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Data from: The contribution of road-based citizen science efforts to the conservation of pond-breeding amphibians


Sterrett, Sean C. et al. (2019), Data from: The contribution of road-based citizen science efforts to the conservation of pond-breeding amphibians, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Road-side amphibian citizen science programs bring together volunteers focused on collecting scientific data while working to mitigate population declines by directly reducing road mortality of pond-breeding amphibians. Despite the international popularity of these movement-based road-side conservation efforts (i.e., ‘big nights’, ‘bucket brigades’ and ‘toad patrols’), direct benefits to conservation have rarely been quantified or evaluated. 2. As a case study, we used a population simulation approach to evaluate how volunteer intensity, frequency and distribution influence three conservation outcomes (minimum population size, population growth rate, and years to extinction) of the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) – a common, focal pond-breeding amphibian of citizen science and conservation programs in the United States. 3. Sensitivity analysis supported the expectation that populations were primarily recruitment-driven. Thus, conservation outcomes were highest when volunteers focused on out-migration of metamorphs as opposed to in-migration of adults –contrary to the typical timing of such volunteer events. 4. Almost every volunteer strategy resulted in increased conservation outcomes compared to a no-volunteer strategy. Specifically, volunteer frequency during metamorph migration increased outcomes more than the same increases in volunteer effort during adult migration. Small population sizes resulted in a negligible effect of volunteer intensity. Volunteers during the first adult in-migration had a relatively small effect compared to most other strategies. 5. Synthesis and applications. Although citizen science focused conservation actions could directly benefit declining populations, other conservation measures are additionally needed to halt or reverse local amphibian declines. This study demonstrates a need to evaluate the effectiveness of focusing citizen science mitigation efforts on the metamorph stage, as opposed the adult stage, which may be challenging, compared to other management actions such as road-crossing infrastructure. Current amphibian citizen science programs will be challenged to balance implementing evidence-based conservation measures on the most limiting life stage while retaining the social and community benefits to volunteers.

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