Citizen Monitoring – Amphibian Phenology

We started this project in 2017 to better understand when different species of frogs and toads are most active in the shallow waters of the lagoon and shoreline. Volunteers briefly visit Vilas Lagoon each night after sunset and make note of the weather and which frogs or toads they hear calling. Monitoring begins in spring and ends in mid-summer.

Interested in being a volunteer? See our FAQ below and reach out to us at

What does phenology mean?

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

Why is monitoring the natural cycles of amphibians important?

This baseline data can be used to inform the City of Madison Parks Department and Dane County so they conduct weed harvesting in a responsible manner and at appropriate times. Otherwise, amphibians could be unnecessarily killed. Why? For frogs and toads shallow waters offer habitat, a place to lay eggs,  space for tadpoles to grow. When frogs and toads feel threatened, they also seek shelter in weeds, which can be a problem if a large mechanical weed harvester is taking away their homes.

More about the Lake Wingra Amphibian Phenology Project

Citizen Monitor FAQ

Trying to document the phenology of amphibians in Vilas Lagoon and Lake Wingra to avoid the most sensitive times in their lifecycles.  Our observations will be shared with the City of Madison Parks Department, and share the same format as the WDNR Frog and Toad Survey.


Visit the lake, listen for frog or toads calling, and document observations.

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


Anytime after sunset! We ask that you commit to the same day of your choosing each week.


For the study, it is assumed that frog and toad calls can be heard for 200 feet- so observations should be taken near Vilas Lagoon.  This can be from Vilas Park Drive, or the skating rink parking lots.

What is the time commitment?

Observations should be taken for five minutes.  We are interested in collecting information 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!  There are only nine different species that can be heard in southern Wisconsin.  We can direct you to resources with audio tracks, and will meet with volunteers at the lagoon periodically during the summer to check in.