Natasha Annich

Utility of Ducks Unlimited’s Wetland Classification for predicting amphibian distribution and abundance with an emphasis on Canadian toads, Bufo hemiophrys

Supervised by Dr. Erin Bayne and Dr. Cindy Paszkowski

Northern Alberta is experiencing change with the expansion of the energy sector. As industrial activities grow, there is a pressing need for an evaluation of the distribution of rare species to ensure their survival. Companies within the Lower Athabasca oil sands Planning Region (LAPR) have become interested in developing techniques for monitoring amphibians, particularly the Canadian toad (Bufo hemiophrys), a species of conservation concern in the province. Wetland habitats have been poorly sampled in the LAPR, and therefore, amphibian assemblages inhabiting various wetland types remain undocumented. My research focuses on the Canadian toad and three other vocalizing amphibian species occupying the LAPR: wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus), boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata), and western toads (Anaxyrus boreas). My study aims to better identify wetland types used by targeted species, especially the elusive Canadian toad. Using amphibian detections collected by automated recording devices, I will design a habitat model for Canadian toads that can be used as part of adaptive monitoring and to assess risks caused by development near specific wetland types. My study also focuses on how industrial noise produced by compressor stations impacts the breeding calls and behaviour of boreal amphibians.