Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Iowa Citizens Help Track Imperiled Wildlife

It’s 10 o’clock on a summer night along a gravel road anywhere in Iowa. In the farm pond next to the road a raucous chorus of male frogs are making themselves heard as they vie for mates.  A volunteer stands clipboard in hand, ear cocked, mentally sorting out each of the calling species and the number of individuals using this seemingly ordinary pond.  

Skip to a Saturday morning by the river where another volunteer has binoculars trained on the tallest tree in the area.  In this tree is a one ton nest, home to two bald eagles and their young.  Are there two or three young in that nest?  Hard to tell and a follow up visit will be needed; in the meantime, notes are taken and a peaceful hour is spent watching one of the most spectacular birds in North America.  

These volunteers collecting data were trained through Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.  

 “We don’t have enough staff in the DNR to adequately monitor all the vulnerable species that we need to,” said program coordinator Stephanie Shepherd. “This is where citizen scientists play a crucial role.”  

Volunteers must register for and attend a training workshop in order to participate. 

Each March and April, Shepherd holds workshops to prepare volunteers to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife. Bird workshops will be held on March 8th in Algona and March 15th in Elgin, at the Public Library in the ICN/meeting Room.  The frog and toad survey workshop will be held on April 15th in Peterson. For more information go to or send an e-mail to  

So what are these critical wildlife species?

The bird workshop focuses on some of Iowa’s more spectacular bird species such as bald eagles, osprey, peregrine falcons and colonially nesting water birds like herons and egrets.  

Volunteers are taught how to collect data on specific nesting sites around the state and submit pertinent data such as how many young birds fledge. “This data collection requires lots of patience and some good optics in order to watch the nest from a distance and not disturb the birds,” Shepherd said.  

The frog and toad survey is more aural than visual.  

Volunteers are trained to listen to and recognize the 16 species of frogs and toads in Iowa based on their breeding calls.  Volunteers drive back country roads at night along a specified route stopping occasionally to get out and listen and record the different species heard. 

“The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program provides an opportunity for adults who love the outdoors and wildlife to be directly involved with the conservation and monitoring of Iowa’s resources. The work done is crucial to the well-being of these species,” Shepherd said.   

Media Contact: Stephanie Shepherd, Wildlife Diversity Biologist, Wildlife Diversity Program, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-432-2823.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Survival Day!!!!

Saturday, February 15. 2014
10 AM - 2 PM
Gilbertson Conservation Education Area
Gilbertson Nature Center, 22580 A Ave., Elgin, Iowa 52141

ELGIN – With winter stretching on across northeast Iowa, it’s a good time to learn what to do if you find yourself outside in the cold.

The Take a Kid Outdoors organization and the Fayette County Conservation Board will host a winter survival day. The event will include winter survival preparations, instructions and practice starting a fire in cold weather and shelter building.  TAKO will provide lunch.

Participants should dress to be outside in the winter weather, including layers of warm clothing, warm boots, mittens/gloves, stocking hat or face-mask, coat, snow pants and any additional clothing or accessories needed to be comfortable. Portions of the event will take place in the nature center, and participants will be able to remove layers when inside.

TAKO is dedicated to encouraging outdoor encounters for children with the adults in their lives, so children must be accompanied by an adult.

Those planning to attend are encouraged to pre-register by calling Gilbertson Nature Center at 563-426-5740 or by emailing

TAKO is a 501-(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2006. TAKO, based in Fayette County, is dedicated to providing immersive outdoor experiences, activities and education to children and people of all ages in the great outdoors. Please "like us" on Facebook and watch for updates/cancellations on Facebook and the TAKO website at

For questions regarding the information in this release or TAKO in general, please contact Amelia Holden-McMurray at 319-230-5427 or

Here is a link to a poster you can print off and share: