Sunday, August 30, 2009

Toad Story

The austere Mortenson Lake, Albany County, Wyoming

I was absolutely amazed to see this article on the NPR website today. I highly recommend you listen to actual recording rather than only read the article.

NPR talks about the wyoming toad reintroduction project we've been working on.

This is about the work we have been doing with the wyoming toads (Anaxyrus baxteri) at Mortenson Lake. Brandon and I have helped conduct surveys with Jason Palmer, mentioned in this story, who is running the reintroduction efforts for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He is famous now in public radioland. Good for him! I don't think I've written about the wyoming toad work we've been doing, but I guess I should... After all, it is the reason that we have our jobs: Shawn, our boss, managed to get funding for a BLM amphibian monitoring program by coordinating with Jason. Basically, we are employed because we helped Jason out performing the surveys discussed in this article for 3 weeks this summer.

When Brandon and I helped out two weeks ago we unfortunately saw no NPR reporters (I admit it - it is my disgustingly liberal public-radio-listening nerd-dom that makes being interviewed on NPR a secret fantasy.), but we did work with some great zoo interns who had been shipped in from Toronto and Michigan.To my knowledge the zoos' representatives who were interviewed are participating in the breeding program to a certain extent, but Jason's Fish and Wildlife lab in Laramie is planting the bulk of the toads larvae. There is a widely distributed network of zoos providing assistance, but most aren't doing more than 1000 larval contributions each. Also, I was kinda bummed that Jason's seasonal assistants, our pals Billy and Meaghan, weren't mentioned or interviewed at all. They were fun to work with and were doing a helluva toad-raising/ tadpole releasing job.

So the story is really good, considering how obscure the subject matter is. One thing I would like to rudely correct is the statement by herpetologist Val Hornyak: "Once you've seen one, your eye kind of adjusts to that," Hornyak says. "You know what it's going to look like in the territory it's in."

My counter-statement is,"yes, the wyoming toad does stick out in its territory, but its not because they are poorly camouflaged. One easily senses a toad's presence because its awkward and noticeable attempts at escape draw a lot of attention to its whereabouts." This behavioral flaw has caused Brandon and I to joke that they are "bad at existing".


Searching for the toads has been very enjoyable. With all the endless pacing around in thigh-waders, finding a toad is rewarding. We captured several the last time we went out. Brandon was lucky enough to tag one, as described in the article. We learned how to surgically implant the PIT tags back in early summer at Jason's toad-rearing laboratory.

Our capture sequence goes like this - we scan the toad for a PIT tag (using AVID RFID tech I learned how to use at the Cat Hospital), swab it for chytrid fungus, weigh and measure it, determine its sex, and do a little photo shoot. All told, it is very fun. I have included some photos from the first survey we did on June 24th, and when I get a chance I will include the more interesting recent survey photos we have in which we do toad surgery and find lots of big daddy-o's (as they say)!

Little toadlet "hiding".

Toadlet attempting escape by water.

Another seasonal employee holding a "large mama".

Hisself, swabbin' a toadlet for fungal infection.

I just love swabbin' toads.



rb said...

you mean this whole thing is actually legitimate? cool...

Chris said...

oh tim you look so dashing