Last week, I finished up my frog call surveys. The ending is bittersweet, as now I have more time to focus on other work that needs to be done, but I will miss the magic and mystery of exploring the countryside of the Northeast Kingdom at dusk to anuran sonatas.
Despite almost four cumulative days (92.6 hours) spent in the field this summer looking for the elusive Mink Frog, I have only heard the northern pond denizen at two locations in Craftsbury and one location in Sheffield. Lucky for me, my personal goals for this semester quickly shifted from finding the project’s titular frogs to simply enjoying my own place within the world around me.
After months of frantic planning for my call survey routes, I was honestly slightly dreading the actual data collection. It felt like a chore, I worried that I wouldn’t have time to complete it or that it would interfere too much with my other classes, and I was concerned about driving back to school so late at night. Once I had completed the first night driving down questionable roads in Maidstone with Alex Oles, I realized how enjoyable call surveys were going to be.
Ever since I was a kid growing up in the wilds of coastal North Carolina, I have loved exploring. My explorations have taken me down some very convoluted and colorful rabbit holes. Exploring the Vermont countryside is definitely one of the tamer excursions I have conducted. Still, I find it impossible at this point in my life to invest so much time and energy into anything at all and not experience some amount of personal growth through its completion.
My biggest take-away from this project has been a solidification of my own nearly meaningless existence in the solar system. Some people may be put off by this idea—that’s understandable, especially considering the egocentric culture of which we are a part. But for myself, and other people like me who tire of the weight of so much expectation, feeling insignificant can be a reprieve. It can be grounding.
Although my data collection is finished, my overall work with this project is far from done. Most of my summer break will be spent chopping sound files to send to the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas. If you see a herp in Vermont, please consider getting photographic or audio evidence and an exact location and reporting it. Even something that seems very common can almost always use more data.
I’d like to thank Farley Brown and Jim Andrews for their tireless guidance on this project. Thanks, also, to everyone who accompanied me on call surveys, including Alex Oles, Brendan, Carly Wile, Seamus Hartt, Nick Trapeni, and Sam Guy. Thanks to Hannah Bowen and Lou Lepping for offering to come with me—I’m sorry we couldn’t get our schedules to line up for that. Thanks to Eric Hanson and Michael Tessler for putting up with me when I would get distracted in class and start looking for herps instead of focusing on the task at hand.
Finally, if you have found your interest in herpetofauna growing recently and would like to volunteer for surveys for the Atlas, NorthWoods Stewardship Center will be hosting Jim Andrews for a talk and survey this Sunday, July 25th. Pre-registration is required through the NorthWoods website, but it is also free. I’ll be going, and I hope to see you there.