Amphibian Health in Fish Creek Park

By Shalane Degruyter

In the heart of the city of Calgary is nestled one of the largest urban parks in North America, Fish Creek Provincial Park. This magnificent natural space boasts 1348 hectares of parkland, grassland and foothills forest that is home to vast biodiversity, including amphibians. Since 2007, volunteers through the Friends of Fish Creek have collaborated with the Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program (AVAMP) to keep a sharp eye and a keen ear out to detect our web-toed neighbours.

Shannon Kavanagh is a seasoned frogger and is an enthusiastic member of our volunteer patrol. Since she was twelve, back in 2008, she has dedicated her time to observing amphibians. As the program evolved from a call survey into scanning for amphibian disease, Shannon was inspired to make the next leap forward. She learned from the Calgary Zoo veterinarian who was swabbing for the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) how to detect abnormalities in the frogs and how the fungus colonizes and degrades amphibian skin that can result in death of the host. She soon realized that amphibians were indicator species to the overall ecosystem health.

Shannon’s insatiable curiosity has led into an investigation of another signal of amphibian health – malformations. Last year, Shannon and her mother Fran discovered nine boreal chorus frogs that were missing their fingers, toes and even full legs! This raised some questions about what was happening in the wetland.

Through the generous support of the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) the Friends of Fish Creek will be investigating what is happening to our froggie friends with water quality testing and volunteer monitoring. We are hoping this year to determine if the water quality has an impact on the formation of limbs of amphibians. Shannon is very excited for the upcoming program, saying that it is “great to have hands-on experience in the park.” By exploring the natural landscape of the urban park, Shannon has grown immensely over the last four years. She wisely muses that like all things in life, “everything depends on each other.”

For more information about amphibian monitoring in Fish Creek Provincial Park, please contact:

Shalane Degruyter, Project & Programs Director, Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society