Citizen Monitoring Amphibian Phenology

We started this citizen monitoring amphibian phenology project in 2017. Initially, we wanted to better understand when different species of frogs and toads had the most activity in the shallow waters of the lagoon and shoreline. Volunteers briefly visit Vilas Lagoon each night after sunset. Next, they make note of the weather and which frogs or toads they hear calling. Citizen monitoring begins in spring and ends in mid-summer.

Interested in being a volunteer?

See our FAQ below and reach out to us at info@lakewingra.org

What does phenology mean?

Phenology, the study of the natural cycles and schedules, helps us understand the impacts of changing weather and climate. Frog and toad calling is generally associated with mating. Our monitoring started, in part, due to anecdotal observations by area residents that lagoon weed cutting might negatively impact frogs and toads.

Why is monitoring amphibian phenology important?

This baseline data can inform the City of Madison Parks Department and Dane County so they conduct weed harvesting in a responsible manner and at appropriate times. Otherwise, harvesting weeds could unnecessarily kill amphibians. For instance, for frogs and toads shallow waters offer habitat, a place to lay eggs,  and space for tadpoles to grow. When frogs and toads feel threatened, they also seek shelter in weeds.  If a large mechanical weed harvester takes away their homes, it results in a problem for the amphibian.

More about the Lake Wingra Citizen Monitoring Amphibian Phenology Project

Citizen Monitor Amphibian Phenology FAQ

The project will try to document the phenology of amphibians in Vilas Lagoon and Lake Wingra. Essentially, we want to avoid harvesting during the most sensitive times in their lifecycles.  We will share observations with the City of Madison Parks Department and share the same format as the WDNR Frog and Toad Survey.


Volunteers will visit the lake, listen for frog or toads calling, and document observations.

Friends of Lake Wingra looks for a team of volunteers to perform weekly observations.


Anytime after sunset! Most importantly, we ask that you commit to the same day of your choosing each week.


For the study, assume you can hear frog and toad calls for 200 feet- so take observations near Vilas Lagoon.  For example, near Vilas Park Drive or the skating rink parking lots.

What is the time commitment?

Observations last for five minutes.  We collect data from the time ice goes out (March) until mid-summer.  With a small group of volunteers, each person should collect one observation per week.

What if I don’t know what frog and toad calls sound like?

You’ll learn quickly!  Southern Wisconsin only has nine different species. Additionally, we can direct you to resources with audio tracks. Lastly, we will check in with volunteers throughout the monitoring season.