Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

ARMI - Current Research
folder.gif Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, Midwest Region

Current Research

Current Study Areas

Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

  • Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish RefugeThe Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (Refuge) includes most of the floodplain along more than 400 km of the Mississippi River that forms the borders of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.  More people visit this Refuge each year than any other Refuge in the United States.
  • The physical nature of the floodplain of the Mississippi River in the Refuge is defined to a large extent by the system of locks and dams that have created areas referred to as pools along the river.  The Refuge is contained mostly within Pools 4 - 14 (Alma, Wisconsin, to Bettendorf, Iowa).
US Army Corps of Engineers' lock and dams (map)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' map of lock and dams
  • Populations of amphibians that live in the floodplains of large rivers have been studied less than those living in many other types of wetlands.
  • Populations in the Refuge face several threats, including nearby habitat loss and fragmentation, exposure to contaminants, and changes in the frequencies of floods in association with climate.

Blanchard's cricket frog

Range of Blanchard's cricket frog


St. Croix National Scenic RiverwaySt. Croix National Scenic Riverway

  • This St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (Riverway) includes approximately 400 km of riverine habitat along the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers; the St. Croix River forms a substantial portion of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

  • As with the Refuge, the Riverway provides a long, narrow strip of protected habitat in a largely unprotected landscape, where land uses, such as urbanization, logging, and agriculture can reduce the distribution and abundance of amphibians.

Voyageurs National Park

  • Voyageurs National Park is in northern Minnesota along the border with Canada.
  • Voyageurs contains a landscape different from oyageurs National Park

those within the Refuge and Riverway.  Three principal differences are the primarily lentic (still water), rather than lotic (moving water), aquatic systems, the land use outside of the park includes less agriculture and more logging, and the shape of the park, which is not long and linear like the Refuge and Riverway.

Other mid-level and apex sites

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge Complex

  • Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge consists of four subunits starting south of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and extending southward along the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa.

  • We will be conducting surveys in portions of this Refuge, with a special emphasis on Blanchard’s cricket frogs.   We might include breeding sites of Blanchard’s cricket frogs located in this Refuge in the set of apex sites where we will study this species in more detail.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

  • Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is just southeast of Prairie City, Iowa, and east of Des Moines, Iowa.

  • This Refuge is unique because it is the site of one of the largest prairie restoration efforts in the country.  Based upon preliminary surveys we conducted in 2003, several amphibian species live there, including Blanchard’s cricket frogs.   We expect to include breeding sites of Blanchard’s cricket frogs from the Neal Smith Refuge in our set of apex sites for studying this species.  We also will monitor other species and include this Refuge in larger studies of the effects of habitat fragmentation and loss on populations of amphibians. This latter effort will be in collaboration with researchers from Iowa State University.

Other areas in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin

  • We are surveying historical and potential breeding sites for Blanchard’s cricket frogs in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin to document the current distribution of this species in portions of its northern range.  We intend to study this species more intensively at several breeding sites.

Other potential study areas in the Midwest Region

  • All lands managed by the Department of the Interior in the Midwest Region of ARMI are potential study areas for us eventually. This also is true for areas managed by other Federal and State agencies.  As we develop expected rotations of monitoring sites over time, we will conduct surveys and monitoring in other areas.

Studies of Exposure to Pesticides

  • We sampled water from 100 breeding sites for the presence of triazines during 2003. These sites were in the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and Voyageurs National Park.  We also collected metamorphosed northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) from seven of those breeding sites to analyze for any gonadal abnormalities and to determine if frequencies of gonadal abnormalities were associated with levels of triazines.  We are working to analyze those gonads, collect and analyze more water samples for triazines, and to collect and to analyze gonads from more animals during 2004.

Studies of Disease and Deformities; Collaborations with Dr. David Green

  • Dr. David Green is a veterinary pathologist and an expert on diseases and deformities found in amphibians and other wildlife.
  • As a USGS researcher at the National Wildlife Health Center, Dr. Green is working with ARMI scientists to characterize the distributions of disease and deformities throughout the country. We send animals from our study areas for analyses of such afflictions to Dr Green.

Studies of Water Chemistry with staff from USGS's Water Resources

  • Staff from USGS's Water Resources are integrated into ARMI.

  • We work with Perry Jones of the USGS in St. Paul, Minnesota, to collect water samples from our study sites and have them analyzed for various chemical constituents.  We are collaborating with Perry Jones on our studies of triazines and other compounds at breeding sites.

Cooperative Efforts on Effects of Habitat Loss and Fragmentation and Climate with staff from the USGS's Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center

  • Staff from EROS are integrated into ARMI.

  • We are working with Drs. Alisa Gallant and Robert Klaver from EROS to evaluate relations between habitat loss and fragmentation and the vulnerability of populations to decline and relations between climatic patterns over several decades and declines of Blanchard’s cricket frogs.

Collaborative Efforts with Outside Researchers

Iowa State University

  • The natural habitat of Iowa has been altered greatly for agriculture, including the loss of approximately 98% of the state’s wetlands.

  • We are working with faculty and students from Iowa State University to study effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on populations of amphibians in Iowa.

Evaluations of Statuses of Populations Based Upon Results from non-USGS Studies

  • We are working to collect and evaluate as much data as possible regarding the status of populations across the 13 states of our region. Researchers associated with state agencies, other Federal agencies, museums, and academic institutions produced these data.

Page Last Modified: April 3, 2018