Pond Breeding Amphibians

Our Pond Breeding Amphibian Monitoring project was devised by Drs. Jim Petranka, UNCA, and Charles Smith, High Point University.  They wrote the protocols for the monitoring in a 1995 report to the park; we use these protocols when collecting data.  Drs. Petranka and Smith collected data the first few years, then Park staff collected the data, and finally the project was offered to Tremont in 2007.

Starting in late January or early February, we visit 3 sites in the Park every two weeks to monitor Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander breeding:  Gum Swamp in Cades Cove, the 3 sinkholes near the Finley Cane trailhead, and the wetland at the Sinks.  We count the number of egg masses of each species and take water chemistry measurements.  The project ends when all the eggs hatch, typically in April or early May.  If there’s warm weather in January, this may trigger a particularly early breeding bout.  To do this monitoring, we don chest waders and muck around in the deep, dark, cold water of these ephemeral pools.  Nothing can compare to the magic of standing waist deep in murky water, surrounded by thousands of croaking Wood Frogs in early spring.

This is the only long-term pond breeding amphibian monitoring project in the Park.  These populations face risk from feral hogs (they roll around the wetlands, destroying eggs and tadpoles), ranavirus, chytrid fungus, and climate change (drought).  Because of these threats, this is a top priority project.

Because of the challenging nature of this project and limited equipment, we do not offer it to our school groups.  However, if you are interested in volunteering your time to help us monitor these amphibians, please contact Erin Canter at [email protected].

An Analysis of Amphibian Population Monitoring Study Designs
Trends in Ranavirus