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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Berea, Ohio, USA

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Berea, Ohio, USA
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Madison03



Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Berea
Posts: 2
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Hopping to Help the Earth
Student, business owner, video editor, social media influencer, and most importantly a herptile lover, my name is Madison Brass and I do it all. I am a 12th grade student at Albert Einstein Academy of North Olmsted, Ohio. In the fall of 2021, I will be attending the University of Central Florida to pursue Herpetology and Exotic Veterinarian Medicine to further my knowledge of reptiles and amphibians. My passion for these creatures runs deep in my soul and I strive to protect their ecosystems and wellbeing, The Apprentice Ecologist project inspired me to take charge and continue doing good for my local herpetofauna.
A small American Toad crossing a park path is the reason I joined the herptile community. When I was 5 years old walking in a local park, a small jumping creature caught my eye. From then on, my love and passion blossomed for these extraordinary beings. American Toads gave me my passion and I believe I must do everything to persevere their homes. In 2012, I created a "frog garden" in my backyard. Over a few years, this area grew into a beautiful sanctuary for native amphibians. It began with only one pond and today it has three ponds, one being a nursery pool for rescued eggs.
The Frog Garden has played a crucial role in the reintroduction of American Toad populations in my hometown of Berea, Ohio. Before I created the garden, I noticed the early summer calls of toads beginning to fade until there was nothing in 2011. Major forests and natural water sources were being turned into developments around me. American Toads return to where they were born to mate and many returned to concrete.
In 2015, the Frog Garden experienced the first bunch of eggs. This marked the first population that would forever return to the protected ponds. This brought me such joy knowing that these toads would never experience their habitat being torn from them. From 2015 to 2018, the number of tadpoles being born each year steadily grew. Simply because more toads became mature and returned to their birthplace to mate.
As the trend of numbers of eggs hatched grew, the time they were laid became later. This is a direct effect of climate change on local populations. Winters started and ended later, and in 2019 the Frog Garden experienced its first major loss due to an unnatural climate tendency. A wavier Jetstream caused warm spells in the spring when toads would typically emerge. Then to be followed by below freezing the next week. All eggs laid that year passed.
This trend, unfortunately, worsened in 2020. Many toads emerged from hibernation during warm spells, laid eggs, then the ponds froze over. I did not want to have another devastating setback in the population. A year without young toads hurts a population but two years results in a devastating drop in numbers. This also affects the ecosystem and food web. American Toads keep cricket, spider, and other native bug populations low, while also serving as food for tertiary consumers. The removal of any piece of the food web can serve as a devasting blow to the ecosystem. Knowing this, I set out to help the vulnerable eggs. Purchasing a strong pond heater was sadly no match to freezing temperatures and snow. I had simply lost all hope in seeing toadlets this year.
Not until I received an interesting phone call from a friend in May of 2020. "There are so many toads here mating," she said. She was walking her dog through our old elementary football field when she stumbled upon a vernal pool collected in the center of the field. The pool was shallow and summer football practice would be starting soon. The next evening, we went out to see if the toads were still there, and they were! About 40 males and females were gathered in the shallow water. I had a spark of hope.
The next morning, I returned with a bucket. All the toads here are able to move when the pools dry and the grass is cut, but not the dependent eggs. I gently scooped the bunches into a net then transferred them to the bucket. I safely got them home and acclimated them to the nursery pond.
The rescue was far from over though. In Ohio, we were still experiencing cold nights, but not freezing. I placed the heater in the nursery pond and it successfully kept the pond at a reasonable temperature. The eggs had plenty of leafy plants to rest on and be hidden from predators, but this extensive coverage led to another issue. It was mid-June and I was nervous that the eggs passed when transferred because I did not observe any small tadpoles. However, I still set up a ramp that would hopefully be used by young toadlets leaving the pond soon. As I flipped my calendar to July with no sign of tadpoles, I believed they were all gone.
Then a large storm occurred the night of July 1st. It had blown through the Frog Garden pretty bad. The next morning, I went to access the damage and noticed the rock path had become misplaced. As I lifted the first rock, my eyes light up with excitement with what I saw. A hundred small toadlets huddled under the shelter the fallen rock had made. Through all the challenges 2020 threw at us, the toads persevered with some help from a human friend!
Ecstatic is the only word I can describe how I felt. A project that began as a way to bring toads back to my hometown has grown into something so much greater. Hope for American Toads in Northeast Ohio and new data collected on the local effects of climate changes. I have published all my findings on my website, Hoppinhelp.com. This including the dates toads emerged, breed, and hatched each year and how the timeframes have shifted or how events have disappeared due to unfavorable conditions.
Hopp'in Help also was sparked from the first American Toad I stumbled upon. This site embodies my personal experience alongside years of research from experts' data to formulate care sheets for species I have worked with. I wish to pursue a STEM career to further my research and become one of the experts I have looked up to for so many years.
I believe our world is the most precious gift any of us have ever received, and it is in trouble from our own doing. While my project only affected a small area, it helped hundreds of toads and miles of our ecosystem and food web. It takes small drops of good to create huge waves of change. We all must do our part and The American Toad Regeneration Relief project is mine! I wish to inspire others to create their own project and pursue what they love. Together we can love, protect, and cherish our one world.
Date: December 28, 2020 Views: 2122 File size: 18.9kb, 3729.8kb : 3888 x 2592
Hours Volunteered: 50
Volunteers: 4
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17-21
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 2
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