HRE Study: Stream Amphibians


While amphibians are usually associated with lakes and ponds by everyday observers, they are common and important residents of rivers and even small streams. Frogs, toads and salamanders are common and important denizens of streams of all sizes. Streams can be important to both adult and immature amphibians, but because these animals are primarily nocturnal, they often go unnoticed. This project emphasizes the presence and importance of frogs and salamanders in a small stream community.

Project Overview

In this study, HRE participants are asked to identify, capture, handle, sex, age and determine the relative abundance of larval and adult frogs, and salamanders in a small stream. These streams can be located in either the coastal plain or the piedmont, depending on the HRE site.

Inquiry Questions

What kinds of amphibians can be found in small streams at Chestnut Ridge & Rockfish? What are their distribution patterns? What is the relative occurrence of adult sexes and larval forms? What positions do these organisms occupy in local food chains? What sorts of baits/attractants enhance the capture of these animals?

Data Collection

Minnow traps and leaf packs are placed in the streams to serve as attractants for amphibians. Leaf packs are placed at least one week before the project commences. Minnow traps are placed in the water the night before each survey and variously baited with: no bait, chicken necks, or glow sticks. At each survey point, HRE participants identify whatever is found in their leaf packs and minnow traps. Possibilities include insects, tadpoles, adult frogs, salamander larvae and adult salamanders. Adult frogs and salamanders are identified to species, while larval forms and insects are identified to the extent possible with available keys.

Data Sheets

Stream Amiphibian Data Sheet (.doc) Stream Amiphibian Data Sheet (.pdf)

Species Identified


Two-toed amphiuma (Amphiuma)

Green frog tadpoles (Rana clamitans)

Bull frog tadpoles (Rana catesbeiana)

Chestnut Ridge 

Mud salamander larvae (Pseudotriton montanus)

Northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus)

Green frog (Rana clamitans)

Green frog tadpoles (Rana clamitans)

Southern Leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala)

Bull frog tadpoles (Rana catesbeiana)