Cooperatove Conservation Project

Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative

Tracking Amphibian Populations

Location: National

Project Summary: The Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative is a partnership among public and private organizations to determine trends in amphibian populations.
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USGS Field Technician Cheryl Brehme conducting daytime surveys for Arroyo Toad (Bufo californicus) habitat and larvae.
Resource Challenge

The growing number of malformed frogs has been making global headlines. Amphibian populations in general have dropped worldwide during the past 20 years, often because of habitat loss and alteration. Amphibians are excellent environmental quality indicators because contaminants readily enter their bodies through the skin and accumulate more quickly than in other animals. 


Scientists need to know why amphibian populations are declining and what is causing the increased rate of malformation in frogs. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) developed the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) in 2000 to monitor amphibian population trends on U.S Department of the Interior (USDI) lands, and to study the causes of declines. By working with other federal agencies, researchers hope to mitigate or correct problems, stabilizing amphibian populations.


The ARMI offers a better way to describe, model, and monitor interactions between the environment and amphibians. It overcomes the inherent difficulty of reliably estimating populations in species that easily elude detection by swimming away or blending in with their environment. This new predictive model and web-based tool will help field biologists locate potential amphibian habitats, and help land managers make decisions about conserving critical habitat.


A new broad-scale technique called Proportion Area Occupied (PAO) measures the presence or absence of amphibian species at specific sites over time. By collecting and analyzing whether amphibians are present or absent, ARMI describes population trends across large areas. While PAO is not unique to ARMI, this program is among the first to employ it on such a large geographic scale. The ARMI also has encouraged further development of existing PAO methods.

Examples of Key Partners
USGS, Savannah River Ecological Laboratory, Arizona State University, Smithsonian Institution, National Wildlife Federation, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, USDI National Park Service, and others. 
Results and Accomplishments

The ARMI has a Steering Committee which includes federal agencies and non-government organizations to guide and assist the program. The ARMI is incorporating data from the NWF Frogwatch USA program, which trains volunteers to observe and collect data on the distribution of frogs and toads in their vicinity. The NWF and ARMI will use Frogwatch data in ARMI databases and population analyses, further enhancing ARMI’s population assessments. The tools and models are at an early stage of development, and do not include all the data as yet. Interest in using the program is growing rapidly among government scientists, land managers, university scientists, and conservation organizations.


The first nationwide assessment of the current distribution and status of amphibians, which are valuable indicators of ecosystem health.

Project Contact
Rick Kearney
ARMI National Coordinator
U. S. Geological Survey



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