had signs of amphibians’ calls one day where there was not a local event. Rather amphibians are affected by human disturbance or we cannot hear the call over the crowds of people is unclear. Further outlooks on this project are to check for amphibian calls at different times of year or after certain weather conditions. The diversity of Anurans might increase as the weather gets more warm and stable.

We would like to thank the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program for providing the survey protocol to conduct this project. We would also like to acknowledge everyone in Section 3 Biology Writing class for surveying other areas of Amherst. Finally, we like to thank Dr. Steve Brewer for providing us the Anuran diversity data collection system and for his guidance in putting this project together.

Weir, Linda, ed. North American Amphibian Monitoring Program. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
Web. 15 Apr. 2010.