Amphibian ID and Ecology – Online Course

an email from Jim:

Herpers, a former student of mine by the name of Zac Cota is offering an online course on Amphibian Identification and Life History through the North Branch Nature Center starting next week. See the information below.

Jim Andrews


Amphibian Identification & Life History

A North Branch Nature Center Online Course

Instructed by Zac Cota | Beginning first week of May and running through June | $60-75

Frogs and salamanders live miraculous lives underwater, underground, and under threat from predators and people. This introductory course will acquaint you with the fascinating amphibians of our woods and wetlands, provide the tools you need to find them, and teach you how to get involved in amphibian conservation. Topics will range from amphibian natural history and ecology, species identification, basic field methods, and conservation. More info and registration:

Course comprises four units delivered as content bundles every 2 weeks. Students can engage in the course content at their own pace, and on their own schedule. Each content bundle contains:

  • A recorded video lecture on the unit topic.
  • Assignments and “field challenges,” to engage in the course content.
  • Readings and resources to dive deeper into the subject matter.
  • A live videoconference session with the instructor to further explore unit materials, hear from guest speakers, answer student questions, or debrief field assignments. These sessions will be recorded for those unable to join live.

Each course contains 7-8 hours of content, excluding assignments and readings.

Unit 1 – Natural History & Ecology

While frogs and salamanders are familiar to us, many aspects of their complex lives go unobserved; hidden beneath the surface of the water or below the forest floor. We’ll dive in and unearth the mysterious habits of our amphibian neighbors, from tiny salamanders valiantly defending communal nests to frogs that freeze solid and live to croak again.

Unit 2 – Northeast Species Identification

When asked, most folks can name a handful of species in our area: American Bullfrog, Eastern Newt, Spotted Salamander. The majority of the 22 amphibians documented in our state remain largely unknown. We’ll cover all of Vermont’s frog and salamander species, learning frog calls, teasing apart egg masses and differentiating minute larvae.

Unit 3 – Survey & Field Methods

Some amphibians make their presence well known; the din of Spring Peepers is a sure sign of spring for many. Other species are impossible to find without concerted effort and well honed technique. We will learn how to survey a variety of habitats using tools most folks will have ready access to at home. The goal is to prepare students to find amphibians in the field, and we’ll cover everything from data collection to safe handling techniques.

Unit 4 – Conservation & Citizen Science

Both close to home and around the world, many amphibian populations are declining precipitously. In fact, the global rate of extinction is higher for amphibians than almost any other group of organisms. We’ll confront some sobering truths and learn about incredible efforts to turn the tide of species loss. Students will leave the course inspired and empowered to take action here in Vermont through a variety of citizen science efforts.

About the Instructor

Whether it’s wading through half frozen swamps in search of salamanders or climbing mountains to find rare and elusive birds, NBNC Teacher-Naturalist Zac Cota is obsessed with discovering the lives of our animal neighbors. Having first started as a citizen scientist before completing undergraduate studies as a field naturalist, he is excited to share his knowledge and enthusiasm for birds and amphibians with just about anyone who will listen. Zac coordinates NBNC’s Amphibian Road Crossing Program.

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