Monday, March 16, 2015

Amphibian Egg Mass Surveys

***The deadline has been extended until Sunday, March 22!***This blog post is part of a Pacific Northwest Nature Blog Scavenger Hunt! It's put together by Kelly of the Metropolitan Field Guide, who has some nifty prizes for the winners! You will find all the details here: http://www.metrofieldguide.com/2015-pnw-nature-blog-scavenger-hunt.  The contest begins Monday, March 16 and will end at midnight Pacific time on Saturday, March 20. She will provide questions, and you can find the answers on each of the participating blogs.  Of course, the best prize of all is discovering some amazing new blogs to enjoy. Good luck!

Northern red-legged frog eggs.
Jasper loves science, and I believe an ideal way to learn about science is by doing it!  We love to find citizen science projects that we can participate in.  We collect data that can be used in a meaningful way in ongoing research, and Jasper gets to see how real science data is collected firsthand.  A couple years ago we were able to do some amphibian egg mass surveys for the City of Gresham.  We hoped to try it again at a new location.  Tualatin Hills Nature Park gave us the chance to do amphibian egg mass surveys at three of the ponds in the park.  It was really cool!  They are interested mainly in monitoring the population of northern red-legged frogs, which are currently listed as threatened.  Red-legged frogs have large egg masses, roughly the size of grapefruits, and our main objective was to count them, while noting the presence of other species. In addition, we noted water and air temperatures, depth and clarity of the water, weather conditions at the time of the survey, and anything else we found interesting.  We also found egg masses from Pacific chorus frogs and Northwestern salamanders. The park's famous rough-skinned newts lay eggs singly which are notoriously difficult to find, and the park's infamous invasive bullfrogs don't lay their eggs until much later. It was amazing to watch the eggs develop from round, opaque embryos to gradually elongate into tadpoles that squirmed if the egg mass was disturbed. On our last visit, we saw many free-swimming tadpoles. Soon area ponds will be bursting with tiny froglets. Jasper also brought along his microscope and checked out the water's other resident creepy-crawlies.
Pacific chorus frog egg mass.
Red-legged frog eggs.
Pacific chorus frog eggs.
We found these strange reddish eggs on top of a red-legged frog mass.  We have no
idea what they are (any clues would be appreciated!)  The small red critter at the top is a copepod.
Another picture of the mystery eggs.
The mystery eggs looked very different when we returned.  Hatched?
Mystery eggs above the red-legged frog egg mass.
Red-legged frog egg.
Red-legged frog eggs.
Red-legged frog egg.
One of our survey ponds. The frogs really seem to have favored this green grass as a place to lay their eggs.
Pacific chorus frog eggs.
Red-legged frog eggs.
Pacific chorus frog eggs.
Northwestern salamander egg mass.
Northwestern salamander eggs.
Another survey pond.
Northwestern salamander eggs.
Red-legged frog tadpoles.
Salamander larvae.
Survey pond.
Red-legged frog egg.
Red-legged frog egg.
Here are some of the pond critters Jasper found. All of these critters are pretty common, so if there's a pond near you you're likely to find them there too! Jasper has a Brock microscope, which we love.  It is the only American made microscope, built tough for kids, with a lifetime no-fault guarantee.  But it doesn't skimp on optical quality.  It uses fiberoptics as a light source, so we will never need to replace a bulb. And you can even remove the microscope itself from its stand if that makes it easier to peer at things.  I credit its ease of use with the fact that we've really put it to use, instead of just using it once or twice and putting it away. I love to tell people about it because we think the microscopic world is fascinating!
Daphnia, or water flea, a crustacean.  Their skin is transparent, so you can watch their hearts beat.
Copepod (another crustacean).
A tadpole, most likely a Pacific chorus frog.
Daphnia with eggs. 
A diving beetle larva, with fearsome jaws.
Mosquito larva.
Mosquito larva.

3 comments:

Lainey Piland said...

Great photos! How neat to see the frogs and salamanders developing inside their eggs. Next time my hikes take me near a pond, I'll be taking a closer look to see if I can spot any eggs!

Sara Viernum said...

My guess for the mystery eggs is an aquatic snail species. Great photos of all the developing amphibians!

Laura Lucanidae said...

Thank you Sara! Wish I knew a snail enthusiast who would know. Snails seem underappreciated!