Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Multi-species amphibian monitoring across a protected landscape: Critical reflections on 15 years of wetland monitoring in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks

January 5, 2022

Widespread amphibian declines were well documented at the end of the 20th century, raising concerns about the need to identify individual and interactive contributors to this global trend. At the same time, there was growing interest in the use of amphibians as ecological indicators. In the United States, wetland and amphibian monitoring programs were launched in some national parks as a necessary first step to evaluating the status and trends of amphibian populations within some of North America’s most protected areas. In Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, a multi-species amphibian monitoring program was launched by many of the authors in 2006 and continues to this day. This Viewpoint Article serves as a self-evaluation of our journey from conception through implementation of an ongoing, long-term monitoring program. This self-evaluation should provide a framework and guidance for other monitoring programs. We address whether we are fulfilling the program’s main objective of describing status and trends of the four amphibian species, discuss how a one-size-fits-all monitoring approach does not serve all species equally, and describe opportunities to bolster our core work using emerging statistical approaches and thoughtful integration of remote sensing and molecular tools. We also describe how the data generated over the program’s first 15 years have been useful beyond our initial goal of characterizing status and trend. Notably, our integration of climate datasets has allowed us to describe wetland and species-specific amphibian responses to variations in climate drivers. Documenting climate links to amphibian occurrence and their primary habitats has allowed us to identify which species, habitat types, and subregions within this large, protected landscape are most vulnerable to anticipated climate change. Recognizing that tools and threats change over time, it will be important to adapt our original monitoring design to maximize opportunities and use of resulting information. Maintaining engagement by multiple stakeholders and expanding our funding portfolio will also be necessary to sustain our program into the future. Finally, collaboration has become standard for long-term, cross-jurisdictional, landscape-scale monitoring. We argue that collaborative monitoring facilitates resource sharing, leveraging of limited funds, completion of work, and mutual learning. Such collaboration also increases the efficacy of conservation.