A day in the field

McCallum Ditch

Aleesha Switzer hunting for frogs. Photo: Isabelle Groc

How do we conduct frog research? What does a day in the wetland look like? Read more about what our researchers do out there in the mud.

Field days in the wetland looking for frogs are often long, can be cold, rainy, sunny, or blasting hot. They are always wet and muddy. We wear chest waders and use kayaks to access frog habitat, as frogs tend to like land that is wet and water that has a lot of soil and vegetation in it (that’s what WetLands are!).

At the height of the Oregon Spotted Frog breeding season in February and March, field biologists will trap, tag, weigh, and measure any frog they can find. We check hundreds of traps in a single day, sometimes catching dozens of frogs and working until dusk, and some days finding traps either empty or occupied by other visitors, including salamanders, red-legged frogs, and freshwater fish. Other biologists will be slogging through mud and beating their way through vegetation to get to channels to find the frogs’ precious eggs so that we can count every last one. It’s good exercise!

During telemetry projects, frogs are fitted with tiny belts that broadcast a radio signal so that researchers can track their movements with a handheld radio receiver. We ‘tune in’ to each frog and go looking: it’s like a game of Hot and Cold with the receiver getting louder and louder as we get closer to the frog. You might think that because the frogs have a transmitter it would be easy to find them. You would be wrong! It’s challenging work to catch the frogs even when they are sending a signal. We work in pairs: while one team member uses the radio to find the frog, another person is ready to make the catch.The frogs are often hiding under thick mats of vegetation, and getting to their exact hiding spot can sometimes take several hours.

We love our work. A wetland can be an amazing office. Some days are ugly and buggy – particularly when we work in heavily damaged ecosystems – but healthy wetlands with clean water thrive with frogs, salamanders, fish, birds, dragonflies, spiders, worms and beautiful flowers, all of which make for glorious days in the field.