Regional Monitoring Project
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Burgess Pond at the Connecticut Audubon Center in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Field collecting in New England and elsewhere in the United States has improved the taxonomic diversity of the North American herpetology holdings in the Yale Peabody Museum’s Division of Vertebrate Zoology. New England collections include specimens from the Maine Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, as well as from the Connecticut Amphibian Monitoring Project.

 

Connecticut Amphibian Monitoring Project

Amphibian populations are declining throughout the world, with hundreds of species becoming extinct at an alarming rate. Even species once thought of as common are now all but gone from the planet. All too frequently newly discovered species are reported as extinct, almost by the time the news of their discovery reaches the scientific community. To help understand these extinctions and the changes in amphibian populations, several organizations have been formed to help scientists and amateurs work together.

Established in 1998, the Connecticut Amphibian Monitoring Project (CAMP) is an ambitious, volunteer-driven, 15-year statewide survey of amphibian populations that will include scientists from several Connecticut institutions, including the Yale Peabody Museum. Previous studies, none later than the 1950s, were only centered either on 1 or 2 sites, or on a specific species.

The Yale Peabody Museum is an official partner in CAMP. Education Coordinator Jim Sirch of the Museum’s Public Education Department and the Division of Vertebrate Zoology’s Greg Watkins-Colwell are CAMP site coordinators responsible for volunteer efforts to survey specific sites in the state for amphibian diversity and population activity. CAMP volunteers are involved in all aspects of the survey, including night road surveys (in the rain), cover surveys (looking under logs…and counting how many logs you’ve turned over), call surveys (know your frog sounds), larval surveys (know your tadpoles!), and even collecting voucher specimens as evidence of a species occurrence at a site.

In addition to being a site coordinator, Greg is the specimen collections coordinator for the statewide project, overseeing the identification and cataloguing of specimens collected during the entire CAMP program. These specimens will be ambassadors, of sorts, for their populations. Housed in the Peabody’s Vertebrate Zoology Division, they will be available to researchers around the world and to future generations, a record of what amphibian populations in Connecticut looked like in the early 21st century.

By participating in research such as the CAMP survey, the Yale Peabody Museum actively contributes to solving some of nature’s most intriguing mysteries by providing valuable data for conservation efforts in Connecticut.