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Bienvenido a AnfiCenso 

Monitoreo Comunitario de Las Ranas de Los Andes Norte del Ecuador



Welcome to AmphiCensus

Community-Based Monitoring of Frog Populations in the Northern Andes of Ecuador        SPONSORS



 AmphiCensus is an on-going field and community-based study of the frog diversity and abundance in the northern Andes of Ecuador.  To date, the project has identified eighteen species in the study zone of which two have been submitted for publication as new species.  Five other putative new species require more encounters in the field to confirm their status. 

How it all began--the AndinoHerps 2000 project


 Although the AmphiCensus study zone is easily accessible by maintained roads, previously only three species of frogs were known from the area.  Such baseline diversity and population abundance data form the basis for analyzing both short-term environmental health and long-term environmental trends.


 Increased and detailed understanding of frog diversity and population dynamics helps bring attention to the whole natural/cultural landscape thereby engendering local enthusiasm for the unique diversity that the Andes offer and bringing global attention on the plight of cloud forests and their surrounding agricultural communities.


 AmphiCensus began with the AndinoHerps 2000 survey of the study region which involved two months of field work by an integrated international and local team of herpetologists and students.  Subsequent field seasons have have served to verify the status of new species and augment population abundance data.  Published results include a regional bilingual field guide to the highland frogs of northern Ecuador (Las Ranas de Los Andes Norte del Ecuador), the pending publication of two new frog species and numerous expositions within Ecuador and internationally.  Perhaps most important has been the establishment of an integrated local, national and international team of frog experts and enthusiasts who continue to survey frog populations while promoting awareness of landscape and conservation issues at all levels.


From local monitoring to global significance

The over-arching goal of AmphiCensus is to open, maintain and strengthen a two-way connection between local, community-based monitoring of frog populations and the global context in which monitoring data might be analyzed. On the ground, school kids, working with a multi-faceted international team, learn to collect frog encounter data using a hand-held, GPS-equipped, icon-driven computer system. The data are analyzed locally, at national museum labs, and  are posted to global Web sites such as AmphibiaWeb and GLOBE. By assembling an integrated and dedicated field team with strong ties to the region, and maintaining quality internet access in the schools involved, AmphiCensus insures that the flow of information is always bi- or multi-directional, from field and community to national and international institutions and forums.


What institutions are involved?
  • Colegio Camilo Gallegos Dominguez, Mariscal Sucre, Carchi, Ecuador.  AmphiCensus has worked with four different schools at the four different field sites in the northern Andes (see map of region), always integrating school or high school age members of the team. In 2004, one of the principle goals is to train students from Colegio Camilo Gallegos Dominguez in Mariscal Sucre (close to the El Chamizo study site) in the use of the CyberTracker icon-driven, GPS-equipped hand-held computer data collection system. The data will be uploaded to a school-based computer and then directly to the GLOBE international network of environmental monitoring schools (see GLOBE website). The AmphiCensus core team has a 7-year working relationship with this high school's environmental education program (which was started by core team member Tim Sulser) and one of the AmphiCensus team members (Esmeralda Guevara) is a graduate.
  • PUCE-I (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador--Ibarra)This is the pre-eminent university in the northern Andes and within two hours of all of the AmphiCensus study sites. The PUCE-I has an innovative Environmental Studies program and a Master's Degree in Community-Based Natural Resource Management. AmphiCensus (and AndinoHerps 2000) field teams have always included undergraduate students from the Environmental Studies major and the university has provided logistical support in the form of office and storage space, communications and vehicle use. One of the core team members (Larry Frolich) is faculty in the Master's program while another (Kaia Ambrose) is a graduate.
  • Fundacion Herpetologica Gustavo Orces and the National Vivarium, Quito-Ecuador.  This is a foundation dedicated to field research and the maintenance of a live display collection of amphibians and reptiles in Quito, Ecuador. Laboratory preparation and analysis of specimens has been carried out through the Fundacion and the collections of the Universidad San Francisco, Quito. Two team members (Diego Almeida and Fernando Nogales) are research associates and coordinate projects for the Foundation.
  • Brown University, Providence, RI, U.S.A.  Brown University has supported the AmphiCensus project and provided logistical support in the U.S. to team leader Larry Frolich
  • Oxford University, Great BritainOxford University sponsored the initial AndinoHerps 2000 expedition which involved four Oxford students and served to establish baseline species divesity data and initial population abundance data.
  • AmphibiaWeb, University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.AmphibiaWeb is the most detailed and flexible amphibian species Web database, with the capacity to include regional maps, pictures and species descriptions. As species descriptions are developed for frogs from the AmphiCensus study zone, they are uploaded for editing and inclusion in the AmphibiaWeb database with the authorization of AmphibiaWeb director David Wake.
  • Project GLOBE.  This is a world-wide network of elementary and high schools that are committed to gathering environmental data using established protocols that have been developed for this purpose. In 2004, the Camilo Gallegos Dominguez high school will be integrated into the network as a model for the development of an amphibian monitoring protocol on a world-wide level. A more ambitious proposal for funding a larger-scale application of the AmphiCensus protocol is before the National Science Foundation and can come up for consideration in 2005 or 2006. .
In the Field

