Wood frogs, the most winter-hardy frog in North America, use three habitats throughout their lives: one for breeding and laying eggs (vernal pool), one for summering to feed and hide from predators (nearby forest), and one for hibernation (nearby forest). The breeding period is short and explosive, lasting only a few days or weeks, after which frogs move into the surrounding forest. The summering period may last as long as seven or eight months in Maine, and the area where the frogs spend this time is called the post-breeding habitat. The hibernation period may last five to seven months in northern Maine, but we know very little about this period. Whereas most amphibian research has focused on the breeding habitat, Luke is studied all three habitats.
Luke’s graduated in December 2016 and his research was conducted in Maine’s mountains, where vernal pools are relatively uncommon. Others have studied breeding and post-breeding habitats in other parts of the state, but wood frogs may have different habitat needs in the mountains. In particular, he asked:
– Do wood frogs use alternative breeding habitats (beaver flowages, fishless ponds) when vernal pools, their favorite breeding habitat, are not available?
– How far do wood frogs move after breeding? Where they go and what habitats do they use?
– Where do wood frogs hibernate in the winter? When do they enter and exit hibernation? How cold do they get?
This information will help managers know how to conserve the species as land becomes developed. If we know where these frogs are going and how far they travel, we can design development projects that avoid disrupting their habitats.