Hi, I’m Joelle, a junior biologist working for the Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC). I’ve been working on an exciting project that I want to share with you and show you how you can make a difference! I’ve been putting together a map of all the amphibian (frogs and salamanders) observations that we have. I was surprised to find out that so much of this data was collected by citizen scientists, who submitted their photos or videos to programs like iNaturalist or FVC’s Frog Finders program. Thousands of the points on my map started as photos, videos, and audio clips that were submitted to these programs by people like you!

Here at the FVC we focus a lot of our efforts on amphibians. We do annual surveys in the spring, searching wetlands for frogs and salamanders. We also make efforts to protect and enhance their habitat. But before any of these activities can happen, we need to know where they are. That’s where all these amphibian observations come in. All this data helps to direct the work of biologists. I didn’t realize until looking through all the data how much of an impact a single photo can have. Let me show you how your photos can make a difference using the maps that I made!

When I first began making maps, it was overwhelming, the whole map was covered in orange dots that each represent an amphibian. But once I zoomed in, it occurred to me that there are huge areas with little or no amphibian observations. This seemed crazy to me because of how important amphibians are to their ecosystem. I know they must be all over the Lower Mainland. It seemed impossible that only a handful of observations have been made in some of these areas, like Sumas Prairie, an area that was covered in water only a hundred years ago. When this water was drained, surely these amphibians persisted. So where are they all?

I found that huge portions of the Fraser Valley are lacking amphibian observations, but other portions are rich with amphibians. From here, I was able to identify “amphibian observation hot spots”. These are areas where many amphibians have been sighted and reported. I also identified areas of interest – where there haven’t been many observations but could be great for amphibians. Many of the hot spots surround public parks or protected areas. Whereas many of the areas of interest contain private land.

Looking at the hot spots, it seems like there are more amphibians inside the hot spots compared to outside. This isn’t the case. They just haven’t been reported as thoroughly as they have inside the hot spots. Campbell Valley Regional Park, for example, has so many different observations inside the hot spot, but way fewer outside. The amphibian habitat doesn’t stop at the edge of the park, it continues through the farmland and residential areas and so do the amphibians. Amphibians use the water ways, and you can see that the water travels way beyond the hot spot. The sightings of frogs and salamanders just aren’t being reported. Lots of people think that reporting their wildlife sightings outside of parks isn’t important, but it is!



Before looking through all this data, I didn’t realize how important it was to report my wildlife sightings. But it makes sense because amphibians are important to their ecosystems and sensitive to changes, so biologists need to know where they are. Even if its a poor-quality audio clip or a blurry photo, its evidence that amphibians are in an area, and that’s good news!

When there aren’t any amphibians, it’s a sign that the area might be polluted or lack healthy habitat features. Some amphibians, like Western Toads, need a mix of healthy forest and wetland habitat. For toads to survive they need these habitats to be connected so they can move between them.

Ryder Lake is a great example of how a picture can make a big difference. Residents of the community noticed toads dying on the roadways that sit between the forest and the wetland. They reported these sightings and reached out for help, which got the FVC involved. Because of these reports from the community, the FVC was able to tell which location along the road would be best to build a tunnel for the toads. This tunnel has helped more toads survive their trek between the forest and wetland. Projects like this make a huge difference for the toads’ survival and wouldn’t be possible without those initial citizen reports.

Every observation helps to create awareness of the issues that amphibians face and can even lead to the discovery of new populations. For me, one of the most exciting parts of exploring nature is discovering what wildlife are in the areas I go to. I remember finding my first Western Red-backed Salamander while wandering around a forest. I was so excited because its not something I see everyday. Lots of these species need different habitat features and climates. Western Red-backed Salamanders need wet, high elevation forests, but the forest that I found my first Western Red-backed Salamander in might be developed. Developments damage the habitat features that amphibians needs for survival. The more observations that are available, the easier it becomes to identify which locations are important to focus protection or habitat enhancement efforts toward.


After putting all these observations on a map, it became clear to me just how little data there is. So many strategies for protecting wildlife begin with citizen science data. While there are a decent number of observations in parks and protected wildlife areas, there are shockingly few on private land. It’s not that amphibians aren’t there, but that they aren’t being reported. That’s where you and your photos come in. Submitting photos to citizen science programs helps to fill the map and can result in real change!

One really important example of this is Sumas Prairie, which has so few reports of amphibians, but they could be all over. There are water ways all throughout the prairie that these amphibians might be using. It’s up to you to find them and fill the map up with as many observations as possible. Once these areas of interest are filled with observations, biologists are able to protect these amphibians and their homes. Even big projects like building wetlands for endangered species become achievable when these maps are full of observations. Anyone can submit photos of the amphibians they find on their property. It only takes a few minutes to submit your photos, but it makes a huge difference for amphibians.

This lack of observations presents itself as an exciting opportunity. I think about how I could be a part of discovering where these amphibians are, and that’s true for everyone. There could be new populations of frogs or salamanders that no one knows about. You could discover a population that needs help! Join me and the FVC in discovering and protecting amphibians by submitting your photos to a citizen science program.

The FVC runs a citizen science program for amphibians called Frog Finders. It’s a program that you can participate in by uploading your photos, videos, or audio clips through the online form. You can submit observations of any frog or salamander and the Frog Finders team will review it. It’s a great program because the Frog Finders team is trained on their amphibian identification and will help you figure out what it is that you saw. Its an opportunity to ask questions to biologists and to learn about the creatures that you’re seeing all over. This citizen science program gives the opportunity to make a difference for our local amphibians. Biologists need your help, so keep your eyes open and submit your observations!

The Frog Finders program is made possible by our wonderful donors and supporters as well as funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada.