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Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2002

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Studies of species composition and abundance of amphibiansThis manual contains a procedure for the organization of studies of the numbers and population structure of amphibians in spring and summer. The method of selecting habitats for study, the technique for a route census of frogs, the procedure for the simplest measurements of caught animals and the analysis of the age structure of frog populations found in different biotopes are described.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


If we look at the history and culture of humankind, amphibians as well as reptiles have always aroused a feeling of suspicious interest and some superstitious fear. In fairy tales and legends of many peoples of the world, they were the prototypes of dark forces, evil and danger. Despite all of these superstitions, amphibians are very sensitive, interesting and unusual animals.

Amphibia is the first and most primitive class of terrestrial vertebrates. Their fish-like progenitors appeared on Earth in the Devonian period (about 350 million years ago). In spite of long-term evolution, amphibians kept a number of primitive features, which they inherited from their ancestors.

Most modern amphibians (which are divided into three orders Ц Apoda, Caudata and Anura, with a total of 4500 species) are closely connected to life in the course of their life cycle. They deposit their spawn (eggs) in water, where development of embryos and larvae takes place. Mature amphibians (most species) spend most of their life on land. Such a УdoubleФ life, i.e. life in two types of habitats, aquatic and terrestrial, is reflected in the Latin name of these animals (Amphibia). Unlike other vertebrates, the skin of Amphibia is smooth Ц there are no scales, feathers or hair; it is often moist to touch due to numerous glands.

A diversity of amphibians is not found in the northern and temperate climatic zones of the Earth (most of them are found in the lower, tropical latitudes). Thus, a number of species found in a specific area does not exceed five to eight for the majority of the Russian territory. The reason for this is the poikilothermy of amphibians, i.e. the inconstancy of their body temperature, which greatly depends on the temperature of their environment. The cold climate of temperate and northern latitudes results in the fact that not many amphibian species can exist there. That is why it is so interesting to study amphibians under severe conditions that are almost unsuitable for the existence of cold-blooded animals. In addition, the low species diversity of amphibians makes the educational study of these species easier. Besides, these species are not as active and cautious as other invertebrates, and they can be caught easily in order to examine them more closely: to measure and weigh them. All these factors greatly contribute to the possibilities of their study by students.

The study is aimed at an amphibian census carried out within the vicinities of the school or field studies center. Students catch amphibians and analyze the size and age structure of their populations in different biotopes of the surrounding area in the course of conducting the studies. The most favorable period for the given study is the end of spring and the beginning of summer, i.e. the period of highest activity for amphibians, their breeding and migrations.

Students will use the following equipment in the course of their studies: containers for catching frogs (buckets), rulers (slide gauge) for measurements, a laboratory balance, field diaries and calculators.

Preparation for carrying out the study

At the preparation stage, students should learn about the expected composition of amphibian species within the specific area and proposed procedures for studies. In order to do this, it is necessary to make a list of amphibian species in the area using available atlases, manuals and field guides. Students should also recollect the general rules for route census, which were taught in previous lessons of the given series (census of fungi: Lesson #6, fall; bird census: Lesson # 7, fall).

As the research is aimed at studying the species composition, numbers and age structure of amphibian populations in different biotopes, so it is recommended to begin by making a list of biotopes under study Ц as it is done during all studies within the given series on carrying out research on the habitat variability of specific indicators (Lessons #6, #7, # 10 fall; Lesson#5 winter, Lessons #2, #3, #4, # 10 spring, Lessons #5, #9 summer).

If this short-term research (1-2 days) is carried out by a small group of students (10-15 people), then it is recommended to include four or five biotopes (habitats) in the ...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write to in a free form.

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple УEyeФ Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of BirdsТ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on LeavesТ Asymmetry

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