In 2000, the AndinoHerps 2000 project, with an intensive field effort on the part of an international (British, U.S., Ecuadorian) team, established baseline species diversity for a 50 kilometer stretch of the eastern cordillera of the northern Andes in Ecuador. This area was chosen because it includes the best example of an un-cut inter-Andean cloud forest with relatively easy access in Ecuador (please see Landscape Issues for more details on the significance of the study zone and habitats). Previous field work had included sporadic collecting missions and one ecological study that was limited to a small area. Before 2000, only five species of frogs were known from the region. On the basis of the AndinoHerps 2000 project, and subsequent less intensive field seasons in 2001-2003, eighteen species of frogs, of which two are confirmed new species, are now known in the area.

In the field, the AmphiCensus team always works with local school or high school students and university students from Ibarra, the nearest city. Standard sampling techniques, including night-time transect sampling and day-time quadrant searches are carried out at each field site. For each frog encountered, data on time, location, habitat and behavior are recorded. Frogs that are not easily identifiable are taken to the laboratory/museum in Quito to compare with collections there. When positive identification cannot be accomplished easily, leading experts, including Dr. John Lynch of Universidad Estatal de Colombia, are consulted.

The study zone is characterized by agricultural lands in the valley floor and onto the eastern slope, forested lands at the highest part of the slope and onto the ridge-top and alpine grasslands (or paramo) above the forest. At each site, sampling is carried out in each habitat using the same protocol. Besides searching for frogs, botanical samples are taken to characterize the habitat at each study site. GPS data have been gathered to characterize the general location of the study sites, but, to date, not for each individual frog encounter.

In the museum laboratory

Field data are consolidated and analyzed to give relative population abundance. This has been calculated as a function of the number of encounters per hour for each species relative to the average overall number of encounters per hour (see Abundance histogram for an example). In the past this data analysis has been carried out in Ibarra or Quito, away from the field site. With the CyberTracker system in place in 2004, data will be downloaded into a school-based computer onto a spread sheet which will give continuous updates of abundance calculations and allow for year-to-year and even month-to-month comparisons. Species and habitat descriptive data are uploaded to the AmphibiaWeb database. In 2004, a major goal is to use the Camilo Gallegos Dominguez high school as a model for integrating amphibian data into the GLOBE website, including geographic information, species diversity and population abundance data.

Animals that cannot be successfully identified in the field are taken to the museum laboratory for comparison with catalogued specimens. If successful identification is still not achieved, world experts in the group at hand are consulted.

Field ComputerAutomating data gathering--the CyberTracker and AmphiIcon protocol

For 2004, the team plans to develop a "CyberTracker" protocol for icon-drive, electronic data gathering. The CyberTracker system has been used very successfully for gathering wildlife data in many parts of the world, and especially where language and literacy barriers can make it difficult to gather consistent and high quality data. A hand-held computer, equipped with a GPS receiver will be used to record each frog sighting. A series of icons will guide the field worker through a description of the habitat and the exact location where the frog was found. Then, a series of icons that will be developed especially for the AmphiCensus project ("AmphiIcons") will allow the identification of the frog to be recorded at least to the genus level and in many cases to a single species.

Field guide

The field guide for the frogs of the region (Las Ranas de Los Andes Norte del Ecuador) has been specifically designed to be of use at local, national and international levels. It is the first guide of any kind to frogs of Ecuador and, as such, will serve as a model for future efforts. The guide is bilingual with a simple layout and features that can help the non-expert in the field, such as anatomical drawings showing the key features of frogs for identification. In addition, the guide includes a simple map and compiled data on abundance, which can be of use to the expert, both within Ecuador and internationally. Finally, by focusing on a very limited region, the guide avoids the pitfall of comprehensive national-level guides can be daunting even for the expert herpetologist and often don't get completed since the task is overwhelming for any single author.

Links with AmphibiaWeb and GLOBE

The species descriptions, as presented in the field guide, are also being uploaded to the AmphibiaWeb database, making the information as widely available as possible, and especially for those who may not be interested just in the northern Andes study zone. AmphibiaWeb is obviously a tool geared principally towards the expert and academic herpetologist. With the goal of integrating with project GLOBE in 2004, the hope is to make the data more widely available, especially for school-age students in whose hands the future of frog study and conservation, as well as the stewardship of the kind of natural-cultural landscape that is represented by the study zone, lies.