Words like “Darwinian” and “primordial” tumble through my head as I splash waist deep through slow-moving ponds along Multnomah Channel. I juggle an armful of bamboo stakes and ribbon and scan the tall grasses and branches that sprout along the edge.
“Walk slowly, use a hiking pole and pay attention to your body temperature,” I was told as I was fitted for Nylon waders that morning in February 2015.
Get involved: Support regional restoration efforts by volunteering as an amphibian egg mass monitor this winter. Register for one of two orientation sessions on Jan. 23 at Metro in Portland or Jan. 30 at the Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood.
We had passed the three days of 50 to 55 degree temperatures that signal pond-breeding amphibians to get going, said Katy Weil, senior science analyst for Metro Parks and Nature and the head of the volunteer amphibian egg mass monitoring program.
Many times in the past, Weil had told me, “You have got to volunteer with the amphibian monitors. You will love it.”
And, of course, she was right. It made me excited to just think about wading through some of the region’s most beautiful properties searching for and compiling data on the wildlife indicators upon which further restoration decisions would be made.
Metro’s amphibian egg mass monitoring program tracks four native pond-breeding amphibians: the Pacific chorus frog, Northwest salamander, long-toed salamander and Northern red-legged frog, which is listed by the state as under threat.
The four amphibians serve as indicator species, which can be used to help gauge whether regional restoration efforts are helping more native amphibians thrive. Surveying for the egg masses each winter helps scientists survey their numbers as well as the overall health of wetlands in the region.
You never forget your first egg mass. “I think I found one!” I shouted hesitantly. The size of a gelatinous baseball, it hung off a branch half in and half out of the water.
“Yes, you have,” said Amber Basting, my scientist guide for the day.
I didn’t feel the wind skittering across the water as we began collecting and recording the data. “What stage is the egg mass in?” Basting asked. “Is it round, an embryo or tailing?”
Each new discovery brought an added excitement as I studied the egg mass, gauging to see where it was in its development.
Make sure you join the fun this year.
Jim Caudell is a Metro park ranger.