In Maryland, a group of 1300 amateur scientists have teamed up to document species of amphibians and reptiles by using high tech acoustic monitoring devices and mapping technology. They’re the seventh graders of Calvert County School System and they’re an integral part of the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas.
MARA is a five-year project created by the Natural History Society of Maryland and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to document the current distributions of amphibians and reptiles in the state. The information will be used as a baseline to determine future changes in distribution of herpetofauna. The project relies heavily on the participation of citizen scientists, such as the students of Calvert county, to report sightings and log locations of amphibians and reptiles.
Wildlife Acoustics recorders are placed just outside of the schools to record amphibian vocalizations. Periodically, students listen back and analyze the vocalizations right in their classrooms. The location and identity of the species are then logged in the MARA database. They even have an impressive blog full of photos, stories, and updates called their Frog Blog.
Just this month, Tom Harten, environmental educator for Calvert County schools, presented the project at the conference for the North American Association for Environmental Education, held in Baltimore, MD.
Amphibians and reptiles don’t often get as much press as mammals, but the threat to their diversity is just as real. The MARA project is not only trying to document current and future diversity, but to create awareness and promote conservation for the creatures. Thanks to a large group of budding herpetologists, it looks like the 90+ species in Maryland have an extra advantage.