Stream Monitoring

Amphibian (frogs and salamanders) egg mass monitoring

In the late winter, Stream Team volunteers survey local stormwater ponds, wetlands, and lakes looking for amphibian egg masses. Suited up in hip waiters, volunteers walk through the water scanning for the hard-to-see egg masses. The size of the egg mass, type of amphibian and development stage is documented.

Washington is home to 13 species of frogs and toads and 14 species of salamanders and newts. For the Stream Team monitoring program we focus on five commonly found stillwater breeding amphibians. Focus species include:

  • Northwestern Salamander– Ambystoma gracile,
  • Long-Toed Salamander – Ambystoma macrodactylum,
  • Pacific Choral Frog – Hyla regilla,
  • Northern Red-legged Frog – Rana aurora, and
  • Western Toad – Bufo boreas.

Common stillwater breeding amphibians traits:

  • Lay eggs in exposed places
  • Have pigmented eggs
  • Larval stage is aquatic
  • Have no parental care
  • Each egg packet or egg mass is species distinguishable

Worldwide, amphibians are in decline due to habitat alteration, fragmentation and / or destruction. Other declines are due to the introduction of non-native species that predate on natives, chemical contamination, diseases, and climate change. An amphibian’s moist permeable skins make them susceptible to changes in their environment. Because of this it is thought that they are good indicators for environmental change.

Monitoring amphibian populations can assist scientists in tracking trends in amphibian- ecosystem health. Affects to amphibian populations have been known to be affected by water quality conditions, stormwater contamination and changes in climate.

Why monitor amphibian egg masses?

  • Helps scientists detect trends in populations, due to water quality and environmental changes
  • Document species changes as their habitat changes as a response to landuse change
  • To document impacts to native species from introduction and spread of invasive predators such as bull frogs and disease such as Chytrid fungus
  • To document the effectiveness restoration and new water quality related best management practices

Amphibian Survey 2013Amphibian Survey 2014

If you go: What to Expect

In January Stream Team partners with Washington State Fish and Wildlife herpetological ecologist expert Marc Hayes, to explore the ecology and habitat requirements of local amphibian species. This one day workshop/training is divided into two 2-hour sessions with the second portion of the day focusing on egg mass identification. At a later date volunteers then head out into the field for a fun, hands on experience to identify egg masses.

Volunteers can participate for the entire training or just for the lecture portion of the workshop/training.

Monitoring: Egg mass surveys can start as early as February and continue through the first week of April. Volunteers meet in small groups with staff to survey selected wetlands around Thurston County. Each wetland is surveyed three times to capture the different breeding times for different amphibian species. Surveys take a minimum of two hours each. Volunteers must be comfortable walking in and working in water. Hip boots or waders are required and participants need to dress warm. City of Olympia has hip waders of various sizes to loan.

For more information contact Michelle Stevie at or

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