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  1. Volunteers help in toad count

    July 6, 2009

    SULLIVAN TOWNSHIP (AP) – This time of year in Ohio, volunteers are out in the dark of night, listening for the sounds of frogs and toads among the state’s ponds, streams and ditches.
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    For the last 12 years, the Ohio Division of Natural Resources has been compiling data to track the range and population of the animals. Dozens of volunteers have been helping in the spring and summer months.

    The citizen scientists learn to recognize the different sounds of the different frogs and toads and note their locations.

    “It’s a gray tree frog,” Debra Beckstett whispered to Christine Whelan on a recent night in rural Ashland County. “Two of them, I think. They’re calling out to each other.”

    Ohio officials plan to begin analyzing the 12-year accumulation of information to get a better reading on the health of the amphibian population in the state.

    Ohio’s survey grew out of worldwide concern about the future of many amphibians.

    Scientists contemplate the possibility of frog and toad species being wiped out by a killer fungus, or habitat loss, pollution and other manmade problems.

    Half of the planet’s 6,000 amphibian species face the threat of extinction.

    “The trend is one where we could lose this entire class of animals,” said Geoff Hall, general curator at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. “It’s frightening. They could go very, very quickly.”

    Ohio’s survey receives $8,000 to $10,000 a year in state wildlife funding. People like Jeff Davis, a high school science teacher near Cincinnati who launched the project, gather baseline data on frog and toad distribution.

    Surveyors are scattered across the state. More than 40 teams per year go out to listen for frog and toad sounds once a month from March through June.

    The compiled data has now reached 16,000 entries over the 12 years, and is now reaching the level where it can be analyzed for trends.

    Davis said evidence already suggests a decline in the populations of Fowler’s toads and Blanchard’s cricket frogs. Ohio has 15 species of frogs and toads.

    “We need to know if there’s a problem,” Davis said. “Because if something’s getting to them, at what point does it get to us?”

    http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/article/20090706/NEWS01/907060311/1002/RSS01

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