On the Spot

Hillary’s Field Trip: Photopoint Monitoring at Chaplin Road Wetlands

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By Guest Blogger: Hillary Rowe

Today I got a special chance to head out into the field with Precious Frog biologist Natasha Wilbrink. On this uncommonly warm and sunny April day, we traveled out to Agassiz to do some photopoint monitoring at Chaplin Road Wetland.

Chaplin Road Wetland is an important release site for the Oregon Spotted Frogs that are raised through OSF captive breeding programs. It was originally restored almost 10 years ago for additional fish habitat and spawning grounds, but over time this site has become the perfect shallow water wetland for BC’s endangered Spotties!

Hillary splashing her way into Chaplin Road Wetland

Just after nine o-clock, we donned our rubber waders, gathered our equipment, and splashed our way into the wetlands.

“We try to get out here at least a couple of times a year to take pictures of the site,” says Natasha. “We get right down in the wetland,” she tells me, “and take pictures in four different directions – North, South, East, and West – at specific points we’ve marked throughout the site. By taking the same pictures year after year, we get a better idea of how things are changing here over time.” Natasha turned on the field iPad to show me some pictures she took the last time she visited the site. I could see they were quite different from what I saw in front of me now.

“You can see how much more vegetation there is here now compared to the photos we took last year,” says Natasha, “because our restoration team was out here planting last spring.” As these plants grow and establish themselves, they will help to stabilize the banks, and maybe even shade out some of the invasive reed canarygrass found spread throughout this wetland.

I helped Natasha take pictures at seven different points in Chaplin Road Wetland. I didn’t see any frogs today, but I did see a lot of other critters! We were visited by minnows, aquatic snails, and dragonflies, and all morning I heard the nearby call of the Red-winged blackbird. One of the highlights of the day was getting to watch an Osprey dive for his dinner!

“Improving the site for Spotties helps so many other aquatic and terrestrial species that also depend on wetland ecosystems,” says Natasha, “but not every restoration project has this much attention.” Because this site recognized as critical habitat for the endangered Oregon Spotted Frog, there is currently funding available that allows us to keep coming back to monitor and improve it. “This isn’t very common for a site that’s almost 10 years old,” says Natasha. Some restoration projects only get support for 1 or 2 years of site monitoring and maintenance, and if you come back 5 or 6 years later it might be totally degraded. Other projects might not be funded for any maintenance at all.

At twelve o-clock, after taking all of our pictures (and stopping to admire the amazing view of Mount Cheam in the distance), we packed up our field gear, and headed back to the office to prepare our site report.

Natasha hopes that long-term monitoring and maintenance of this site will continue to provide habitat for our Spotties, and the many other species that live there too.