Wetlandkeeper Trainers learn about Amphibian Surveys at the Green Timbers Marsh
Patrick McGuiness attended a meeting of wetlandkeeper trainers along with local naturalists Lisa Helmer and Veronica Sommerville. Valuable lessons were learned on monitoring amphibian populations and the viability and potential productivity of created wetlands. Amphibian viewing in Whistler right now-Lost Lake Beach along the western edge, Western Toad tadpoles are sticking to the warmest shallows.
Sometimes the only way to really see something is to get your nose right up to it, cross your eyes a little bit, and try to focus. A marsh is a good example. Of course, you can see a marsh without putting your face in the water. I’m pretty confident that on a clear day, in an open field, I could declare “marsh” from up to 100 meters away. No problem. But for those of us with the unfortunate habit of staying on the trail, there are components of ‘marsh’ that too often go unnoticed.
What the trail-abiding reader might not know is that amphibian eggs are mostly see-through. If you do choose to get your nose right up to one of the gooey egg-masses, you’ll be rewarded with a view of several tiny froggy embryos. Actually, they are more like tiny tadpole embryos, little black dots that sometimes stretch out into half-moon shapes. You might even be able to make out some eyes or little fuzzy gills. It’s like an ultra-sound only without all the gadgets… and with a frog or salamander instead of a human, of course.
Unfortunately for the amphibians, all this easy viewing makes for a fragile development process. Amphibian eggs are easily squished, buried, knocked off their ‘anchors’, or dried out. As we saw first hand during our field exercise, one dog off the leash can leave hundreds or even thousands of frogs-to-be buried under silt, floating aimlessly, or smushed under paw. Life isn’t easy for a would-be amphibian.
The marsh we had our noses in was inside the Green Timbers Community Forest. The Green Timbers Heritage Society had actually constructed the marsh a few years earlier. Since it’s construction, Pacific Tree Frogs, Red-Legged Frogs, and Long-Toed Salamanders have moved in, taking full advantage of their new home. In addition, the City of Surrey has lent their support to both the Green Timbers Heritage Society and the Wetland Education Program of the BC Wildlife Federation (home of Wetlandkeepers). These frogs and salamanders are well taken care of.
Of course, not all amphibians have it so good. Many wetland-dependent critters, including humans, are losing out on all that marshes, swamps and bogs have to offer. Wetlands are being lost at unprecedented rates simply because of a lack of awareness. That is why our Wetlandkeeper Trainers, as well as the staff of the Wetland Education Program, work tirelessly to educate communities about the many functions and values of British Columbia’s wetland ecosystems.
Written by: Patrick McGuiness